ParaView is an application framework as well as a turn-key application; Modeling software OpenFOAM and ParaView ; mesh processing: generation, manipulation, conversion

ParaView is an open source, multi-platform data analysis and visualization application. It has a client-server architecture to facilitate remote visualization of datasets

It is an application built on top of the Visualization Tool Kit (VTK) libraries.

The ParaView code base is designed in such a way that all of its components can be reused to quickly develop vertical applications. This flexibility allows ParaView developers to quickly develop applications.

Input/Output and File Format

  • Supports a variety of file formats including: VTK (new and legacy, all types including parallel, ascii and binary, can read and written).
  • Various polygonal file formats including STL and BYU (by default, read only, other VTK writers can be added by writing XML description).
  • Many other file formats are supported. See ParaView Readers and ParaView Writers for a full list.

CMake is a family of tools designed to build, test and package software. CMake is used to control the software compilation process using simple platform and compiler independent configuration files. CMake generates native makefiles and workspaces that can be used in the compiler environment of your choice. ParaView utilizes CMake for the software compilation process.


ParaView is used as the visualization platform for the Modeling software OpenFOAM (Open Field Operation and Manipulation).It is primarily a C++ toolbox for the customisation and extension of numerical solvers for continuum mechanics problems, including computational fluid dynamics (CFD). It comes with a growing collection of pre-written solvers applicable to a wide range of problems.

First major general-purpose CFD package to use polyhedral cells. This functionality is a natural consequence of the hierarchical description of simulation objects.

OpenFOAM compares favourably with the capabilities of most leading general-purpose commercial closed-source CFD packages. It relies on the user’s choice of third party pre- and post-processing utilities, and ships with:

  • a plugin (paraFoam) for visualisation of solution data and meshes in ParaView.
  • a wide range of mesh converters allowing import from a number of leading commercial packages
  • an automatic hexahedral mesher to mesh engineering configurations

OpenFOAM was conceived as a continuum mechanics platform but is ideal for building multi-physics simulations.

OpenCFD develop OpenFOAM in the Linux/UNIX operating system because: we believe it is the best platform for this kind of high end simulation code development and operation; Linux is efficient, robust, reliable and flexible and undergoes rapid development and improvement; Linux is open source, like OpenFOAM; Linux is very effective for parallel operation on Beowulf clusters.

OpenFOAM is open source software so people can freely compile it on any operating system they choose. Most OpenFOAM users are running Linux, so this site offers the download of binaries for selected Linux systems.

As the present time we are unaware of any binary distributions for Windows or MacOSX. However, ports to these operating systems have been the subject of debate on the OpenFOAM discussion site, which may provide the best source of information on the matter.

OpenFOAM uses finite volume numerics to solve systems of partial differential equations ascribed on any 3D unstructured mesh of polyhedral cells.

Mesh generation

OpenFOAM applications handle unstructured meshes of mixed polyhedra with any number of faces: hexahedra, tetrahedra, degenerate cells, basically anything.

Mesh generation is made simple by the fact that a cell is simply represented as a list of faces and a face as a list of vertices: this makes mesh handling very easy even for complex meshes with, say, embedded refinement or complex shapes near the boundary.

OpenFOAM is supplied with the following mesh generator tools that run in parallel.

Mesh generation tools

blockMesh A multi-block mesh generator
extrude2DMesh Takes 2D mesh (all faces 2 points only, no front and back faces) and creates a 3D mesh by extruding with specified thickness
extrudeMesh Extrude mesh from existing patch (by default outwards facing normals; optional flips faces) or from patch read from file
snappyHexMesh Automatic split hex mesher. Refines and snaps to surface

The main mesh generators cover two extremes: snappyHexMesh, that can mesh to complex CAD surfaces; blockMesh a simple file-driven block mesh generator.

Mesh manipulation

OpenFOAM is supplied with several utilties that perform mesh checking and manipulation. The full list of utilties is given below

Mesh manipulation

attachMesh Attach topologically detached mesh using prescribed mesh modifiers
autoPatch Divides external faces into patches based on (user supplied) feature angle
cellSet Selects a cell set through a dictionary
checkMesh Checks validity of a mesh
createBaffles Makes internal faces into boundary faces. Does not duplicate points, unlike mergeOrSplitBaffles
createPatch Utility to create patches out of selected boundary faces. Faces come either from existing patches or from a faceSet
deformedGeom Deforms a polyMesh using a displacement field U and a scaling factor supplied as an argument
faceSet Selects a face set through a dictionary
flattenMesh Flattens the front and back planes of a 2D cartesian mesh
insideCells Picks up cells with cell centre ’inside’ of surface. Requires surface to be closed and singly connected
mergeMeshes Merge two meshes
mergeOrSplitBaffles Detects faces that share points (baffles). Either merge them or duplicate the points
mirrorMesh Mirrors a mesh around a given plane
moveDynamicMesh Mesh motion and topological mesh changes utility
moveEngineMesh Solver for moving meshes for engine calculations.
moveMesh Solver for moving meshes
objToVTK Read obj line (not surface!) file and convert into vtk
pointSet Selects a point set through a dictionary
refineMesh Utility to refine cells in multiple directions
renumberMesh Renumbers the cell list in order to reduce the bandwidth, reading and renumbering all fields from all the time directories
rotateMesh Rotates the mesh and fields from the direcion n1   \special {t4ht= to the direction n2   \special {t4ht=
setSet Manipulate a cell/face/point set interactively
setsToZones Add pointZones/faceZones/cellZones to the mesh from similar named pointSets/faceSets/cellSets
splitMesh Splits mesh by making internal faces external. Uses attachDetach
splitMeshRegions Splits mesh into multiple regions
stitchMesh ’Stitches’ a mesh
subsetMesh Selects a section of mesh based on a cellSet
transformPoints Transforms the mesh points in the polyMesh directory according to the translate, rotate and scale options
zipUpMesh Reads in a mesh with hanging vertices and zips up the cells to guarantee that all polyhedral cells of valid shape are closed

Mesh motion

OpenFOAM adopts a novel approach to mesh motion by defining it in terms of the boundary motion which is extremely robust.

The solver need only define the the motion of the boundary and everything else will be done automatically. The open architecture of OpenFOAM solver codes allows quick and efficient implementation: mesh motion can be based on any solution variable, either local or integrated and by dynamically adjusted during the run.

Mesh motion is also transparently integrated with top-level models: the model writer does not see the additional complexity, which is conveniently packaged within the discretisation operators.

For examples of automated mesh motion in OpenFOAM, see Solutions

Mesh conversion

OpenFOAM accepts meshes generated by any of the major mesh generators and CAD systems. Listed below are converter utlities for the major commercial mesh generators. Note that it is also possible to import the meshes from most general purpose mesh generators since they will export in a format read by one of the converters.

Mesh converters

ansysToFoam Converts an ANSYS input mesh file, exported from I-DEAS, to OPENFOAM®format
cfx4ToFoam Converts a CFX 4 mesh to OPENFOAM®format
fluent3DMeshToFoam Converts a Fluent mesh to OPENFOAM®format
fluentMeshToFoam Converts a Fluent mesh to OPENFOAM®format including multiple region and region boundary handling
foamMeshToFluent Writes out the OPENFOAM®mesh in Fluent mesh format
foamToStarMesh Reads an OPENFOAM®mesh and writes a PROSTAR (v4) bnd/cel/vrt format
gambitToFoam Converts a GAMBIT mesh to OPENFOAM®format
gmshToFoam Reads .msh file as written by Gmsh
ideasUnvToFoam I-Deas unv format mesh conversion
kivaToFoam Converts a KIVA grid to OPENFOAM®format
mshToFoam Converts .msh file generated by the Adventure system
netgenNeutralToFoam Converts neutral file format as written by Netgen v4.4
plot3dToFoam Plot3d mesh (ascii/formatted format) converter
polyDualMesh Calculate the dual of a polyMesh. Adheres to all the feature and patch edges
sammToFoam Converts a STAR-CD SAMM mesh to OPENFOAM®format
star4ToFoam Converts a STAR-CD (v4) PROSTAR mesh into OPENFOAM®format
starToFoam Converts a STAR-CD PROSTAR mesh into OPENFOAM®format
tetgenToFoam Converts .ele and .node and .face files, written by tetgen
writeMeshObj For mesh debugging: writes mesh as three separate OBJ files which can be viewed with e.g. javaview

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