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Using 3 D Computer Animation Tools To Render Complex Simulations

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Multimedia Arena

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1234.1 - 8.1234.7

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Paper Authors

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William Meador

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Amit Chourasia

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3138

Using 3D Computer Animation Tools to Render Complex Simulations

W. Scott Meador, Amit Chourasia Purdue University


A multi-disciplinary team of researchers and students created several simulations and visualizations of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon building that occurred on September 11, 2001. The process took advantage of both animation and finite element analysis (FEA) simulation techniques for visualization. The imagery produced portrays the collision event on the exterior and interior of the Pentagon. This paper details the difficulties and successes of implementing a process to animate and realistically render the approach, impact, and explosion of the plane, based on an expert analysis of the crash and FEA data. One of the purposes of this project was to develop a data pipeline from FEA simulations to 3D animation and rendering programs that can be extended to other simulations thus bridging the gap between two non-coherent systems creating scientifically accurate simulations.


Shortly after the attack on the United States Pentagon on September 11, 2001 a team of inspectors and analysts were called in to assess the damage to the structure and report on how it reacted to the impact of a Boeing 757. Dr. Mete Sozen, a structural engineer at Purdue University, was one of the inspection team members. After the inspection, he and his assistant Dr. Sami Kilic began simulating the event using Lawrence Livermore Labs LS-Dyna3D. The simulation was initially performed on the columns because it is believed that their design ultimately kept the building from being damaged more than it was.

In order to simulate the shape of a plane crashing into the columns, a model appropriately meshed for the finite element analysis (FEA) software had to be produced. Sozen and Kilic discussed the problem of producing a model with faculty from the newly created Envision Center for Data Perceptualization. Chris Hoffmann, a professor of Computer Science at Purdue agreed to head up the meshing of the models and help run the simulations. Dr. Hoffmann created the plane at several resolutions so the simulation could be run for efficiency and accuracy.

A secondary goal of the collaboration between Sozen, Kilic, and the Envision Center was to be able to output the simulation in a meaningful way that would allow it to be visually realistic and engaging. Other participating faculty and graduate students of the Envision Center were brought into the project in order to take on this second task as the simulations were being executed. Dr. Voicu Popescu, of Computer Science and the Center, worked with Hoffmann to begin developing a process for translating the FEA data into a 3D animation application to render it in a realistic manner. Discreet’s 3ds max was chosen because it was familiar to Popescu and availability at Purdue through the Department of Computer Graphics Technology. Scott Meador, of Computer Graphics Technology, was brought into the project as an expert in 3ds max and one

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Meador, W., & Chourasia, A. (2003, June), Using 3 D Computer Animation Tools To Render Complex Simulations Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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