Scientific visualisation


Scientific Visualisation encompasses a wide area of fields including – but not limited to – engineering, medical visualisation, chemistry, astronomy, physics or biology. In order to find contact details for each VISINOAIR member and to explore suitable facilities please visit the resources e-map. Additionally, further information about the partners is provided below.


Target groups for the transnational access may include:

  • Scientists that want to try out their visualisation methods or systems in truly immersive environments.
  • Scientists that want to connect their simulation code to high-end visualisation platforms to do on-line simulations with real time assessment of the simulation results.
  • Researchers who need high definition, high resolution output devices they usually do not have access to.
  • Scientists that develop novel post-processing methods or create parallelised versions that require a large computing effort.
  • Scientists that want to visualise massive data sets that are usually too large for common visualisation facilities.
  • Guests of the transnational access programme will not only have an extensive visualisation platform at their disposal, but also further resources that are required to undertake their visualisation tasks like supercomputing resources, high performance networking environments, experimental facilities and others. Although these resources exist and are available to the programme participants to a limited degree, proposals are required to be visualisation centred and should only in rare cases draw heavily upon these.


Click a partner name to read more about them.

Ecole Centrale de Nantes (France)

The host is the team "structures and simulations" of ECN. Its domain of activity turns around computational mechanics of solids. Application fields concern the numerical modelling of complex phenomena involved in durability of structures (cracking, damage, shear band) with a large use of Finite Elements Method.

In 2005, the team initially acquired a stereoscopic room for the post-processing of its numerical models of complex geometries, and then, gradually, for its processing of 3D images related to its research activities.

The most significant applications included are the calculation of multiscale microstructures which takes advantages of image analysis coupled with level-sets and XFEM method for domain segmentation, as well as the calculation of geometrical complex structure in a XFEM mesh model.

Today, the major asset of this room is to help in post-processing by a better understanding of the relative spatial positions, essentially for structures with complex evolving topology or geometry:

  • Display of surfaces of interest inside matter (damage zones, propagation of internal cracks, ...)
  • Visualization of implicit surface representation of structures in a 3D massive
  • Representation of spatial positions from acoustic emission measurement
  • Perception of shape change (crash structures, large deformation of parts, ...)
  • Complex topology (assembled complex structures, micro-structures composite random ...)
  • Representative Elementary Volume of cornstarch for homogenization method

Even if the team essentially use stereoscopic technologies (ensigth, vtk, ...), development of specific tools have been initiated by introducing stereo output in the software gmsh ( /). Development of specific human interfaces are also planned for navigation inside the model. The following objectives are aimed for:

  • Increase within "immersivity": the use of function of magnification (zoom) on the areas of interest tends to push the surrounding areas outside of the screen and thereby interferes with the tridimensional perception.
  • Improve UI in the field of post-treatment: the high interactivity of software requires the use of menus that appear on the plane of the screen regardless of the relative position of the part. This is an inconsistency which annihilates the stereo vision.

Available hardware includes a 3D-stereoscopic room (7.70m x 5.30m), a metallic coating screen (2.40m x 1.80m), double projection display with 2 x Projector F1+ SX+ 1400x1050, 1:1 Wide Lens, passive polarized circular filters + 20 glasses and passive polarized linear filters + 20 glasses.

There is a graphics workstation "HP Workstation Z800" with 64GB DDR ECC Memory, 2 x intel Xeon E5620 quad core 2.4GHz and Nvidia Quadro FX 5800, running a Linux FEDORA system, with a 3D CONNEXION SpacePilot - USB mouse.

Software includes Ensight Gold, VTK, Gmsh (stereo version) and Bino.

There are plans for acquiring a 3D active display for desktop (2011), a digital 3D stereo camera (2011) and a 3D Active projection display (2012).

Strengths and expertise are in eXtended and Finite Element and Level Set methods, in image processing and in C++ developments and use of C++ libraries (openGL, glut, openVC, itk, SDL…)

University of Kaiserslautern (Germany)

The Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Production Systems (FBK) of the University of Kaiserslautern offers a 4-sided CAVE (approximately. 3m x 3m) with passive stereo, including an optical ART-tracking system. Additionally, 10 PC's Visualization Cluster and 8 workstations for modeling and simulation are available.

The following software may be used at FBK:

  • VRUI (open source, Linux based CAVE-operating system)
  • 3ds-max
  • Autodesk Mechanical Desktop
  • Autodesk Inventor
  • Solid Works
  • Unigraphics NX
  • Plant Simulation
  • AutoCAD
  • Deform 3D
  • Abacus

Services include the visualization of large data-sets, the support in the modeling phase, as well as the handling of files and transformation of file formats. Furthermore, there is a virtual CIP-workshop for planning and evaluation of improvement measurements parallel to the running production. You can use services for planning and optimization of production plants and production processes, as well as changing management of existing production facilities and processes. Teaching and training services in virtual environments are also available.

Scientific interests are in Mechanical Engineering and visualization, as well as manipulation within virtual environments belonging to the production planning, production processes and machining processes. Further interests are in the development of enhanced manipulation methods in virtual environments, the development of software-applications (modules) for virtual reality e.g. sound simulation, lightning simulation, enhancing the immersive feeling in VR-scenes, remote access to world-wide distributed CAVE systems, merging multiple CAx programs to VR-systems and thus extending the dimensions of VR models with further data sets, Multisensory Immersion (visual and acoustic), visualization of invisible effects and Intuitive Interaction.

RWTH Aachen University (Germany)

The Virtual Reality group at the Center for Computing and Communication provides immersive and interactive visualization of scientific datasets, managing time-varying data using time navigation in scientific visualization. Additionally, standard visualization techniques, e.g. polygonal objects representing isosurfaces, cutplanes, and context geometry are supported, as well as high quality Volume Rendering, real time particle tracing, interactive feature analysis in VR and annotation in scientific visualization.

With the ever growing performance of today's high performance computers, the simulations that are run on those machines are getting more and more complex. Accordingly, the evaluation and analysis of the result data sets those simulations deliver is getting increasingly complex, too. With the ViSTA FlowLib (VFL) framework, the Virtual Reality group at Aachen enables the use of immersive display and interaction technology for visualization tasks in the field of Computational Engineering Science.

VFL originated from applications in the domain of flow visualization - hence its name – and has been further developed and is still evolving as a basis for a broader range of immersive scientific visualization applications, not limited to flow phenomena. Beside standard visualization techniques, e.g. polygonal objects representing isosurfaces, cutplanes, and context geometry, VFL provides special unique visualization techniques exploiting the possibilities opened up by merging Virtual Reality and visualization.

The key features of ViSTA FlowLib can be summarized as follows:

  • Builds on the ViSTA and the Visualization Toolkit (VTK)
  • Provides interaction paradigms for the exploration of simulation data in 3-D space
  • Implements methods for a "Virtual Windtunnel"-style of exploration: Interactive real-time particle tracing in 3-D space
  • Advanced time management for time-varying phenomena
  • Interactive feature analysis in complex simulation datasets

Based on ViSTA and Flowlib there are end user tools available for performing standard Visualization tasks without building own application. With these tools you are able to use the VR infrastructure installed at RWTH Aachen University and visualize your scientific datasets.

University of Salford (United Kingdom)

The THINKlab is a state-of-the-art facility that harnesses leading ICT technologies. It brings together people from every conceivable sector such as academia, industry, social regeneration, health and media to share and generate ideas on how digital technologies can be utilised to solve current and future challenges of industry, commerce and the community, using the expertise of the best researchers from across the University in the field of ICT to explore new possibilities for the future.

Already engaged in some of the world's leading research in fields such as virtual urban planning, regeneration and digital design, THINKlab is also currently home to the CoSpaces project funded by the European Commission. The project aims to demonstrate how advanced technologies could be brought together to create futuristic tele-immersive environments enabling distributed engineering organisations to work together to produce new designs of aircrafts or automobiles.

The THINKlab offers a wide-range of areas of expertise. The main ones are:

  • 3D Interface development for VR applications ranging from optical tracking to multi touch.
  • Experience in developing collaborative virtual workspaces for a range of applications ranging from aerospace, automotive, construction and built environment.
  • Experience in capturing requirements and evaluating the technology in real world settings.

Visualisation Facilities

The University of Salford hosts a wide range of VR equipment and support facilities. These infrastructures are distributed across the University Campus.

Power Wall + Vicon tracking

At the Maxwell building a modern high tech facility hosts a Powerwall with 2 DLP™ stereoscopic projectors in a rear-projection setup. The Powerwall features a 4,8m x 2m ultra-wide screen with a 2520*1050 pixels resolution. This system can present information from a number of sources including dedicated visualisation computers, laptops and other audio-visual sources, controlled using a wireless touch screen panel. Driving the Powerwall there are three high spec computers intended for compute-intensive and graphic rich applications. This system includes a Vicon tracking system with 8 infrared cameras running the most up-to-date Vicon IQ tracking software. The Powerwall is installed in the ThinkPOD an ultra-modern space that can accommodate audiences of up to 30 people.

Trace + Vicon

The Barco Trace is a transportable and scalable virtual reality solution. Used within the resident research area where complex data sets are visualized for different research projects and used for networked interaction with the THINKlab Powerwall. A 6 cameras Vicon system complements this VR system.

Reality Room

The Reality Room is a semi-immersive display system, located at the Business House. It consists of a front projected spherical screen, providing a 160 degree horizontal field of view. This display system is controlled by a 14 processor SGI Onyx2 graphics super computer. The Reality Room can accommodate audiences of up to 35 people, providing a uniquely productive environment where people can work together in collaboration and interaction. The most complex, data intensive projects can be worked on by a group in real-time enabling individual members to contribute and interact spontaneously and naturally.


In the Business House we also have a CAVE system. Although still in use it is quite an old system which was superseded by the new Octave described below.

V-Desk 6 Workbench

A collaborative partnership between Trimension Systems and the Centre for Virtual Environments produced the V-Desk, an immersive workbench which is complete with built-in stereo viewing, head and hand tracking and a sophisticated audio system. The workbench accommodates small groups working collaboratively and is controlled by a 4 processor SGI Onyx2 graphics computer.

Octave + Vicon + Advanced spatial audio

Our reconfigurable octagonal projection system can be broken down and recompiled into many types of industrially familiar systems to assess best fit for emerging applications. Electrosonic worked with Paradigm and the Universities own estates department to design and service eight reconfigurable modules. The screen material can be interchanged through the use of a docking screen storage module, and the projectors can be relocated for front or rear projection at will.

The screen surfaces combine three direct throw rear projection modules, four twin mirror rear projection modules and a single mirror side-on rear projection module. These can be configured in one 8-sided octagon, two 4-sided cubes, (one with stereoscopic floor projection), a reality centre analogue and Powerwall options. There are two wheelable floor projection modules which allow either the stereo floor projection or a ‘silver-screen' retroflective cubic system, and scope for expansion to two fully immersive cubes running side by side. Each screen is 1400 pixels x 1050 pixels x 102Hz refresh rate which provides a 3D image to anyone wearing 3D shutter glasses. The whole floor is projected on by a further 6 Christie projectors.

The system runs on a cluster of Sun Ultra40 M2 workstations (the largest such cluster in the world at the time), with a fully populated SunFIRE X4600 as the master node and nvidia FX-5600 graphics cards throughout. The entire installation is patchable and switchable to any projector, with Windows Server 2008HPC and Linux clustering operating systems for maximum flexibility, and a Cisco Catalyst 4900M 10Gb/s switch providing connectivity across the system and out into the campus research network beyond.

Vicon's MX-F40 advanced optical motion capture system is supplemented by a new experimental markerless system to be developed in partnership with Vicon and the BBC. High resolution Basler Ethernet cameras utilize the unprecedented data throughput of the systems network to open up new avenues of research.

One key feature of the most recent upgrade is the introduction of high quality acoustic treatments to the projectors and the room in general. This reduces the background noise and reverberation in the space substantially, and provides a suitable environment for the integration of the visual elements with a state-of-the-art wavefield synthesis audio simulation system.

3D Stereo Projector and 3D 50" Plasma Display Multi-touch (6 points)

To allow mobility THINKlab has a HD 3D DLP Stereo projector and a 3D 50" Full HD plasma display compatibles with the Stereographic CE3 shutter-glasses.

Augmented Reality Kit

The THINKlab recently added to its portfolio of VR equipment a Mirage Augmented Reality System with a see-through Head Mounted Display which includes two cameras in front of the eyes. The system includes a high performance positioning system based on machine vision.

Multi-touch Devices

Besides de 50" plasma we also host a Microsoft Multi-Touch table, and two 32" multi-touch systems.

Access Grid

We have two fully certified access grid nodes, each with 4 remote control cameras, and hardware echo cancellation.

We support IOCOM and AG Toolkit as well as the new Portlet Access Grid for single users. Our meeting room is equipped with a Full HD videoconference system.

Further Infrastructure Augmenting the Visualisation Facilities

The THINKlab also hosts an IBM x3650 based cluster with 11 nodes each with two Xeon dual core processors, providing a total of 44x64 bit cores, interconnected by a 10Gbit Infiniband network.

These facilities are designed to operate hand in hand with new systems around the University, often on identical systems and architectures, over a 10Gbit campus wide research network.


ThinkLab has a track record in visualising large scale engineering models, building models, city models together with associated simulation data. THINKlab provide support in porting data from various sources to virtual environments as well as techniques that can be used to create innovative user interfaces for data exploration.

Importance of the Infrastructure for European Research

THINKlab at the University of Salford is an internationally leading centre in VR and its applications to sectors such as building construction, aerospace, automotive and urban planning. THINKlab has access to a wide range of VR devices such as PowerWall, CAVE, Reconfigurable Octave, RealityRoom, TRACE, and a Surface Table with optical tracking interfaces. In the past, the THINKlab has been involved in several EU projects such as DiverCity, DIVIPRO, Future_Workspaces and has been a core member of the INTUTION VR Network providing leadership to the workgroup on "VR in Construction and Energy". Currently the THINKlab is the technical manager for the CoSpaces IP ( which is developing advanced collaborative technologies for sectors such as aerospace, automotive and construction. As a result of this project, THINKlab has developed revolutionary collaborative interfaces which can support collocated working, remote working, mobile working and full body tele-immersion.

The team of the THINKlab has expertise in collaborative virtual environments and advanced interfaces for a range of applications such as engineering design, urban planning and building construction.

Scientific Highlights Already Obtained by Users of the Infrastructure

The users of this facility have been able to work closely with industrial partners on live projects to develop VR solutions to solve their visualisation challenges. Industrial users of this facility include companies from various sectors such as aerospace, automotive, construction and urban planning.

The visualisation of various urban information databases has given insight to the social and environmental problems that the city is having and exploring potential solutions to address them.

TECHNION – Israel Institute of Technology

Enterprise systems modeling (ESM) is the process of improving the performance of the enterprise by applying systems engineering principles through the creation, analysis, and manipulation of enterprise models. A major focus of enterprise systems modeling is business process modeling (BPM), which includes techniques and activities used as part of the larger business process management discipline.

BPM is an activity performed by systems engineering and business analysts within an enterprise. Analysts use modeling tools to depict both the current state of an enterprise and the desired future state. The activity of modeling a business process usually predicates a need to change processes or identify issues to be corrected. This transformation often requires also changes and improvements in the enterprise's IT infrastructure and procedures, and this is a common driver for the need to model a business process.

Change management programmes are desired to put the processes into practice. With advances in technology from platform vendors, the vision of BPM models becoming fully executable (and capable of round-trip engineering) is coming closer to reality every day. Supporting technologies include Unified Modeling Language (UML), Model-Driven Architecture (MDA), Object-Process Methodology (OPM), and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA).

The Enterprise Systems Modeling Laboratory offers:

  • A powerful server with 17 networked "Chip-PC" workstations
  • Four large screen LCD wall-mounted displays
  • Removable portable and programmable touch-screen control panel
  • IP-Based Video conferencing capabilities
  • Ability to record and transmit long sessions for offline viewing, distance learning and analysis

University of Stuttgart(Germany)

The mission of the HLRS' visualisation department is to support engineers and scientists in the visual analysis of data typically produced by simulations on high performance computers. The increasing complexity of simulation models and size of datasets resulted in longer analysis times. Instead users want to comprehend fast the meaning behind datasets and get insight into their simulation models. We provide visualization methods and technologies to reduce analysis time. Improved analysis possibilities are offered by immersing users into visual representations of their data and allowing them direct interaction with the data. An essential means for this is the integration of processing steps into a distributed software environment hiding heterogeneous hardware platforms.

The HLRS is one of the developers of the visualisations framework COVISE, which stands for COllaborative VIsualization and Simulation Environment. It is an extendable distributed software environment to integrate simulations, postprocessing and visualization functionalities in a seamless manner. From the beginning COVISE was designed for collaborative working allowing engineers and scientists to spread on a network infrastructure. In COVISE an application is divided into several processing steps, which are represented by COVISE modules. These modules, being implemented as separate processes, can be arbitrarily spread across different heterogeneous machine platforms. Major emphasis was put on the usage of high performance infrastructures such as parallel and vector computers and fast networks. COVISE Rendering modules support Virtual environments ranging from workbenches over powerwalls, curved screens up to full domes or CAVEs. The users can thus analyze their datasets intuitively in a fully immersive environment through state of the art visualization techniques including Volume rendering and fast sphere rendering. Physical prototypes or experiments can be included into the analysis process through Augmented Reality techniques.

A 4-sided CAVE is operated by the HLRS. It is driven by a cluster of 8 nodes, with two Intel Harpertowns each, the first with 64 gigabyte of main memory, the others with 8 gigabyte. Rendering hardware consists of NVIDIA FX5800 cards. Additionally, 32 nodes with two Intel Opteron processors each, 4 gigabyte of main memory and NVIDIA FX4500 cards are part of the visualisation cluster. All 40 nodes are interconnected with a DDR Infiniband Interconnect. The nodes are operated with Linux or Windows HPC.

The High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) of the University of Stuttgart supports researchers from Germany and Europe as well as industry with leading edge supercomputing technology. Services are supplied in collaboration with scientific and industrial partners through hkz-bw and hww GmbH (T-Systems, T-Systems SfR GmbH and Porsche AG). In European, national, and industrial projects HLRS conducts basic and applied research in HPC together with partners from research and industry. Collaborative research with automotive industry goes through the Automotive Simulation Center Stuttgart (ASCS).

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