Ply file formats is used to represent mesh structures in the TETGEN freeware package. All the examples I've seen of 'ply' meshes were used for triangular meshes.

Can we use ply formats to represent tetrahedral meshes as well ?

Any examples would be helpful ?

PS : I am new in this field so any pointers for further understanding of the concepts would be really helpful. I am trying to simulate tissue deformation using FEM.

  • $\begingroup$ I came to know about tetgen tool but it generates multiple files to represent the mesh structure. $\endgroup$ Dec 16, 2014 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think that PLY files natively handle tetrahedrons. Although you can define new elements according to [this]( paulbourke.net/dataformats/ply) $\endgroup$
    – nicoguaro
    Dec 16, 2014 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ @nicoguaro Could you suggest any method for generating a tetrahedral mesh file for an object ? $\endgroup$ Dec 16, 2014 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ It would depend on how is your object define. But, I can suggest you to use Tetgen or [gmsh]( geuz.org/gmsh) $\endgroup$
    – nicoguaro
    Dec 16, 2014 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ @nicoguaro multiple file formats are generated in Tetgen. So we need to parse all the files to collect mesh structure info. Any standard file format for this representation ? $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2014 at 10:46

1 Answer 1


PLY is a generic file format that can store any mesh entities with information attached to it. It is mostly used to represent surfacic meshes, and this is what most softwares that use this file format will expect (including Tetgen), but in principle it can be extended to store tetrahedral meshes.

If you want to store tetrahedral meshes in PLY files and use Tetgen to manipulate them, you will need to modify Tetgen or use it as a library (Tetgen is implemented in C++). An example of using tetgen as a library is the GEOGRAM library that I'm developping: http://alice.loria.fr/software/geogram/doc/html/index.html

For reading and storing PLY files, I am using the following library: http://w3.impa.br/~diego/software/rply/

If you do not plan to modify Tetgen / use it as a library, another possibility is to write a file converter that converts between 'tetrahedral mesh stored in PLY file' and native tetrahedral meshes formats supported by tetgen.


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