# 3D Distance from a Point to a Triangle

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1 3D Distance from a Point to a Triangle Mark W. Jones Technical Report CSR-5-95 Department of Computer Science, University of Wales Swansea February 1995 Abstract In this technical report, two different methods for calculating the distance between a point and a triangle in 3D space will be described. It will be shown that it is far more efficient to calculate the distance by using a rotation to make the problem 2D. Both methods are tested with relation to the production of 3D data from polygonal meshes (voxelisation). 1 Introduction The problem of finding the distance from a point to a triangle in 3D space arose with repsect to producing 3D data from a polygonal mesh. In this case the input to the process of voxelisation [1] is a triangular mesh, and the output is voxel data a 3D array of data values. Voxelisation is needed to overlay synthetic objects into collected data. For examples with application to the integration of objects and medical data see Wang and Kaufman [2] and for the integration of objects with terrain data for flight simulation see Cohen and Gotsman [3]. The problem is that of finding the distance from a point È to a triangle È ½ È ¾ È, where È is a point in three dimensional space. This is more difficult than it seems at first due to the different possibilities that exist. The point È could be closest to the plane of the triangle, closest to an edge, or closest to a vertex. In Section 2 a method of calculating that distance in 3D is given, and in Section 3 a method which reduces the problem to 2D is described. Section 4 presents results demonstrating that the 2D method is more efficient than the 3D method. 2 3DMethod Approaching the problem in three dimensions requires the projection of È onto the plane of triangle È ½ È ¾ È to create È (Figure 1). N p V2 P2 P 3 P 2 α P3 P 1 V3 V 1 P 1 Figure 1: Calculating the distance of È from È ½ È ¾ È. 1

2 The normal Æ Ô of È ½ È ¾ È can be calculated as The angle, «between the normal Æ Ô and È ½ È is calculated Æ Ô È ½ È ¾ È ½ È (1) Ó «È ½È Æ Ô È ½ È Æ Ô The length of the vector È È can be found using (2) È È È È ½ Ó «(3) The vector È È can then be determined È È È È ÆÔ ÆÔ (The negative sign is used since È È has direction opposite to that of Æ Ô.) È can then be calculated as (4) È È È È (5) If it was the case that the projection of È onto the plane lay within the triangle È ½ È ¾ È,the length È È (Equation 3) would be the distance of È from È ½ È ¾ È. If instead È falls outside the triangle, the distance to the triangle is the distance to the closest edge or vertex to È. In order to determine which edge or vertex È is closest to, the position of È in relation to the three vectors Î ½, Î ¾ and Î must be found, (Figure 1) where Î ½ È ¾È ½ È ¾ È ½ È È ½ È È ½ Î ¾ È È ¾ È È ¾ È½È ¾ È ½ È ¾ Î È ½È È ½ È È¾È È ¾ È If ½ Î ½ È ½ È µ Æ Ô,then ½ if È is anticlockwise of Î ½. Similarly, ¾ and can be calculated for the other vectors. Using ½, ¾ and the position of È in relation to the vectors Î ½, Î ¾ and Î can be determined. It further has to be determined if È is inside the triangle, and if so the distance from the triangle is the distance calculated in Equation 3. If È is clockwise of Î ¾ and anticlockwise of Î ½, it is outside the triangle if È È ½ È È ¾µ Æ Ô (7) and similarly for the other cases. If È is found to be outside the triangle, it is either closest to a vertex, or the side. For example, assume È is closest to È ½È ¾. (it is easy to apply the following to the remaining edges) The direction Ê, ofè to È is given by (6) and the angle is Ê È È ¾ È È ½µ È ½ È ¾ (8) The length È È is calculated using Ó È È ½ Ê È È ½ Ê (9) and È È is È È È È ½ Ó (10) 2

3 È È È È Ê Ê The point È, which is the projection of È onto the line È ½È ¾ is (11) È È È È (12) Let Ø È È ½ (13) È ¾ È ½ If Ø ½, È is between È ½ and È ¾ and the distance of È from the line is È È as calculated in Equation 10. The distance of È to È ½ È ¾ is Ô È È ¾ È È ¾ µ. If Ø, È is closest to vertex È ½ and can be calculated as the distance È ½ È. If Ø ½, È is closest to È ¾. Therefore the distance of È to È ½ È ¾ È has been calculated. It should be noted that Equations 1 and 6 can be precalculated for efficiency. 3 2DMethod The second approach is that of converting the problem into a two dimensional problem. The simplest way to achieve this is by calculating the translation and rotation matrix to rotate the triangle È ½ È ¾ È so that È ½ lies on the origin, È ¾ liesontheþ axis, and È lies in the ÝÞ plane. This transformation matrix can be calculated once for each triangle in a preproccessing step, and can then be used to transform È to È. È can be trivially projected onto the triangles plane giving È by ignoring its Ü coordinate since the triangle is in the ÝÞ plane. If È is inside the triangle È ½ È ¾ È, the distance from the point to the triangle is simply the Ü coordinate of È. Using È, determination of the closest part of triangle È ½ È ¾ È to È can be found by using the edge equation [4], and once determined the distance can be found in a standard way. The edge equation is simply: Ü Ýµ Ü µ Ý µ (14) for a line passing through µ with gradient with respect to a point Ü Ýµ. If the point is to the left of the line, if to the right, and if, it is on the line. In Figure 2 we see the different possibilities. P 31 P 3 P 11 P 1 Figure 2: Calculating point position relative to triangle. If È is left of È È ½ it is closest to È È ½ if it is to the right of È È ½ and to the left of È ½ È ½½. The proximity to the other edges of the triangle can be similarly determined. For È to be closest to vertex È ½ it must be right of È ½ È ½½ and left of È ½ È ½¾, where È ½ È ½¾ is defined at right 3

4 angles to È ½ È ¾. Using just these edge equations, the closest vertex or edge of È ½ È ¾ È to È can be determined. The lines È ½ È ½½, È ½ È ½¾, È È ½, È È ¾, etc. and their directions can be precomputed, thus enabling simple applications of the edge equation to determine which part of the triangle the point È is closest to. Once determined, the distance can be calculated to that part in the normal way. 4 Results The voxelisation process was implemented as in [1], with two distance functions one the 3D version of Section 2, and one the 2D version of Section 3. The voxelisation process was carried out using both distance functions, and times were compared for various datasets. It can be seen from Table 1 that the 2D method was consistently faster than the 3D method, and in fact took a quarter of the time to compute the same dataset. The reason for such a marked difference in computation times could be put down to the number of square roots that must be computed. For the 3D method four square roots are required ( È ½ È, Ê, È È ½ and È È ), as opposed to one final distance calculation square root for the 2D method. Data set No. of Distance Time taken Ratio triangles computations 2D method 3D method 3D 2D Octahedron Dodecahedron Soccerball Teapot King Queen Bishop Pawn Knight Rook Table 1: Table showing voxelization timings In conclusion, a two dimensional method for computing the distance of a point from a triangle has been compared against a standard three dimensional method. The results indicate that the two dimensional method performs far more efficiently than the three dimensional method, and is suited for any application where distance measurements to three dimensional triangles are required. The method was tested with particular attention to the process of voxelisation, which requires intensive use of point to triangle measurement. References [1] M. W. Jones. Voxelisation of polygonal meshes. In Proceedings of 13th Annual Conference of Eurographics (UK Chapter) (Loughborough, March 28-30, 1995), pages , March [2] S. W. Wang and A. E. Kaufman. Volume sampled voxelization of geometric primitives. In Proc. Visualization 93, pages IEEE CS Press, Los Alamitos, Calif., [3] D. Cohen and C. Gotsman. Photorealistic terrain imaging and flight simulation. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, 14(2):10 12, March

5 [4] J. Pineda. A parallel algorithm for polygon rasterization. In Proc. SIGGRAPH 88 (Atlanta, Georgia, August 1-5, 1988), volume 22(4), pages ACM SIGGRAPH, New York, August

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