Difference between revisions of "Google Summer of Code/2008/Project Ideas"

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*Familiarity with C
*Familiarity with C
*Ability to learn and extend an existing API
*Ability to learn and extend an existing API
[[Category: Google Summer of Code]]

Revision as of 11:26, 12 November 2009

!!! NOTICE !!!

This page is provided as a historic reference only.

The list of possible projects below should serve as a good starting point for new developers that would like to get involved in working on BRL-CAD. The ideas below range from the very hard and math intense to the very easy, feel free to scale the scope of the project up or down as needed. The suggested project ideas below are merely starting points. In addition to those below, you may also want to consider some of these ideas.

A detailed articulate (i.e. excellent) proposal that has been discussed with us beforehand will generally trump the priorities. Please do contact us if you have any questions, corrections, comments, or ideas of your own that you'd like to suggest.

Be sure to read up on our application process for getting started with your proposal submission if you have not done so already.


Do you have an idea of your own? Let us know and maybe we'll like it too. We're very open to new ideas, areas of academic research, industry applications, and any other ways that may help get you hooked on BRL-CAD development. Just remember that BRL-CAD is a solid modeling CAD suite so keep that in mind when scoping your project. The idea needs to fit in with our project goals, it needs to be specific, and it needs to be detailed.


  • Passion for the task being suggested
  • Buy-in from one of the existing developers

OpenGL GUI Framework

BRL-CAD includes a graphical solid modeler named MGED as well as an experimental refactoring named Archer, both written in Tcl/Tk. While MGED is extensively powerful in its modeling capabilities and is in production use, new users and developers usually expect something rather different. They expect and want an interface that doesn't require extensive training and expert knowledge before they can use it. A redesign of the modeling interface is under way and this project idea focuses on one piece of that effort, the front-end display.

The goal of this project would be to implement the graphical application framework that communicating with a geometry service back-end. Rather than reimplementing existing functionality, the framework would be an extendible plug-in-based client-server system that would utilize existing binaries and editing functionality available in BRL-CAD. More to the point, this task entails creating that (basic) client-server communications API using an OpenGL client front-end that leverages an existing scene graph and display management interface (e.g. OGRE). This is a high-priority topic.


  • Strong knowledge of C++
  • Strong knowledge of object oriented design

Object-oriented geometry engine API

BRL-CAD includes four libraries that provide the basis for our core geometry engine: libbu, libbn, librt, and libwdb. These libraries provide a C API to various geometry processing and ray-tracing capabilities. The focus of this idea is to provide an object-oriented API in either C++ or Java (or both, SWIG?) for those capabilities. The library should be designed such that it provides features similar to those found in other commercial geometry engines such as the ACIS or Granite engines, but designed with BRL-CAD's existing capabilities in mind. The API design should leverage as much of our C libraries as possible for the implementation approach. See our 'jbrlcad' module for an example (initial) structuring. This is a high-priority topic.


  • Strong familiarity with C
  • Strong familiarity with C++ or Java (or both)
  • Strong familiarity with object oriented API design
  • (optional) Familiarity with SWIG

MGED User Interface Improvements

Most users discovering BRL-CAD for the first time are usually introduced to MGED first. MGED, however, has always been considered an "expert interface" that requires substantial investment of time and effort to learn and use effectively. There are many enhancements to the interface that would improve usability and discoverability.

The idea behind this task would be propose improvements to MGED's existing Tcl/Tk user interface implementation. Proposals could include usability improvements, platform-specific release integration (e.g., get AquaTk working), improving discoverability of features, refactoring the existing implementation, and more. The approach can be minimal, drastic, or incremental, but should be appropriately scoped and include detail. This is a high-priority topic.


  • Strong knowledge of Tcl/Tk
  • Usability and interface design experience
  • (optional) Familiarity with C

CSG evaluation of Boundary Representations

One of the current primary BRL-CAD development efforts is the complete integration of hybrid model support. BRL-CAD leverages the Rhino openNURBS library to provide fundamental BREP support but there is still much work to be done to evaluate BREPs. This task basically involves implementing BREP-on-BREP CSG evaluation routines (resulting in a new evaluated BREP object). If you get done fast enough, you could also work on implementing the routines that generate a BREP for all of our implicit primitives which would bring us one step closer towards providing complete dual-representation support. This is a high-priority topic.


  • Familiarity with C/C++
  • Strong math skills
  • Familiarity with CSG operations
  • Familiarity with BREP/n-Manifold spline surface geometry
  • (optional) Strong familiarity with implicit geometric representations

STEP parser integration

Several BRL-CAD developers are working on implementing a full STEP converter. This task is a big effort given the complexity of the STEP standard (ISO 10303). This task focuses on helping with that effort by working on one of the fundamental components to the STEP converter, getting an EXPRESS parser working. This would most likely entail updating and integrating the NIST STEP AP 21 parser or developing/using a similar EXPRESS parser. The NIST sources as well as copies of the STEP standard can be provided. If that is ends up being too easy, the next step is jumping in on AP 203 and AP 214 hooks. This is a high-priority topic.


  • Familiarity with C and/or C++
  • Ability to integrate with and update an existing code library
  • Familiarity with writing a robust parser
  • Ability to tolerate bloated ISO standards

CSG ray-trace optimizations

BRL-CAD has one of the best high-performance CSG boolean evaluation engines anywhere, but we're always looking for ways to improve performance and accuracy. This task could consist of refactoring the LIBRT ray-trace library to fix a bug related to negative object segment detection (high-priority). This task could consist of implementing a high-performance generic CSG tree processing library providing transformations, tree contraction, null object detection, various traversals, cycle detection, etc and hooking that into LIBRT. Yet another approach could be to apply the same real-time ray-trace optimizations of exploiting cache coherency, branch minimization, data vectorization, accelerated spacial partitioning, and other optimization techniques. This is a high-priority topic.


  • Strong familiarity with C
  • Strong familiarity with CSG

IGES importer/exporter enhancements

IGES is one of the most prevalent CAD geometry file formats used to exchange geometry data between CAD systems. BRL-CAD inludes extensive support for IGES, but only up to version 5.0 whereas the current/final version of IGES was 5.3 and there are non-final versions beyond that. This task would make the changes necessary to the existing IGES importer and exporter to fully support the latest IGES standard, possibly modifying the converter to simultaneously support multiple formats.


  • Familiarity with C
  • Strong ability to review and improve existing code

Universal geometry converter API

With more than 30 geometry importers and exporters, including several that are of paramount importance to CAD communities such as IGES and DXF, BRL-CAD contains a multitude of converters that can be chained together to go to and from various formats. This task would involve refactoring the existing converters into a clean "universal" geometry converter and API that could read and write from any of the supported formats as run-time plugins. If you have more time, you can always start work on a new converter too.


  • Familiarity with C or C++
  • Ability to understand and refactor existing code

New geometry converter

Though we have more than 30 geometry importers and exporters, there are plenty that we don't have support for and existing converters that could use improvements. Some examples of converters we would like to see implemented include (in rough priority/interest order):

  • STEP (.step)
  • Collada (.dae)
  • X3D [importer] (.x3d)
  • Alias Wavefront [importer] (.obj)
  • Rhino (.3dm)
  • AutoCAD drawings (.dwg)
  • G-Code (.nc)
  • Solidworks (.sat, .sldprt, .sldasm)
  • Parasolid/UGS (.x_b, .x_t)
  • POV-RAY (.pov)
  • Blender (.blend)
  • Universal 3D (.u3d)
  • Polygon [exporter] (.ply)
  • Sketchup (.skp, .skb)
  • VRML [importer] (.vrml)
  • 3D Studio Max (.3ds)


  • Familiarity with C or C++

New primitive

BRL-CAD provides more than 30 different primitives but there are a few we don't have that would be highly desirable to have implemented. The goal of this task is to fully implement support for one of them:

  • Sweep
  • Revolution
  • Birail/Skin
  • Annotation
  • Blend/Fillet/Chamfer
  • Dynamic Scripted
  • Compound Procedural


  • Familiarity with C
  • Solid mathematical basis for the primitive being suggested


This task is pretty simple on the surface: implement annotations. This effectively amounts to implementing a new primitive in BRL-CAD that can be associated with other objects for providing annotation information. Annotations would allow the modeler to leave notes and draw simple diagrams around geometry during the modeling process where the annotations are either fixed with respect to the view or align with the object(s) they refer to (if any). There are design considerations as to whether you can ray-trace an annotation as well as how to most effectively display them. It would be awesome if users could interactively edit their annotations through the GUI.


  • Strong familiarity with C
  • Ability to implement within an existing framework

Constraints and Parametrics

BRL-CAD does not presently provide the means to specify values that are undetermined or otherwise dependent calculations. That is to say that there is no support for constraints and parametrics such that a modeler can define a sphere such that the sphere's radius necessarily maintains tangency with a given planar surface. This task would focus on implementing basic support for this feature in the BRL-CAD geometry format.


  • Strong familiarity with C
  • Ability to implement within an existing framework

Web-based solid geometry model repository

This task focuses on creating a web interface to a geometry repository where the community can store and exchange geometric models in any of the supported BRL-CAD formats. The website could be written such that it integrates with an existing content management system (e.g. Drupal extension), wiki (e.g. Mediawiki extension), or could be custom with the appropriate design plan. The site would need to provide a relatively easy means for users to upload models and have those models be indexed, categorized, searched, converted, and downloaded through the website interface.


  • Strong web development skills
  • (optional)Familiarity with Drupal or Mediawiki customization and/or module development

Global illumination renderer

Our LIBRT library provides advanced solid modeling ray-trace facilities. This idea is to use the LIBRT library and implement a global illumination renderer such as a bidirectional path tracer (e.g. metropolis light transport) or radiosity renderer.


  • Strong familiarity with C
  • Familiarity with global illumination rendering
  • Solid math background
  • Ability to learn and utilize existing C API

Geometry database (i.e. ".g" file format) enhancements

Our ".g" file format is a binary geometry file format that provides a robust, efficient, and flexible object storage framework. There are, however, many features that would be really useful to have in the database layer that are not presently implemented. The idea behind this task would be to propose a set of enhancements, whether they be backwards-compatible with our current "v5" geometry file format or whether it be the development of a new "v6" file format. The sorts of enhancements needed include time-stamping of geometry database objects, support for constraints and parametric equations as intrinsic object properties, objects with versioning and construction histories, intrinsic support for surrogation, dynamic geometry, automatic space compression, deleted object recovery, performance enhancements, and more. There's plenty of room for new features and improvements, so be specific in your scope and goals.


  • Familiarity with C
  • Ability to learn and extend an existing API