Interactive Visualization of Large Finite Element Models
Finite element models used in crash worthiness simulations now contain more than one million mostly quadrilateral elements. Interactive visualization of those models for pre- and postprocessing applications cannot be achieved by brute force rendering of all triangles on even advanced graphics hardware. Well-known mesh simplification algorithms are rarely applied, since the finite element struc- ture needs to be retained, which is usually accomplished by drawing an additional wire frame around each single element.
We propose a new visualization technique which combines the advantages of a specifically adapted mesh reduction algorithm with a texture based rendering of surface details. We start out with a two-stage segmentation based on continuity features of the FE model. The resulting patches form a parameterization domain where lost surface details and element boundaries can be stored in a normal map and in a densely encoded wire frame texture.
The triangulated patches are rendered with a fragment shader performing per-pixel lighting and high quality outline generation for each finite element in a single pass. We achieve a significant speedup in the visualization while re- taining the visual details of the FE model and we expect our method to be applicable to all areas of Computer-Aided Engineering.