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The first version of surface repair came out late in 2007 to help our users repair surfaces if the surface remesher in STAR-CCM+ produced some pierced faces. It was a simple tool with only five or six different functions. Even with this limited set of features, it beat exporting a surface mesh to STAR-CD (something the user had to do at that time), fixing it and coming back to STAR-CCM+.  Over the past 8 years, this tool has gone from a very simple repair capability to a full-featured manual surface preparation toolbox.  The benefit to users has been that they can confidently create a clean, closed surface from nearly any input. The downside however has been in our initial implementation: we just didn't know how wildly popular and powerful this tool would become so, frankly speaking, our GUI was not ready to handle it. As a result of this, the time came to reinvent surface repair and give it a full facelift and so since early last year, our Seattle office has been the epicenter of the surface repair makeover and its continued development.

We started this project with the intent of keeping the same functionality in the tool but make the whole process easier by reducing mouse clicks and mouse miles while at the same time making the tool more intuitive.  We believe we have achieved that goal in STAR-CCM+ v10.06, to be released right around Halloween.  In today's blog post I want to review and highlight some of the major changes so that you can hit the ground running.  

So let’s talk about what’s new.

The first thing you will notice (see image above) is that the space around the scene is now utilized for "common" tool sets, namely Display Control, Selection Control and Selection Options. These were options that previously showed up in all modes of surface repair.  The primary benefit here is that this reduces much of the mouse travel distance when working with models.  A secondary effect of moving these buttons to the scene is that we have opened up a large swath of the side panel for new menu options. With all of this extra real estate, we were able to embed all of the repair options consistently underneath the repair tools. Additionally, in the global tab, where we have imprint, project, and some of the other operational tools, the GUI is much cleaner and there is no need to scroll up and down to find different options.  

So I buried the lead there a bit in that the repair modes have been replaced with tabs to, firstly reduce the clicks to jump between, and secondly improve the grouping of the tools.

The Repair tab is geared towards your low level, ‘get your hands dirty’ types of tools, like fill holes, split face and mark feature curves to name a few.  The Global tab is where you will find more of the part/part surface level operations, like imprint or project.  The Query tab is a big addition to help you understand things like areas, distances and leakages.  Historically this entire tab was a single button so we found users didn't even know they could do things like measure from a face to an edge or find a face normal. Finally we get to the Organize tab. This one, just like it sounds, is where users can rename and re-organize part surfaces or edges.

Those were some of the top User Interface changes but there are some functional improvements as well as shown in the image below.  The first and foremost is that the diagnostics panel and coloring is visible at all times.  So when an imprint does something bad, or a transform went too far, you will know immediately.  Historically working with buttons that have options was a click heavy process, since it required a right click-option select-OK, or a right-click-change mode-click the button again.  Each method required too many clicks to work with tools like hole fill or zone select.  In the new version of surface repair we spent some time and reformatted the way option buttons work. The hole fill and zip edges buttons now have an ellipsis on the right hand side. If the user toggles the ellipses on, then the options for that button are shown in the sidebar, no need to open and close a panel each time you want to change the options. For buttons like zone select, we have opted for a split button approach that allows you to click once to expose the different options then select the option to activate it, saving a click. 

Hotkeys have been a hotly debated topic around the office for the past few years, mainly because we have conflicts between the scene and surface repair.  We all wish we could go back in time and prevent the conflicts in the first place. We asked Arnold for help but he wasn’t available, so we needed to solve the problem ourselves. Changing hotkeys after years of usage is a painful process but the best way, just like a band aid, is to pull it off quickly and add a spoonful of sugar to help ease the pain.  There were only a few conflicts but they were pretty painful, for instance, “R” both reset the view and remeshed the selection and “S” would look at the side of the model and also split the faces selected. In the new tool we have changed the surface repair hotkeys such that they no longer conflict with the scene hotkeys. 

The most heavily used hotkeys that have been changed are listed in the table above.

The first hour I spent in the new surface repair tool was a bit slow since I had to keep mousing-over the buttons to get the hotkey.  Once I had used the function a few times, the new key started to feel natural, so while it was an annoyance, at the end of the day it was just temporary. The thing that really struck me was how useful all the new hotkeys are and I found that I can cut the clicks down in standard defeature process by almost half.   

While this is a pretty long blog relaying a lot of information, it is just the tip of the iceberg.  The new surface repair tool represents a complete ground up re-design and brings a new GUI that breaks new ground in STAR-CCM+.  Whether you are a long time user or it’s your first day with the tool, Surface Repair, after its facelift, will feel natural and fresh and it is bound to keep you moving quickly and without frustration, saving you a lot of time. Let us know what you think!