Community Publication Portal

Revision as of 20:18, 30 November 2012 by Gala (talk | contribs) (Final Editorial Review)

Welcome to the BRL-CAD community publication portal. This page is dedicated to the preparation and editing of BRL-CAD announcements. Proposed and upcoming topics are listed. Anyone is welcome and encouraged to share news about any activity related to BRL-CAD. Community editing and review are encouraged.


Formatting & Editing Standards:

  • Quotations are italicized and placed between double quotes ( "Like This" ).
  • AA (All Acronyms) need to be defined upon first use, don't abbrev. words.
  • Section headings uppercase the major words and are in bold (Like This)
  • Use the serial comma: one, two, and three; not one, two and three.
  • Cite references, include hyperlinks.
  • Keep it brief.

Distribution Channels:

For release publications, follow HACKING. For everything else, distribute to the following:

Ready for Publication

These articles are ready for publication. Release notes should be posted after tarballs, ideally the last or first week of a month. Other publications should be scheduled one or two weeks later, ideally on the second or third week of the month.

Note: if you see a comment indicating that a section is FROZEN, any changes you make in that section may go unnoticed as the article is being prepared for distribution. If you find errors in a FROZEN article, go ahead and correct the article but contact Sean (brlcad on freenode IRC) who may be able to incorporate changes during final publication.

Move from Final Review to Here When Ready

Final Editorial Review

These should be "complete" articles. The author is done. All that remains is a structure, grammar, voice, punctuation, and spelling review. Images welcome.

Gala Taylor: New BRL-CAD Linux Release Packaging Process Automation

By: Gala Taylor

BRL-CAD supports Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE, and other Linux distributions. Jordi Sayol recently finished automating the BRL-CAD Linux release packaging process, and he took some time out to chat with Gala Taylor about it - and also answer some question about what it's like to work on the BRL-CAD project.

Gala Taylor (GT): How long have you been working on the BRL-CAD project?

Jordi Sayol (JS): I've been involved with the BRL-CAD project since January 2011.

GT: How much education and experience were required to prepare you to contribute to the BRL-CAD project?

JS: My experience is just as an advanced Linux user.

GT: Do you need to physically meet with the other team members in order to contribute to the BRL-CAD project, or is it sufficient to work on-line?

JS: All of my collaboration is done on-line.

GT: The BRL-CAD project is a collection of over four hundred tools, utilities and applications, with over a million lines of source code. With such a massive and complex system, how do you decide what to work on? Is it necessary to understand all that code in order to contribute to the project?

JS: My responsibility is focused on building binary packages of BRL-CAD for Linux systems.

GT: Besides the release processing work which is described in the HACKING file, can you walk me through the process of actually transforming a developer’s checked-in source code into an .rpm or .deb that is ready to be downloaded and installed?

JS: It's quite simple. I have created two bash scripts that automate this process. The "sh/" script creates a deb package installable on Debian-like systems. This currently includes Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and other distributions. The "sh/" script creates an rpm package for Fedora-like systems. This includes Fedora, Centos, Redhat, and some other distributions, or OpenSUSE, depending on the system where it is built. There are separate rpm packages for Fedora and OpenSUSE because they do not share the same nomenclature on their packages. Note also that both scripts create deb/rpm packages for the host architecture where they are executed, and that the results are currently only tested on x86_32 and x86_64 hosts.

With these scripts, anyone can easily create their own deb/rpm packages as needed. This is especially useful if the user wants to install BRL-CAD on a very old system, maybe requiring special compilation for specific graphic cards drivers, etc.

GT: Thank your for your time today and your contributions to BRL-CAD, Mr. Sayol!

JS: It was a pleasure.

Please visit the BRL-CAD project website for more information:

Jordi Sayol is the maintainer of the BRL-CAD Linux release packaging process.

Gala Taylor is a 2012 Google Code-In participant. Although she has used various Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) products over the years, and has contributed example files and tutorials to several projects, this is the first time she has actively participated in the development of FOSS code. Gala is currently in 9th grade, and her favorite computer language is Java.

Kyle Bodt: Ronja

Ronja (Reasonable Optical Near Joint Access) is an innovative piece of equipment that utilizes reliable optical data links to create a current communication range of 1.4 km and a speed of 10Mbps full duplex that can be used as a general purpose wireless link for virtually any networking project. This is a very important project for Twibright Labs, a small group of computer science graduate students operating out of Charles University in Prague in the Czech Republic. The group specializes in the usage of Free Software and User Controlled Technology Development.

The primary output for the Ronja project is a design. The lab does not intend to manufacture and sell the hardware that is being designed but wants to engage in open source development of the technology. The philosophy surrounding User Controlled Technology is the ideal that the end-user is provided with unrestricted access to the intellectual property surrounding the technology, including the tools that are being used to create it. One tool playing an integral part in the development of the Ronja designs is BRL-CAD. All of the models that Twibright labs use to display the different variants of their Ronja concept were created with the help of BRL-CAD. BRL-CAD has allowed the members of Twibright labs to create instructional diagrams so that the users and builders of their open source technology will be able to have the latest information with regard to the proper construction of a Ronja unit. The interactive geometry editor and ray-tracers in BRL-CAD are an integral part in the communication of design plans for Twibright labs and enables them to connect with the users, who are the driving force behind the User Controlled Technology ideal.

Initial Drafts

These are incomplete articles being worked on. Short 250 to 500-word articles (not counting tables, images, etc) are usually perfect.

Anurag Murty: Voxelizing Geometry

Given a set of primitives as input, the voxelize command uses the data obtained from BRL-CAD's raytracer to represent the input in the form of voxels(Volumetric Picture Elements). A uniform grid of rays is uniformly shot on the given input and an approximation of the volume filled in each voxel region is made from the raytracing data. Depending on the approximate volume of the voxel filled, a voxel is classified as IN or OUT of the voxelized output. The voxels are represented as RPPs. Such voxelized outputs have applications in Volumetric rendering and finite element analysis.

SYNTAX : voxelize [-s "dx dy dz"] [-d n] [-t f] new_obj old_obj [old_obj2 old_obj3 ...]


-d - Specifies the level of detail(precision in approximation of volume) required. An input of n means that n * n rays will be shot through each row, and an approximation of volume filled is reached averaging these n * n values

-s - Specifies the voxel size in each direction.

-t - Specifies the threshold volume to decide if voxel is to be included in the voxelized output.

new_obj - Name for resultant primitive that is a region containing the resulting voxels.

old_obj - Name of source primitive or collection.


1. A greater level of detail usually implies a much better approximation of fill volumes at the cost of more computations.

2. Lesser voxel sizes give a more precise representation of the input at the cost of more memory requirements.

3. Threshold value (the argument of -t) should be a value between 0 and 1, and not a percentage.

Cristina Precup: Visualizing Directed Acyclic Graphs

Visualizing Constructive Solid Geometry is a project meant to illustrate in an intuitive and interactive manner the hierarchical structure of .g geometry databases.

For the representation of the hierarchies, the Adaptagrams graph library has been used. This made possible organizing the objects contained within the database into directed acyclic graphs.

Following, are the steps that have been taken in developing the graph layout API:

  • Integrate the Adaptagrams library into BRL-CAD.
  • Traverse the geometry database and distinguish different types of objects (primitive, combination, non-geometry) within it, as well as, establish the operations between them (union, difference, ...). Add all this data to the graph structure constructed with Adaptagrams.
  • Display the objects using a Tk Canvas widget inside a window.
  • Develop a decorative routine that sets different colors for different types of objects, correspondingly.
  • Create a name label for each represented object.
  • Develop a layout algorithm that aligns the nodes of the graph in a hierarchical way.
  • Introduce the graph command in both MGED and Archer. It has two subcommands:
    • show which displays a list with the name and type of the objects along with the nodes' and edges' positions;
    • positions that lists the names, types and positions of the corresponding nodes within the graph;
  • Introduce the igraph command in both MGED and Archer. This command pops up a graph based visualization window of the currently opened .g database. Its documentation can be found in brlman.

As an example, here is how the graph for the share/db/axis.g database looks like now:

Graph editor v2.png

Further work that can extend the interactive trait of the graph layout API includes adding user actions upon the graph such as move (dragging a node) or delete functionalities.

Ksenija Slivko: Reducing Code


The main aim of this project was to decrease the number of lines of code in the project. Since the project is being developing for quite a long time there were many "copy-pastes". They were redacted.

The process of developing

Coding period can be divided into three parts:

  • reduction in the single files
  • reduction in different files in the single program or library
  • reduction in different libraries

Since the project is quite large the redaction can be continued

Laijiren: NURBS Tessellation: What, Why, How?


Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline surfaces are widely used in CAD system. But they are not suitable for direct visualization on modern GPU systems. Today’s graphics hardware supports the high-speed display of polygonal objects consisting of triangles. This means that analytical surfaces (like NURBS) need to be triangulated so they can be displayed by 3D graphics cards.

Main work
For debugging tool
  • add 'info TB' 'info SB' to display information of piecewise bezier trim curve
  • add 'info T' 'info E' to display information of trim curve in parameter region and edge in 3d region
  • add 'plot SCV' to display control point net and 'plot TESS' to display the result of tessellation
For surface tree
  • subdivide a Nurbs surface in a adaptive method and a new recursion termination condition for surface subdivision.

reference:NURBS rendering in OpenSG Plus

  • implement the doTrimming function in Surface tree.

1)compute the intersection between trim curve and rect's edge of sub-surface in parameter region

2)implement a trimLoop class to get the valid loop and the trimmed loop

3)triangulate the valid loop in form of polygon

Suryajith Chillara: Benchmark Performance Database


The main idea is to store the data both in the database and the log files stored in the archive. The storage in the database enables the content to be searched via the parameters such as machine descriptions, versions, results and could be compared. The storage as a file in the archive is to maintain a back up of the file and whenever a developer needs a specific bunch of benchmark logs, he could get them from the archive with or without the help of the database.

Main Components
  • Log Parser : The data of the log file needs to be parsed and the relevant and important information has to be logged in the database so as to make the data access for the graphic display through the frontend could be made possible.
  • Web API : Implemented via the bottle framework so as to submit the logs from the brlcad installation via scripts.
  • Web backend : A backend has been implemented as a MVC framework from scratch using the python bottle framework.
  • Frontend : The website that can offer multiple mechanisms for adding new performance run data into the database and provide multiple graphical and non-graphical visualizations of aggregate performance data (i.e., graphs, charts, tables, etc). Graphs, tables and charts are generated with the help of Google Charts via wrapper which generates the javascript code to interact with the Google Charts service.


Plumbing between these components is via the python scripts.

Tool & Service dependancies
  • Python 2.7 and libraries
  • Bottle web framework
  • MySQL
  • Google Charts

Wu Jianbang: NURBS surface-surface intersections

I focused on the "NURBS surface-surface intersections" project after the mid-term evaluation of this year's GSoC, before which I worked on converting implicit primitives to NURBS B-rep forms.

The function calculating NURBS surface-surface intersection curves is surface_surface_intersection() which is declared in include/nurbs.h and implemented in src/libnurbs/opennurbs_ext.cpp. It outputs intersection curves in 3d space and in both surfaces' UV parameter spaces.

The approach of the algorithm originates from:

Adarsh Krishnamurthy, Rahul Khardekar, Sara McMains, Kirk Haller, and Gershon Elber. 2008. Performing efficient NURBS modeling operations on the GPU. In Proceedings of the 2008 ACM symposium on Solid and physical modeling (SPM '08). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 257-268. DOI=10.1145/1364901.1364937

It can be divided into several steps:

  • Generate the bounding box of the two surfaces.
  • If their bounding boxes intersect:
    • Split the two surfaces, both into four parts, and calculate the sub-surfaces' bounding boxes
    • Calculate the intersection of sub-surfaces' bboxes, if they do intersect, go deeper with splitting surfaces and smaller bboxes, otherwise trace back.
  • After getting the intersecting bboxes, approximate the surface inside the bbox with two triangles, and calculate the intersection points of the triangles (both in 3d space and two surfaces' UV space)
  • Fit the intersection points into polyline curves, and then to NURBS curves. Points with distance less than max_dis are considered in one curve.

It needs to be mentioned here that the value max_dis can be provided by the user or generated automatically.

Besides, after calculating the intersection curves, the next steps towords evaluated NURBS are splitting the surfaces into sub-surfaces with the intersection curves as their boundaries, and some inside-outside tests to decide which sub-surfaces should be included in the final object. Some work on splitting has been done, generating some b-rep faces that can pass IsValid(), but still further work is needed.

Andrei Popescu: Network Performance Testing

The project that I have been working on during the summer, as part of the Google Summer of Code program,
can be broken down into three independent parts and it consisted in running various tests for the BRL-CAD
networking library(Libpkg) .

  • Speed testing and investigations to uncover any potential performance bottleneck.
  • Unit tests and code review to find and cover any untreated exceptions(crashes) in the Libpkg library.
  • Eliminate the assumption of globals in the API.

For the first part, I have run two types of tests :

Local ones, both the "sender" and the "receiver" were located on localhost. The script gathered data
regarding the transmission speed for each set of package sizes (Here, package refers to the package
created by networking library, not networking packages) respectively file sizes.

Remote ones, where the "sender" and the "receiver" were on separate machines, connected using SSH.
The script ran and the data gathered was done in the same way as the localhost one.Using the data
obtained from the tests, two 3D graphs were drawn.However, the tests were inconclusive, I could not find
an "ideal" package size to use regardless of file size.

After Mid-term I focused mostly on second part. I used test units from libbu(Utility library) as an example
for the unit test type and design. When the mentioned tests were run, several exceptions that caused
crashes were discovered. Lastly, I have written fixes for the discovered crashes.

The third part of the project has not been covered yet, so more work is needed.Although, I am doing my
best to finish it in the following weeks.

Chris Dueck: Calculating 2D Sketch Surface Area

Calculating the surface area of a 2D Sketch primitive is not a trivial task. Sketches are created interactively by the user, and can contain straight line segments, circular arc segments (and full circles), as well as Bezier and NURBS curves.

The method used to approximately compute the area of a 2D sketch is as follows:

  • 1.) Approximate the sketch by a polygon
  • 2.) Compute the area of the polygon exactly using Green's Theorem
  • 3.) Add the areas of any circular arc segments that were created during (1)

To approximate the sketch by a polygon, each possible curve type of a sketch must be considered.

  • If the curve is a straight line, it need not be approximated.
  • If the curve is a circular arc, it must be determined if it is a full circle (in which case its area can be computed easily) or if it is a circular arc segment. If it is a circular arc segment, the line segment from the beginning of the arc to the endpoint is added to the polygon, and the excess area of the circular arc segment itself can be calculated easily (
  • If the curve is a Bezier curve, it can be approximated by a series of circular arcs. The algorithm used can be found here ( The algorithm recursively subdivides the Bezier until it is approximated to tolerance by a biarc and uses the curvature value of the Bezier at a point to determine the depth of subdivision. Then each circular arc in the approximation of the Bezier curve is treated as above.

Finally, the area of the polygon can be efficiently calculated using Green's Theorem ( using cross products.

Cliff Yapp: NURBS Ray Tracing in BRL-CAD

Over the past year, an intense development effort by BRL-CAD's development team has successfully implemented raytracing of Non-Uniform Rational BSpline (NURBS) geometry within the BRL-CAD Computer-Aided Design (CAD) package. NURBS surfaces are very general, very complex mathematical shapes used by virtually all modern commercial CAD software packages. Because BRL-CAD did not originally support this type of geometry, commercial models could only be imported into BRL-CAD after a labor-intensive and difficult conversion process from NURBS form to triangle-base geometry (referred to in BRL-CAD as Bags-of-Triangles or BoTs). The new NURBS raytracing capability builds on work by many developers over a period of years, who in turn built on the open source library OpenNURBS. Support for this primitive type means BRL-CAD can now store and raytrace data from commercial models without requiring preliminary conversion to another type of geometry.

The last major feature needed to make import of commercial models in BRL-CAD straightforward is conversion support for ISO’s "Standard for the Exchange of Product model data" or STEP file format. STEP uses NURBS geometry in its definition, making support for NURBS geometry a necessary prelude to support for STEP import. Most commercial CAD modelers support this file format as an output option, hence STEP support in BRL-CAD would allow a direct path for moving geometric descriptions from a variety of commercial modelers to BRL-CAD. Considerable progress has already been made on STEP import support, but more work is need to bring the code and feature set to "production quality". If anyone would like to join the BRL-CAD open source development effort and has a little familiarity with C++, the step-g converter and its supporting libraries have some simple-yet-useful tasks that would be an excellent and very useful way to explore the project - join BRL-CAD's IRC channel or development email list if you are interested!

Erik Greenwald: Bolting ADRT's libtie under the hood

BoT vs Tie pixdiff

Initial progress on the integration of ADRT's libtie "triangle intersection engine" with LIBRT.

Idea Hopper

These are ideas for interesting or useful publications. We need someone to at least write a draft.

BRL-CAD's Evolutionary API

Talk about BRL-CAD deprecation process.

Introduction to new .deb and .rpm builds

Brief article overviewing the efforts by jordisayol for Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE. Included are new icons, menu items, mime type associations, and more.

2010 End Of Year Review

Article giving an overview of the past year's highlight developments with hints at what 2011 may bring. Alternatively, may be the annual statistics review if we switch from fiscal to calendar year reporting.

Erik Greenwald: ADRT/ISST Visualization

Article introducing ADRT/ISST core capability.

Bob Parker: Alpha Archer: Working Towards Next Generation MGED

Article introducing Archer's core new features that will be "coming" to MGED. Undo, interactive editing, tree view, and info panels come to mind.

Finding the Hot Spots

Article on the rt lighting model Stephen Kennedy developed that visualizes the time spent per-pixel.

Point Clouds

Article introducing the new point cloud primitive.

bn_mat_inv: singular matrix

Article on the v4 format and binary compatibility.

Model Showcase: Goliath

Article talking about the making of the Goliath model.

Model Showcase: Chumaciera

Article on Pedro Baptista's bearing model.

Model Showcase: Proyecto Catapulta

Article on a model developed by André Santos, António Almeida, and Pedro Ferreira.

Model Showcase: Union Coupling Tool

Article on a model developed by Inês de Matos under teacher Luís Ferreira. The project focuses on a tool, union coupling, based on the book, , page 122 of the original book and page 128 of the file, figures 108 and 109.

Geometry Service FAQ

FAQ summarization of the GS as it pertains to the wider open source community.

BRL-CAD's 3rd Generation Build System

Article on the new CMake build system.

BRL-CAD's Open Source Vision

Article introducing the Project Priorities diagram and overall project vision.

BRL-CAD Primitives Showcase

Article summarizing all of BRL-CAD's primitives and their current status.

BRL-CAD Geometry Converter Showcase

Article summarizing all of BRL-CAD's geometry converters.

Release Schedule

Explain our release schedule and versioning system.


Article on Nick's point-based visualization mode.

BRL-CAD Quick Reference Card

Article on a BRL-CAD QRC similar to the existing MGED QRC.

BRL-CAD Bibliography

After the .bib gets published to the website, an article announcing it and soliciting additions.

Revolve Primitive

Article on Timothy Van Ruitenbeek's work implementing 'revolve'.

Parametrics and Constraints

Article on Dawn Thomas' work to integrate parametric equation and constraint evaluation support.

Converting Implicit to Explicit: CSG to BREP NURBS

Article on the work by Cliff Yapp, Joe Doliner, and Ben Poole converting primitives with an implicit representation into an explicit NURBS representation.

Online Model Repository

Article on Elena Băutu's work developing the model repository website.

Project Statistics for 2010

Article on our current stats similar to previous years.

Next Generation BRL-CAD

Article on our super secret awesome new GUI.