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The Polygon Mesh Processing Library

This section provides a hands-on tutorial on the basic usage of the pmp-library. For a thorough introduction into polygon mesh processing we refer to the book of Botsch et al. [3].


In general, a polygonal surface mesh is composed of vertices, edges and faces as well as the incidence relationships between them. pmp::SurfaceMesh stores the connectivity information based on halfedges, i.e., pairs of directed edges with opposing direction. To be more precise:

  • Each vertex stores an outgoing halfedge.
  • Each face stores an incident halfedge.
  • Each halfedge stores its incident face, its target vertex, and its previous and next halfedges within the face.

The halfedge connectivity is illustrated in the figure below:

In the following sections we describe the basic usage of pmp::SurfaceMesh by means of simple example programs and code excerpts.


The very basic usage of pmp::SurfaceMesh is demonstrated in the example below. The program first instantiates a pmp::SurfaceMesh object as well as four vertex handles. These handles, as well as the handles for the other mesh entities Halfedge, Edge and Face basically indices. Four vertices are added to the mesh, as well as four triangular faces composing a tetrahedron. Finally, the number of vertices, edges, and faces is printed to standard output.

// instantiate a SurfaceMesh object
SurfaceMesh mesh;
// instantiate 4 vertex handles
Vertex v0,v1,v2,v3;
// add 4 vertices
v0 = mesh.add_vertex(Point(0,0,0));
v1 = mesh.add_vertex(Point(1,0,0));
v2 = mesh.add_vertex(Point(0,1,0));
v3 = mesh.add_vertex(Point(0,0,1));
// add 4 triangular faces
std::cout << "vertices: " << mesh.n_vertices() << std::endl;
std::cout << "edges: " << mesh.n_edges() << std::endl;
std::cout << "faces: " << mesh.n_faces() << std::endl;
Vector< Scalar, 3 > Point
Point type.
Definition: Types.h:45

Iterators and Circulators

In order to sequentially access mesh entities pmp::SurfaceMesh provides iterators for each entity type, namely pmp::SurfaceMesh::VertexIterator, pmp::SurfaceMesh::HalfedgeIterator, pmp::SurfaceMesh::EdgeIterator, and pmp::SurfaceMesh::FaceIterator. Similar to iterators, pmp::SurfaceMesh also provides circulators for the ordered enumeration of all incident vertices, halfedges, or faces around a given face or vertex. The example below demonstrates the use of iterators and circulators for computing the mean valence of a mesh.

SurfaceMesh mesh;
if (argc > 1)[1]);
float mean_valence = 0.0f;
// loop over all vertices
for (auto v : mesh.vertices())
// sum up vertex valences
mean_valence += mesh.valence(v);
mean_valence /= mesh.n_vertices();
std::cout << "mean valence: " << mean_valence << std::endl;

Dynamic Properties

Attaching additional attributes to mesh entities is important for many applications. pmp::SurfaceMesh supports properties by means of synchronized arrays that can be (de-)allocated dynamically at run-time. Property arrays are also used internally, e.g., to store vertex coordinates. The example program below shows how to access vertex coordinates through the (pre-defined) point property.

SurfaceMesh mesh;
if (argc > 1)[1]);
// get (pre-defined) property storing vertex positions
auto points = mesh.get_vertex_property<Point>("v:point");
Point p(0,0,0);
for (auto v : mesh.vertices())
// access point property like an array
p += points[v];
p /= mesh.n_vertices();
std::cout << "barycenter: " << p << std::endl;

The dynamic (de-)allocation of properties at run-time is managed by a set of four different functions:

  • add_EntityType_property<PropertyType>("PropertyName") allocates a new property for the given EntityType of the type PropertyType labeled by the PropertyName string.
  • get_EntityType_property<PropertyType>("PropertyName") returns a handle to an existing property.
  • _EntityType_property<PropertyType>("PropertyName") returns a handle to an existing property if the specified property already exists. If not, a new property is allocated and its handle is returned.
  • remove_EntityType_property(PropertyHandle) removes and the property referenced by PropertyHandle.

Functions that allocate a new property take a default value for the property as an optional second argument. The code excerpt below demonstrates how to allocate, use and remove a custom edge property.

SurfaceMesh mesh;
// allocate property storing a point per edge
auto edge_points = mesh.add_edge_property<Point>("propertyName");
// access the edge property like an array
Edge e;
edge_points[e] = Point(x,y,z);
// remove property and free memory

In addition to the per-entity properties described above it is also possible to attach global per-object properties to a mesh. This can be used, e.g., for storing minimum or maximum values of a scalar field or for storing a set of region markers present in the mesh:

auto markers = mesh.object_property<std::vector<int>>("o:regions");

Note in the above that access to the object property simply uses a zero index since there is no concept of an object handle.

Connectivity Queries

Commonly used connectivity queries such as retrieving the next halfedge or the target vertex of an halfedge are illustrated below.

Halfedge h;
auto h0 = mesh.next_halfedge(h);
auto h1 = mesh.prev_halfedge(h);
auto h2 = mesh.opposite_halfedge(h);
auto f = mesh.face(h);
auto v0 = mesh.from_vertex(h);
auto v1 = mesh.to_vertex(h);

Topological Operations

pmp::SurfaceMesh also offers higher-level topological operations, such as performing edge flips, edge splits, face splits, or halfedge collapses. The figure below illustrates some of these operations.

The corresponding member functions and their syntax is demonstrated in the pseudo-code below.

Vertex v;
Edge e;
Halfedge h;
Face f;
mesh.split(f, v);
mesh.split(e, v);

When entities are removed from the mesh due to topological changes, the member function pmp::SurfaceMesh::garbage_collection() has to be called in order to ensure the consistency of the data structure.

File I/O

All I/O operations are handled by the pmp::SurfaceMesh::read() and pmp::SurfaceMesh::write() member functions. Those functions simply take a file name as well as optional pmp::IOFlags as an argument.

We currently support reading and writing several standard (and not so standard) file formats: OFF, OBJ, STL, PLY, PMP, XYZ, AGI. See the reference documentation for the pmp::SurfaceMesh::read() and pmp::SurfaceMesh::write() functions for details on which format supports reading / writing which type of data.

A simple example reading and writing a mesh is shown below.

// instantiate a SurfaceMesh object
SurfaceMesh mesh;
// read a mesh specified as the first command line argument
if (argc > 1)[1]);
// ...
// do fancy stuff with the mesh
// ...
// write the mesh to the file specified as second argument
if (argc > 2)

Eigen Interoperability

The pmp-library supports some level of interoperability with Eigen. The pmp::Matrix and pmp::Vector classes can be constructed/assigned from Eigen matrix/vector types. In addition, it possible to cast the pmp::Matrix and pmp::Vector classes to Eigen.

Example for construction:

// construction from Eigen
Eigen::Vector3d eigenVec(1.0, 2.0, 3.0);
pmp::dvec3 pmpVec = eigenVec;
Base class for MxN matrix.
Definition: MatVec.h:24

Example for assignment:

// assignment from Eigen
Eigen::Vector3d eigenVec(1.0, 2.0, 3.0);
pmp::dvec3 pmpVec;
pmpVec = eigenVec;

Example for cast:

// cast to Eigen
pmp::vec3 pmpVec(1.0, 2.0, 3.0);
Eigen::Vector3f eigenVec = static_cast<Eigen::Vector3f>(pmpVec);

See the reference documentation for pmp::Matrix and pmp::Vector for more details.