Boundary Representations

Boundary Representation, or B-rep for short, can be considered as an extension to the wireframe model. The merit of a B-rep is that a solid is bounded by its surface and has its interior and exterior. The surface of a solid consists of a set of well-organized faces, each of which is a piece of some surface (.e.g., a surface patch). Faces may share vertices and edges that are curve segments. Therefore, a B-rep is an extension to the wireframe model by adding face information to the latter.

There are two types of information in a B-rep: topological and geometric. Topological information provide the relationships among vertices, edges and faces similar to that used in a wireframe model. In addition to connectivity, topological information also include orientation of edges and faces. Geometric information are usually equations of the edges and faces.

The orientation of each face is important. Normally, a face is surrounded by a set of vertices. Using the right-handed rule, the ordering of these vertices for describing a particular face must guarantee that the normal vector of that face is pointing to the exterior of the solid. Normally, the order is counter clockwise. If that face is given by an equation, the equation must be rewritten so that the normal vector at every point on the part that is being used as a face points to the exterior of the solid. Therefore, by inspecting normal vectors one can immediately tell the inside and outside of a solid under B-rep. This orientation must be done for all faces. The following shows three faces and their outward pointing normal vectors. To describe the top surface, the vertices should be 6, 7, 2, 1 or 7, 2, 1, 6 or 2, 1, 6, 7 or 1, 6, 7, 2. To describe the left face, the order should be 1, 2, 3, 4 or 2, 3, 4, 1 or 3, 4, 1, 2 or 4, 1, 2, 3.

Unfortunately, not all surfaces can be oriented this way. If the surface of a solid can be oriented this way, it is called orientable; otherwise, it is non-orientable. The following shows the well-known Mobius band which is one-sided and non-orientable.