Topology and Geometry in Open CASCADE. Part 5

by - 13:18


Other topology types
So far we considered vertex, edge, and face – those which have connection with geometry. The rest – wire, shell, solid, compsolid and compound – do not connect with geometry directly and are just containers for other topological entities:
- wire consists of edge(s);
- shell – of face(s);
- solid – of shell(s);
- compsolid – of solid(s) sharing common face(s);
- compound – of any arbitrary type (including compound).

A minor note on solids. A solid is expected to contain a single shell that describes its external boundary. If there are two or more shells, it's considered to be a solid with voids but Open CASCADE can be not too robust to work with such bodies. So beware.

Iteration over children
The are two ways to iterate over child subshapes.
1. Direct children can be retrieved using TopoDS_Iterator.
The following function will traverse through entire shape structure:
void TraverseShape (const TopoDS_Shape& theShape)
TopoDS_Iterator anIt (theShape);
for (; anIt.More(); anIt.Next()) {
const TopoDS_Shape& aChild = anIt.Value();
TraverseShape (aChild);
TopoDS_Iterator has two flags specifying whether to take into account location and orientation of a parent shape when extracting a child. If the location flag is on then any child is returned as if it were a standalone shape and placed exactly at its location in 3D space (i.e. the user would see an extracted edge right where it is displayed in the context of its parent wire). If the orientation flag is on, then returned child orientation will be a product of a parent and own child orientation (e.g. two reversed or forward will give forward, reversed and forward in any combination will give reversed).
If flags are off, then a child shape is returned with its own location and orientation as stored inside (recall diagram 2 in Part1). By default both flags are on.

2. Children of a particular subtype
If you want to retrieve all edges of your shape you can do the following:
TopExp_Explorer anExp (theShape, TopAbs_EDGE);
for (; anExp.More(); anExp.Next()) {
const TopoDS_Edge& anEdge = TopoDS::Edge (anExp.Current());
//do something with anEdge

TopExp_Explorer has an additional parameter that specifies which parent type you want to skip. For example, if you want to retrieve only floating edges (i.e. not belonging to any face – refer to Part3), you can do the following:
TopExp_Explorer aFloatingEdgeExp (theShape; TopAbs_EDGE, TopAbs_FACE);

More on location and orientation
As already described in the previous chapters, an individual location of a geometrically bounded entity (vertex, edge, face) defines a displacement relative to its underlying geometry. Location of any topology entity (regardless if it has geometric binding or not) also defines a displacement relative to its children. For instance, if a wire has a location consisting of a translation part along the {0, 0, 10} vector then it just means that all its edges are actually translated along the Z axis by 10 units.

The same works for orientation. Parent orientation affects its children orientation when extracting them from inside the shape. There is one important exception however – which is about edge orientation within a face. If you recall Part4 we discussed there that face material lies on the left of forward edge pcurves and on the right of the reversed edge pcurves. This reversed or forward orientation of an edge must be calculated *excluding* own face orientation. That is, if you need to use edge pcurves you should rather use:

TopExp_Explorer aFaceExp (myFace.Oriented (TopAbs_FORWARD), TopAbs_EDGE);
for (; aFaceExp.More(); aFaceExp.Next()) {
const TopoDS_Edge& anEdge = TopoDS::Edge (aFaceExp.Current());
This exception becomes understandable if you try to understand the details. Let's construct a face bottom-up:

Handle(Geom_Surface) aSurf = new Geom_Plane (gp::XOY());

//anti-clockwise circles if too look from surface normal
Handle(Geom_Curve) anExtC = new Geom_Circle (gp::XOY(), 10.);
Handle(Geom_Curve) anIntC = new Geom_Circle (gp::XOY(), 5.);
TopoDS_Edge anExtE = BRepBuilderAPI_MakeEdge (anExtC);
TopoDS_Edge anIntE = BRepBuilderAPI_MakeEdge (anExtC);
TopoDS_Wire anExtW = BRepBuilderAPI_MakeWire (anExtE);
TopoDS_Wire anIntW = BRepBuilderAPI_MakeWire (anIntE);
BRep_Builder aB;
TopoDS_Face aFace;
aB.MakeFace (aFace, aSurf, Precision::Confusion());
aB.Update (aFace, aSurf);
aB.Add (aFace, anExtW);
aB.Add (aFace, anIntW.Reversed()); //material should lie on the right of the inner wire

aFace has a forward orientation (default). Let's explore its edges and pcurves. Though we did not explicitly add them, recall (see Part 3) that for planes they can be computed on the fly:

void TraversePCurves (const TopoDS_Face& theFace)
TopExp_Explorer anExp (theFace, TopAbs_EDGE);
for (; anExp.More(); anExp.Next()) {
const TopoDS_Edge& anEdge = TopoDS::Edge (anExp.Current());
Standard_Real aF, aL;
Handle(Geom2d_Curve) aPCurve = BRep_Tool::CurveOnSurface (anEdge, theFace, aF, aL);

Returned pcurves will be as shown below (material will be on the left of red and on the right of blue).

Everything is correct. Now imagine we reverse the face and explore again:

TopoDS_Face aRFace = TopoDS::Face (aFace.Reversed());
TraversePCurves (aRFace);

What will we see ? All the edges will be extracted with opposite orientations and respectively their pcurves will mean that material is beyond an external wire and within an internal wire. This is clearly wrong, though original aRFace is perfectly correct. Recall Part4 that a face orientation just shows face logical orientation regarding its underlying surface. In our case aRFace will be just aFace with a normal {0, 0, -1}.

Thus, the only way out is to do the following:
TopExp_Explorer anExp (theFace.Oriented (TopAbs_FORWARD), TopAbs_EDGE);

This will ensure that edges will show orientation regarding surface (not face!) normal. I made exact same comment in Part 4. Open CASCADE algorithms take care of this particular case, make sure so do you.

Hope orientation is now also a well swallowed bit of an elephant we have been eating in this series. I think we are almost done with it. There are a few tiny bones to pick, and unless you are still hungry we will finish it in the last post to follow. Bon appetite ;-)

To be continued...

You May Also Like


  1. Great tutorial congratulations! You are for me one of the most read blog poster, and for sure the first relating on OpenCascade.

  2. Hello Roman,

    I have a specific question, which is pretty good thing I want to do with OpenCascade: I want to highlight special shapes that match a criteria: middle point, tangent to circle, center of circle.

    I did already thought to make a simple geometric solver, but there is nothing at the OpenCascade level to do at least the most obvious rules (like middle point). A polyline marker may solve the issue? There is any other normal approach I should follow? (give he the hint, I will look from myself for the right classes).

    One thing that would solve most of issues is to create hidden geometry that react on selection. Do you know if is possible to create an invisible geometry? If yes, there is any hint?

    Best wishes,

  3. Hi Ciprian,

    I would look at implementing custom sensitive primitives. I have not done this myself but remember that the Visualization Guide does have an example of such. As far as I understand, the concept is that you define a set of sensitive primitives (segments, polygons, triangles, etc) that are activated and respond to mouse moves displaying some graphical objects. I recently encountered this in MeshVS_Mesh::ComputeSelection() but any AIS_InteractiveObject::ComputeSelection() can be an example.
    Invisible geometry? No, I wouldn't look into it, sensitive primitives should work.

    Good luck.

  4. Hello Roman,

    I did not get any notice that you answer me!

    Thank you and is really a great start!

    Best wishes and luck,

  5. Thanks for posting this series, it made 'a first exposure' to OCCT that much easier.

    I didn't try the code snippet, but while reading it, I spotted a minor typo:

    TopoDS_Edge anIntE = BRepBuilderAPI_MakeEdge (anExtC);


    TopoDS_Edge anIntE = BRepBuilderAPI_MakeEdge (anIntC);

    Now, here's an unrelated question:

    S1. Suppose you had a list of vertices (coordinates in 3D space, in an independently discretized domain), but without any accompanying OCC topological information or connectivity information.

    S2. Suppose also that you had the corresponding OCC faces (the original undiscretized domain).

    Q1. What is the most efficient way to process the mesh vertices (large number ~O(10^5)) so that corresponding faces/edges can be identified?

    Q2. What is the most efficient way to offset the face wires into the faces? i.e., to shrink the boundary.

    In case you require context, the above has applications in computational fluid dynamics.


  6. Hi Roman,

    I have a question concerning the exception from the orientation inheritance, you mention above:

    When you're inverting the face's orientation, you also have to invert the face's normal direction, right? So - it appears to me - it's correct to also invert the edges direction in order to get a vector pointing to the material side of the edge by calculating n x t

  7. Hi Fabian,
    First, there is no face normal direction you could invert or otherwise modify. Normal is defined by underlying surface as dU x dV. Face normal is aligned with it if it has Forward orientation and Reversed if it is Reversed. So, you practically may only change this orientation field. And as explained in the exception, edges are left untouched and you need to explore them as face were always oriented Forward.

  8. Hai,

    I a beginner in OpenCascade.Found your blog fine. Now I have a problem.

    I have a pipe with two end faces without seam edge causing problem in my program. I used ShapeFix_face but in vain. I want to get a method to check whether a face has a seam edge or not? Can you help me.

    pls reply me to

  9. Anand, please use the forum at and provide more specific details, exact shapes and algorithm.

  10. Very good post! Thanks

    I think you missed an Int with a Ext at the code example.

    TopoDS_Edge anIntE = BRepBuilderAPI_MakeEdge (anExtC);