Dr. Strangegrid or: How I Learned to Stop Waiting and Write a CAE Plugin

Your plugin will show up here!

Your plugin can be here!

One of the most frequent requests we get from customers, distributors and solver vendors is to add support for some exotic new (or old) CAE file format. Unfortunately, we must often advise them to use one of the “generic” export formats until we can get the solver added. The reality is that Pointwise probably never will be able to support every solver’s native file format. Why? Simply put, there are just too many, they change too often, and the cost sometimes outweighs the benefit. Some formats are used by a small audience (academia or company proprietary), others have multiple supported versions, and still others require specific (sometimes proprietary) libraries from the CAE vendor. In some situations (like R&D), a given file format can change rapidly.

All things considered, this leaves some customers stuck in a less-than-optimal situation. But, we have a solution that gives our customers and partners a significant degree of control: “Pointwise CAE Plugins”.

A Plug What?

This is not a Pointwise CAE plugin

Not a CAE Plugin

In computer science jargon, a plugin is an independently compiled, binary library that can be loaded selectively and used by an application to extend its functionality. For Pointwise, this allows any customer or business partner to add a new solver to Pointwise’s CAE, Select Solver menu. You can create a plugin without any involvement from the Pointwise support staff (unless you want it). Deployment is as simple as dropping a finished plugin library into the <install>/plugins/ folder of your Pointwise installation and, the next time Pointwise starts, a new export format will be available.

They Keep Multiplying

The next release of Pointwise (V17.0) will ship with 15 CAE plugins. Of these, the Acusolve and CRUNCH CFD plugins were written by the solver vendors themselves – ACUSIM and CRAFT Tech, respectively. The OpenFOAM plugin was written by Dr. Hrvoje Jasak of Wikki, Ltd. The remaining plugins were created by our technical staff, including myself, several summer interns, and our technical sales engineers.

Plugins also give us flexibility when it comes to distribution because they don’t have to be bundled with our software. For example, the FUN3D plugin was developed by NASA Langley Research Center. NASA includes the plugin source code in their FUN3D distribution starting with their version 11.4.

We Make it Easy

To facilitate the creation of a plugin, we have published the Pointwise CAE Plugin Software Developers Kit (SDK). The SDK contains all the tools (aside from the compiler and system libraries) and source code you need to build a plugin. Plugins created with the SDK will work on all platforms supported by Pointwise since V16.03, including Windows, linux, and Mac OS X (10.5 and later). You can access the full documentation and download the SDK from the Pointwise website. The SDK also includes sample source code for two fictional, yet fully functional XML formats.

More Than an Exporter

While a CAE Plugin’s main purpose is to write the files needed by a solver, it also provides operational information used by Pointwise itself, including:

This information, provided by the plugin author, is used to customize the Pointwise user interface. The CAE Plugin information is also accessible through the Glyph 2 script interface.

I’m Done. Now What?

When your CAE plugin is ready, there are several options for distributing it to Pointwise end-users including:

  • Make the plugin source code directly available
  • Distribute pre-built plugin libraries yourself
  • Provide Pointwise with a copy of the plugin source code

Note that, if you decide to provide us with the plugin source code, it will have to pass our internal testing procedures before we can bundle it with Pointwise.

Stop Waiting and Start Coding

If you have the need, I hope you will take the Pointwise CAE Plugin SDK for a spin and see how easy it is to build your own CAE exporter. Our support staff is here to help. We will also continue to provide examples and best practices for plugins in future blog entries, so stay tuned!

Learn more about the Pointwise CAE Plugin SDK

About David Garlisch

Illini by birth, Texan by choice.
This entry was posted in Software and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dr. Strangegrid or: How I Learned to Stop Waiting and Write a CAE Plugin

  1. Pingback: Plugin How-To – Adding Solver Attributes | Another Fine Mesh

  2. Pingback: Plugin How-To – Porting an existing Plugin to a New SDK | Another Fine Mesh

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