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Plot3D, CGNS and the Standardization of Data File Formats


Plot3D is a standard file format used for storing grid and results data in CFD simulations. This standardization of formats is a big plus for engineers, allowing them more choices in tailoring their solutions to a project.  Taking a page from another industry, where the belief that owning the format means owning the market—the cell phone industry still suffers from these proprietary practices, which, as we know, rarely work out for companies or their customers.

Engineers and scientists are driving the push for standardized formats which offer the flexibility to choose the “best of breed” tool for their application. Data of a format that can be readily imported or exported into their in-house tools, open source application, or commercial software applications such as ANSYS FLUENT and Abaqus/CFD provides the greatest efficiency in the solving of their CFD projects.

CGNS: The future of CFD grid and results data

The CFD General Notation System (CGNS) community has successfully created a standardized format that can be used with any code. Over the past five years, the complexity of unsteady analysis has increased along with larger and more sophisticated simulations. The result has been an increase in the complexity of the standard to cover a wide breadth of use cases. A hierarchical data file format has developed, called HDF5, as an underpinning within the CGNS.

Tecplot, Inc. is part of a select group of 20 companies on the steering committee for CGNS. This committee is comprised of government organizations and private businesses that guide the development, evolution, and wide acceptance of the CGNS standard. Tecplot, Inc. has had an active member on the CGNS technical committee for ten years now — Scotty Imlay, our CTO.

We anticipated this move toward standardization and chose to engineer and develop an infrastructure into our software flexible enough to handle the new realities of these common file formats. We made our CFD software faster and easier for engineers to use. The timing couldn’t be better, because the complexity and number of runs that engineers are working with has gone up dramatically.

Our loaders help engineers dive in and quickly extract the truth from their data. Because CGNS is a standard format, you can use it with almost any code.  It’s a flexible solution for scientists and engineers who are working in a wide envelope of operating conditions. If an engineer’s work requires them to use multiple simulators, they can use CGNS format and one tool to analyze their results.

Tecplot, Inc. has adopted standardization because it’s the right decision to make CFD analysis easier for everyone. Tecplot Inc.’s own format is open source, well documented, and the code is easy to read. In fact, other codes, including FLUENT, can read Tecplot, Inc.’s data.

The CGNS file format, used around the world by scientists and engineers, is widely supported by solvers and post-processors, including Tecplot, Inc. products. That’s why we’re helping to guide its development.