Surface Evolver Documentation

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Example: Cube evolving into a sphere.

A sample datafile cube.fe comes with Evolver. The initial surface is a unit cube. The surface bounds one body, and the body is constrained to have volume 1. There is no gravity or any other force besides surface tension. Hence the minimal energy surface will turn out to be a sphere. This example illustrates the basic datafile format and some basic commands.

cube skeleton The initial cube skeleton, with vertices and edges numbered.

This is the datafile that specifies the initial unit cube:

// cube.fe
// Evolver data for cube of prescribed volume.

vertices  /* given by coordinates */
1  0.0 0.0 0.0 
2  1.0 0.0 0.0
3  1.0 1.0 0.0
4  0.0 1.0 0.0
5  0.0 0.0 1.0
6  1.0 0.0 1.0
7  1.0 1.0 1.0
8  0.0 1.0 1.0

edges  /* given by endpoints */
1   1 2   
2   2 3   
3   3 4  
4   4 1 
5   5 6
6   6 7  
7   7 8 
8   8 5
9   1 5   
10  2 6  
11  3 7 
12  4 8

faces  /* given by oriented edge loop */
1   1 10 -5  -9
2   2 11 -6 -10
3   3 12 -7 -11
4   4  9 -8 -12
5   5  6  7   8
6  -4 -3 -2  -1

bodies  /* one body, defined by its oriented faces */
1   1 2 3 4 5 6  volume 1

// end of cube.fe
The datafile is organized in lines, with one geometric element defined per line. Vertices must be defined first, then edges, then faces, then bodies. Each element is numbered for later reference in the datafile.

Comments are delimited by /* to begin and */ to close as in C, or from // until the end of the line as in C++. Case is not significant, and all input is made lower-case immediately. Hence error messages about your datafiles will refer to items in lower case, even when you typed them in upper case.

The datafile syntax is based on keywords. The keywords VERTICES, EDGES, FACES, and BODIES signal the start of the respective sections. Note that the faces are not necessarily triangles (which is why they are called FACES and not FACETS). Any non-triangular face will be automatically triangulated by putting a vertex at its center and putting in edges to each of the original vertices. Faces don't have to be planar. Note that a minus sign on an edge means that the edge is traversed in the opposite direction from that defined for it in the EDGES section. A face's oriented normal is defined by the usual right hand rule. The cube faces all have outward normals, so they all are positive in the body list. In defining a body, the boundary faces must have outward normals. If a face as defined has an inward normal, it must be listed with a minus sign.

That the body is constrained to have a volume of 1 is indicated by the keyword VOLUME after the body definition, with the value of the volume following. Any attributes or properties an element has are given on the same line after its definition.

Start Evolver and load the datafile with the command line

     evolver cube.fe
You should get a prompt
     Enter command:
Give the command s to show the surface. You should see a square divided into four triangles by diagonals. This is the front side of the cube; you are looking in along the positive x-axis, with the z axis vertical and the positive y axis to the right. On most systems, you can manipulate the displayed surface with the mouse: dragging the mouse over the surface with the left button down rotates the surface; you can change to "zoom" mode by hitting the z key, to "translate" by hitting t, to "spin" by hitting c, and back to "rotate" by hitting r. Hit the 'h' key with the mouse focus in the graphics window to get a summary of the possibilities. You can also give graphics commands at the graphics command prompt; this is good for precise control. The graphics command prompt is
     Graphics command:
It takes strings of letters, each letter making a viewing transformation on the surface: The most used ones are
  r   rotate right by 6 degrees 
  l   rotate left by 6 degrees
  u   rotate up by 6 degrees  
  d   rotate down by 6 degrees 
  R   reset to original position
  q   quit back to main command prompt  
Try typing rrdd to get an oblique view of the cube. Any transformations you make will remain in effect the next time you show the surface. Now do q to get back to the main prompt.

If you are using geomview for graphics, do command P option 8 to get a display, or just "P 8" for short. Geomview takes a couple of seconds to initialize. You can manipulate the geomview display as usual independently of the Evolver. Evolver will automatically update the image whenever the surface changes.

Now do some iterations. Give the command "g 5" to do 5 iterations. You should get this:

  5. area:  5.11442065156005 energy:  5.11442065156005  scale: 0.186828
  4. area:  5.11237323810972 energy:  5.11237323810972  scale: 0.21885
  3. area:  5.11249312304592 energy:  5.11249312304592  scale: 0.204012
  2. area:  5.11249312772740 energy:  5.11249312772740  scale: 0.204386
  1. area:  5.11249312772740 energy:  5.11249312772740  scale: 0
Enter command: 
Note that after each iteration a line is printed with the iterations countdown, area, energy, and current scale factor. By default, the Evolver seeks the optimal scale factor to minimize energy. At first, there are large motions, and the volume constraint may not be exactly satisfied. There may be an energy increase due to the volume constraint taking hold. At the end, the scale is 0 because the surface has converged as well as it can at this coarse a triangulation. (Different systems may not give a zero scale here due to numerics.) Volume constraints are not exactly enforced, but each iteration tries to bring the volume closer to the target. Here that results in increases in area. You can find the current volumes with the v command:
Body       target volume         actual volume        pressure
  1     1.000000000000000     0.999999779366360   3.408026016427987
The pressure in the last column is actually the Lagrange multiplier for the volume constraint. Now let's refine the triangulation with the r command. This subdivides each facet into four smaller similar facets. The printout here gives the counts of the geometric elements and the memory they take:
Vertices: 50 Edges: 144 Facets: 96  Facetedges: 288 Memory: 27554
Iterate another 10 times:
 10. area: 4.908899804670224 energy: 4.908899804670224  scale: 0.268161
  9. area: 4.909526310166165 energy: 4.909526310166165  scale: 0.204016
  8. area: 4.909119925577212 energy: 4.909119925577212  scale: 0.286541
  7. area: 4.908360229118204 energy: 4.908360229118204  scale: 0.304668
  6. area: 4.907421919968726 energy: 4.907421919968726  scale: 0.373881
  5. area: 4.906763705259419 energy: 4.906763705259419  scale: 0.261395
  4. area: 4.906032256943935 energy: 4.906032256943935  scale: 0.46086
  3. area: 4.905484754688263 energy: 4.905484754688263  scale: 0.238871
  2. area: 4.904915540917190 energy: 4.904915540917190  scale: 0.545873
  1. area: 4.904475138593070 energy: 4.904475138593070  scale: 0.227156
You can continue iterating and refining as long as you have time and memory.

Eventually, you will want to quit. So give the q command. You get

     Enter new datafile name (none to continue, q to quit): 
You can start a new surface by entering a datafile name (it can be the same one you just did, to start over), or continue with the present surface by hitting ENTER with no name (in case you pressed q by accident, or suddenly you remember something you didn't do), or you can really quit with another q.

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