Importing Exodus II Files

The commands to import meshes from an Exodus II format file are:

Import Mesh '<exodusII_filename>' [Block <block_ids>] [Unique Genesis IDs] [Shell] No_Geom [group_name '<free_mesh_group_name>']] [[Time <time>|Step <step>|Last] [Scale <value>]]

Import Mesh '<exodusII_filename>' [Block <block_ids>] [Unique Genesis IDs] [Shell] [{Group|Body|Volume|Surface|Curve|Vertex} <id_range> | Preview]

Import Mesh Geometry '<exodusII_filename>' [Block <id_range>|ALL] [Unique Genesis IDs] [Start_id <id>] [Use [NODESET|no_nodeset] [SIDESET|no_sideset] [Feature_Angle <angle>] [LINEAR|Gradient|Quadratic|Spline] [Deformed {Time <time>|Step <step>|Last} [Scale <value>] ] [MERGE|No_Merge] [Export_facets <1|2|3>] [Merge_nodes <tolerance>]

Related Commands:

Import Free Mesh (2D)

Delete Mesh Preview

Export [ Genesis | Mesh ] '<filename>'

List Import Mesh NodeSet Associativity

List [Export Mesh] NodeSet Associativity

[Set] Import Mesh NodeSet Associativity [ON|off]

[Set] [Export Mesh] NodeSet Associativity [on|OFF]

Transforming Mesh Coordinates

Set Import Mesh [Vertex] [Curve] [Surface] Tolerance <distance>

Set Import Mesh NodeSet Order [On|Off]

List Import Mesh NodeSet Order

Importing a Free Mesh Without Geometry

The command to import a free mesh from an Exodus II format file without mesh-based geometry is:

Import Mesh '<exodusII_filename>' [Block <block_ids>] [Unique Genesis IDs] [Shell] No_Geom [group_name '<free_mesh_group_name>']] [[Time <time>|Step <step>|Last] [Scale <value>]]

When a free Exodus II mesh is imported into Cubit, it contains no geometric or topological information. Previously, the user could either associate that mesh with existing geometry, or build mesh-based geometry to fit the mesh. A third option, as of Cubit 11.1, allows the user to retain the disassociated mesh as a free mesh inside Cubit.

A free mesh may be modified as described in the Free Mesh section of the documentation. This includes limited access to smoothing, renumbering, transformations, refinement, mesh quality, and other mesh centric operations.

When an Exodus II File is imported as a free mesh, Cubit will automatically create a group called "free_elements" to contain the free mesh elements.

Deformation information can be read in via the Time/Step/Last and Scale parameters.

Note: The Import Mesh [No_Geom] command is not to be confused with the Import Free Mesh command which applies only to 2D Exodus II Files.The term "Free Mesh" in both places of the documentation refers to the same thing - a mesh without geometry. However, in the case of all other import mesh commands, the imported free mesh ends up associated with geometry. The Import Mesh [No_Geom] is the only way to import a free mesh that remains disassociated from geometry.

Importing a Mesh Onto Existing Geometry

The command to import a free mesh from an Exodus II format file and associate it with existing geometry is:

Import Mesh '<exodusII_filename>' [Block <block_ids>] [Unique Genesis IDs] [Shell] [{Group|Body|Volume|Surface|Curve|Vertex} <id_range> | Preview]

The user can import a mesh from an Exodus II file and associate the mesh with matching geometry. The resulting mesh may then be manipulated normally. For example, the mesh may be smoothed or portions of it deleted and remeshed. The user can save their work by exporting the geometry and mesh, and then restore the geometry and mesh later. In some cases, saving and restoring can be faster or more reliable than replaying journal files.

Saving and importing a mesh may be useful for teams working on creating a conforming mesh of a large assembly so that they can pass information to one another. For example, a team member can export the mesh on the surfaces between two parts, and another team member import the mesh for use on an adjoining part of the assembly.

As of cubit version 7.0, any higher order elements, block definitions, nodesets, and sidesets are retained on import.

Importing a Mesh with Nodeset Associativity

Meshes can be imported into CUBIT that contain nodeset associativity data used for defining finite element boundary conditions. If an exported CUBIT mesh is going to be imported back onto the same geometry, then before exporting the user should issue the following command:

set export mesh nodeset associativity on

This causes extra nodeset data to be written, which associates every node to a geometric entity, resulting in an import which is more reliable. When importing, if the user does not want to use the nodeset associativity data that exists in a file, then before importing the following command should be used:

set import mesh nodeset associativity off

The user may wish to turn geometry associativity off if, for example, the geometry is no longer identical as a result of curves being composited, or CUBIT names changed due to a ACIS version changes.

Importing a Mesh onto Modified Geometry

Although there are some exceptions, CUBIT requires that the mesh be imported onto the same geometry from which it was exported.

Since merge information is not stored with the ACIS representation, care should be taken that the geometry is merged the same way on export and import of the mesh. If not, importing the mesh one block at a time in successive commands may increase the chance of a successful import, at the cost of more memory and time.

Between exporting and importing a mesh, the geometry may be modified slightly by compositing entities. Mesh import will, however not be successful if entities are partitioned or a body is webcut. In some cases mesh import may be successful on modified geometry if the new vertices match up exactly with nodes of the mesh, and the new curves match up exactly with edge chains of the mesh. Unless this criteria is met, associating the mesh with the geometry will be unsuccessful.

Mesh Import Tolerance

To change the tolerance with which imported mesh must line up with geometry issue the command:

Set Import Mesh [Vertex] [Curve] [Surface] Tolerance <distance>

Specifying a Portion of the Mesh to be Imported

The Block option in the Import Mesh command indicates that only the specified element block should be imported from the Exodus II file. In the same manner, the Volume and other geometry options provide a way to import the nodes and element on the indicated geometry. If neither a block nor a geometry entity is specified, then the entire mesh file is read.

If a block is specified without specifying a geometry entity, associativity or proximity is used to determine which volume the block elements should be associated with. If a block and a volume are specified, the block elements are associated with the specified volume, provided they actually match. If a volume is specified without a block, associativity data is used to find a block corresponding to the given volume.

Unique Genesis IDs and Shell Options

The Unique Genesis IDs option is used to preserve ids in the genesis file in the case that id overlap exists when importing into CUBIT. This can occur when importing into an active session where CUBIT ids have already been assigned.

The Shell Option is used as a flag to alert the program that there are shell elements in the file. Shell elements can not always be detected by the import program, and this ensures that the shell elements will be included in the model.

Nodeset Ordering

If the Import mesh NodeSet Order flag is on, the nodesets will be read in a manner which allows them to be associated with existing geometry. This means the nodesets are assumed to be in ascending order. If the flag is set to false, the geometry nodesets in imported mesh files are assumed to be in random order. This value is on by default, and should not need to be changed by the user.

Creating Mesh-Based Geometry on Import

CUBIT's mesh generation tools require an underlying geometry representation. In most cases, the ACIS solid modeling engine, compiled with CUBIT, is used to represent the geometry. However, in some cases, an ACIS representation is not available, and a previously developed finite element mesh is the only available representation of the model. In order to utilize CUBIT's mesh generation tools, the import mesh geometry command provides an option for creating geometry directly from the finite element mesh.

The import mesh geometry command will create a new volume for every block defined in the Exodus II file. It will also create curves, surfaces and vertices at appropriate locations on the model based on dihedral angles (also called feature angles) and assigned nodesets and/or sidesets. The mesh used to construct the geometry will be owned by the new geometric entities. This means that the mesh can be deleted, remeshed, or smoothed using any of CUBIT's meshing tools by simply using the new geometry definition. CUBIT will assign appropriate intervals to the new curves as well as determine an acceptable meshing scheme for surfaces and volumes.

The command to import a finite element mesh from an ExodusII format file and generate geometry from the mesh is:

Import Mesh Geometry '<exodusII_filename>'
[Block <id_range>|ALL] [Unique Genesis IDs] [Start_id <id>] [Use [NODESET|no_nodeset] [SIDESET|no_sideset] [Feature_Angle <angle>] [LINEAR|Gradient|Quadratic|Spline] [Deformed {Time <time>|Step <step>|Last} [Scale <value>] ] [MERGE|No_Merge] [Export_facets <1|2|3>] [Merge_nodes <tolerance>]

File Name

Type the name of file to import in single quotation marks. The file must reside in the current directory. For information on changing the current directory, see CUBIT environment commands. To list all the files in the current directory, type ls at the command prompt.


Use this option to select the specific blocks to be imported from the Exodus II file. If no blocks are entered, then all blocks will be read and imported from the file. Standard ID parsing can also be used in this argument to select a range of blocks. For example "1 to 5" or "1, 5 to 10 except 6".

Each unique block selected to be imported will define a new body in the geometric model. Figure 1 shows a simple example of the geometry generated from the 3D finite element mesh.


Figure 1. Example of mesh based geometry (right) created from a finite element mesh (left)

Blocks may be composed of 1D, 2D or 3D elements. For blocks composed of 2D elements (i.e. QUAD4, SHELL etc.), a sheet body will be created. One dimensional elements (i.e.. BEAM, TRUSS, etc.) will define curves. Where a block may be composed of more than one disconnected sets of elements, one body will be created for each continuous region of elements assigned to the same block. Where possible, the ID of the new body will be the same as the block ID. Since IDs must be unique, if a body ID is already in use, the next available ID will automatically assigned by the program.

Unique Genesis IDs

The Unique Genesis IDs option is used to preserve ids in the Cubit session in the case that id overlap exists when importing an Exodus II file. This can occur when importing into an active session where ids for blocks, nodesets or sidesets have already been assigned. The default behavior, when ID collisions occur, is to include any new entity into the existing block nodeset or sideset. If the Unique Genesis IDs option is used, Cubit will automatically generate a unique ID for any block, nodeset or sideset imported. A report of the collisions and their new IDs will be displayed on import in the command window.

Start ID

Use this option to specify an alternate ID value for imported mesh entities. The specified value will be used as the starting ID for BOTH nodes and mesh elements. The new IDs will be assigned consecutively from the starting value. If the new ID values for any of the imported entities would conflict with existing IDs, the command does not abort but moves the starting ID for all element types to the same useable starting ID value.


Use the nodeset and sideset options to use any nodeset and sideset information in the Exodus II file in constructing geometry. Recall that nodesets and sidesets are generic boundary condition data assigned to nodes, edges or faces of the finite elements. It is useful to group mesh entities belonging to unique boundary conditions into geometric entities. This permits the user to remesh a particular region of the model without having to reassign boundary conditions.

If the nodeset and sideset arguments are given, geometric entities will be generated for each unique set of nodes, edges or element faces assigned to a nodeset or sideset. The default is to use any nodeset and sideset information available in the file. Figure 2 shows an example of how nodeset and sideset information might be used to generate geometry.


Figure 2. Example of geometry created from mesh entities assigned to nodesets (3) and sidesets (1 and 2).

Upon import, nodesets and sidesets are automatically created with the appropriate geometric entities assigned to them. The IDs of the new geometric entities, if generated from boundary condition data, will be the same as the nodeset and sideset IDs. Where doing so would conflict with existing geometric IDs, the program will automatically select the next available ID.

Feature Angle

Use this option to specify the angle at which surfaces will be split by a curve or where curves will be split by a vertex. 180 degrees will generate a surface for every element face, while 0 degrees will define a single, unbroken surface from the shell of the mesh. The default angle is 135 degrees.


Figure 3. Example use of Feature Angle

Figure 3 shows an example of the use of different feature angles. On the left is a simple two-element hex mesh. Specifying a feature angle greater than 120 degrees would create the geometry in the center image. Using a feature angle less than 120 degrees and greater than 90 degrees would define the geometry on the right.

Smooth Curves and Surfaces

This argument allows the option of using a higher-order approximation of the surface when remeshing/refining the resulting geometry. Default is to use the original mesh faces themselves as the curve and surface geometry representation. If the finite element model to be imported is to represent geometry with curved surfaces, it may be useful to select this option. If selected, it will use a 4th order B-Spline approximation to the surface [Walton,96]. Figure 4 shows the effect of the smooth curve and surface option.



Figure 4. Effect of Smooth Curve and Surface Option for remeshing of mesh-based geometry

In this figure the top image is the original finite element mesh imported into CUBIT. In this example both models have been remeshed with the same element size. The difference is that the figure on the right uses the smooth curve and surface option. While this option can improve the surface representation, it should be noted that memory requirements and meshing times can sometimes be affected.

If importing the Exodus II file using the command line, other options for surface representations are also available.


The method used from the GUI is either Linear or Spline. The Gradient and Quadratic methods are still somewhat experimental and may not be as general purpose as the Spline representation.

Apply Deformations

This option permits the user to import time-dependant deformation information from the Exodus file. For this option, any vector data in the Exodus II file is assumed to be deformation information. If selected, deformations will be applied to the nodes upon import. Enter a specific time step value, integer step, or the last time available in the file. If time-dependant data is available in the Exodus II file, selecting the down arrow in the edit field will display the available time steps in the file. Default time is the last time step.


Figure 5. Example of remeshing of a deformed finite element mesh

Figure 5 shows an example of using Mesh-Based Geometry for a large deformation analysis. In this case, the analysis [Attaway et. al.,98] began and continued until mesh quality became unacceptable. At that point, the mesh was imported into CUBIT and geometry re-created from the computed deformations. The finite element mesh could then be removed, remeshed or improved and written back to an Exodus II file. After remapping [Wellman,99] the appropriate analysis variables back to the mesh, the analysis could then be restarted. This process was repeated multiple times until the desired results were achieved.

Note: Care should be taken when using large deformations, as inverted elements (negative Jacobians) may produce unpredictable results with the resulting geometric representation.

Also available is an optional scale factor. This applies the indicated scale to all deformations. Default is 1.0.


This option allows the user to either merge or not merge the resulting volumes. The default option is to merge adjacent volumes. This results in non-manifold topology, where neighboring volumes share common surfaces. Using the no_merge option, adjacent volumes will generate distinct/separate surfaces.

Merge Nodes

The merge_nodes option will allow the user to specify a different tolerance for merging nodes on import. The default value is 1e-6.

Note: Care should be taken when setting import merge tolerances. Setting a tolerance too low will not merge adjacent nodes. Setting the tolerance too high can produce undesirable results, and severely tangle the mesh.

Export Facets

[export_facets <1|2|3>]

This is primarily a debug option available only from the command line. This option will export the shell of the Exodus mesh to an ASCII file in the form of facets. The resulting file can be imported to Cubit using the "Import Facets" command. Export options: 1 = export only the exterior facets to file ""; 2 = export only the interior facets between element blocks to file "facets.inter"; 3 = export all boundary facets to file "facets.all".