Clean Up the Geometry

Meshing packages have the challenge of dealing with a host of geometry problems. Many of these problems can be generalized as file translation issues. Typically, the geometry used in a meshing package has not been created there but in one of many CAD packages. Exporting these files out of CAD and into a neutral file format (IGES, STEP, SAT) accepted by the meshing software can introduce misrepresentations in the geometry. If the CAD and meshing packages do not support the same file formats, a second translation may be necessary, possibly introducing even more problems.

Another complication caused by file translation is that of tolerances. Some CAD packages see two points as coincident if they are within 1e-3 units, while others use 1e-6. If the meshing software's tolerance is finer than the CAD package's, this disparity in tolerance can cause subsequent geometry modification operations in the meshing package to inadvertently create sliver features, which tend to be difficult and tedious to deal with. This tolerance problem also causes misalignment issues between adjacent volumes of assemblies, hindering the sharing of coincident geometry in order to produce a conformal mesh.

Modeling errors caused by the user in the CAD package is another problem that the meshing package has to correct. In the CAD package, the user may not create the geometry correctly, causing some parts to overlap, or introduce small gaps between parts that should touch. Many times these problems are detected in the meshing package at a point when it is not feasible to simply go back into the CAD system and fix the problem, so the meshing package must be capable of correcting it.

Several approaches for addressing the geometry cleanup problem have been proposed in the literature, but they typically provide operations that are automatically applied to the geometry once one or more topology problems have been identified. While very effective in many cases, they generally lack the ability for the user to have control over the resolution of these CAD issues while still maintaining the option for automation. The ITEM environment provides tools to both diagnose these common issues and to provide a list of solutions from which the user may select that will correct the problems.

For the purposes of mesh generation, features in a solid model that should be carefully considered and addressed prior to meshing generally fit in one of four categories:

Being able to recognize when a problem exists and what operations to apply to resolve issues in each of the four categories described above, is indeed an art-form and requires significant experience to become proficient. ITEM will not take the place of an experienced user, but it is intended to offer the user help along the way by detecting potential problems and suggesting solutions they might consider.