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3

Transfinite
Interpolation (TFI)
Generation Systems
3.1
3.2
3.3
3.4

Introduction
Grid Requirements
Transformations and Grids
Transfinite Interpolation (TFI)
Boolean Sum Formulation Recursion Formulation
Blending Function Conditions

3.5

Practical Application of TFI


Linear TFI Langrangian TFI Hermite Cubic TFI

3.6

Grid Spacing Control


Single-Exponential Function Double-Exponential
Function Hyperbolic Tangent and Sine Control
Functions Arclength Control Functions
Boundary-Blended Control Functions

Robert E. Smith

3.7
3.8

Conforming an Existing Grid to New Boundaries


Summary

3.1 Introduction
This chapter describes an algebraic grid generation produced called transfinite interpolation (TFI). It is
the most widely used algebraic grid generation procedure and has many possible variations. It is the most
often-used procedure to start a structured grid generation project.
The advantage of using TFI is that it is an interpolation procedure that can generate grids conforming
to specified boundaries. Grid spacing is under direct control. TFI is easily programmed and is very
computationally efficient.
Before discussing TFI, a background on grid requirements and the concepts of computational and
physical domains is presented. The general formulation of TFI is described as a Boolean sum and as a
recursion formula. Practical TFI for linear, Lagrangian, and Hermite cubic interpolation is described.
Methods for controlling grid point clustering in the application of TFI are discussed. Finally, a practical
TFI recipe to conform an existing grid to new specified boundaries is described.

3.2 Grid Requirements


Grids provide mathematical support for the numerical solution of governing field equations in a continuum domain. The physics is expressed as a system of differential or integral equations subject to initial
and boundary conditions. A numerical solution is obtained by superimposing a grid onto the continuum

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domain, discretizing the governing equations relative to the grid, and applying a numerical solution
algorithm to the discrete approximation of the governing equations. The result is an evaluation of the
solution at the grid points. Two key ingredients necessary for obtaining an accurate and efficient solution
are (1) the numerical solution algorithm, and (2) the grid.
A grid generation technique should be as efficient as possible to achieve the desired characteristics.
However, the importance of a particular characteristic or combination of characteristics can outweigh
alone in determining which grid generation technique is applied to a particular problem.
The most efficient grid generation techniques are algebraic and are based on the application of
interpolation formulas. Algebraic grid generation techniques relate a computational domain, which is a
rectangular parallelepiped (a square in two dimensions and a box in three dimensions), to an arbitrarily
shaped physical domain with corresponding sides. The computational domain is a mathematical abstraction. The physical domain is the bounded continuum domain where a numerical solution to a system
of governing equations of motion is desired.
A side in the computational domain can map into a line or a point in the physical domain, in which
case a singularity occurs in the mapping. Singularities can pose problems for the computation of numerical solutions when the governing equations are expressed in differential form. However, grid singularities
usually do not cause problems when the governing equations are expressed in integral form.
A single block (square or box in the computational domain and deformed block in the physical domain)
is not usually sufficient to fit to boundaries of a complex solution domain. Therefore, the complex
domains must be divided into subdomains and multiple blocks used to cover the subdomains. Depending
on the solution technique used to solve the governing equations, the grid points at the boundaries of
adjoining blocks must be contiguous.
TFI is a multivariate interpolation procedure. When TFI is applied for algebraic grid generation, a
physical grid is constrained to lie on or within specified boundaries. TFI is a Boolean sum of univariate
interpolations in each of the computational coordinates. Virtually any univariate interpolation (linear,
quadratic, spline, etc.) can be applied in a coordinate direction. Therefore, there are a limitless number
of possible variations of TFI that can be created by using different combinations and forms of the
univariate interpolations. Often for a particular application, a high order and more sophisticated interpolation is used in one coordinate direction, which we will call the primary coordinate direction, and a
low-order interpolation, such as linear interpolation, is used in the remaining coordinate directions.

3.3 Transformations and Grids


Algebraic grid generation techniques are transformations from a rectangular computational domain to
an arbitrarily shaped physical domain. This is shown schematically in Figure 3.1 and as a general equation
x( , , )

X ( , , ) = y( , , )

z(, , )
0 1 0 1 and 0 1
A discrete subset of the vector-valued function X, ( , J , K) is a structured grid for
0 I =

I 1
J 1
K 1
1
1 0 I =
1 0 J =
I 1
J 1
K 1

where
I = 1, 2, 3,..., I J = 1, 2, 3,..., J K = 1, 2, 3,..., K
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(3.1)

FIGURE 3.1 Transformation between computational and physical domains.

FIGURE 3.2 Grids in computational and physical domains.

The relationships between the indices I, J, and K and the computational coordinates ( , , ) uniformly
discretize the computational domain and imply a relationship between discrete neighboring points. The
transformation to the physical domain produces the actual grid points, and the relationship of neighboring grid points is invariant under the transformation (Figure 3.2). A grid created in this manner is
called a structured grid. TFI provides a single framework creating the function X( , , ).

3.4 Transfinite Interpolation (TFI)


Transfinite interpolation (TFI) was first described by William Gordon in 1973 [1]. TFI has the advantage
of providing complete conformity to boundaries in the physical domain. In the early 1980s, Lars Eriksson
described TFI for application to grid generation for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) [2,3,4]. Variants
of TFI have since been described many times [5,6,7].

3.4.1 Boolean Sum Formulation


The essence of TFI is the specification of univariate interpolations in each of the computational coordinate
directions, forming the tensor products of the interpolations, and finally the Boolean sum. The univariate

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interpolation functions are a linear combination of known (user-specified) information in the physical
domain (positions and derivatives) for given values of the computational coordinate and coefficients that
are blending functions whose independent variable is the computational coordinate. The general expressions of the univariate interpolations for three dimensions are
L

U( , , ) = in ( )

n X (i , , )
n

i =1 n = 0
Q

V( , , ) = m
j ( )

m X , j ,
m

j =1 m = 0
N

W( , , ) =

in ( )

(3.2)

l X ( , , k )
l

k =1l = 0

Conditions on the blending functions are


n in (i )
n

( ) =

j
m m
j

= ii nn

jj mm

l kl ( k )
l

= kk ll

(3.3)

i = 1, 2,..., L j = 1, 2,..., M k = 1, 2,..., N


n = 0,1,..., P m = 0,1,..., Q l = 0,1,..., R
The tensor products are
L

UW = WU = in ( ) kl ( )

ln X(i , , k )

i =1 k =1 l = 0 n = 0

L M

( ) ()

UV = VU =

in
i =1 j =1 m = 0 n = 0
Q

M N

VW = WV =

( ) ( )
m
j

j =1 k =1 m = 0 l = 0

L M N

m
j

UVW =

kl

nm X , j ,

m

lm X , j , k
l m

in ( ) mj () kl ( )

i =1 j =1 k =1 l = 0 m = 0 n = 0

(3.4)

lmn X i , j , k
l

The commutability in the above tensor products is assumed in most practical situations, but in general,
it is not guaranteed. It is dependent upon the commutability of the mixed partial derivatives.
The Boolean sum of the three interpolations is
X( , , ) = U V W = U + V + W UV UW VW + UVW

(3.5)

3.4.2 Recursion Formulation


The application of TFI as a Boolean sum of univariate interpolations in the computational coordinate
directions implies that each of the terms in the sum be evaluated and then the sum is evaluated.

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Alternately, TFI can be expressed as a three-step recursion formula. The first step is to express the
univariate interpolation in one coordinate direction
L

X1 ( , , ) = in ( )

n X (i , , )

(3.6)

i =1 n = 0

The second and third steps use the preceding step. That is

M Q
m X , j ,
m X1 , j ,

X2 ( , , ) = X1 ( , , ) + m
j ( )

m
m
j =1 m = 0

N R
l X ( , , k ) l X2 ( , , k )

X ( , , ) = X2 ( , , ) + kl ( )

m
l

k =1 l = 0

(3.7)

(3.8)

3.4.3 Blending Function Conditions


In the above equations, a in ( x ), b mj ( h ), and g kl ( z ) are blending functions subject to function con lmn X ( x i, h j, z k )
- in the equations are positions and partial derivatives
ditions. The defining parameters -------------------------------------------- zl hm xn
in the physical domain and are user-specified. In this definition, the implicit assumption is that coordinate
curves are to be interpolated along with their derivatives. This occurs through a network of intersecting
surfaces and derivatives that must be specified.

3.5 Practical Application of TFI


In the practical process of generating grids, it is necessary to minimize, or at least keep to a manageable
level, the amount of input geometry data (position and derivatives along curves or surfaces). At the same
time, it is necessary to maintain a high degree of control, particularly near boundary surfaces for which
there may be high gradients in the solution of the governing equations.

3.5.1 Linear TFI


The simplest application of TFI is to use linear interpolation functions for all coordinate directions and
specify the positional data on the six bounding surfaces (Figure 3.3). P = Q = R = 0 and L = M = N =
2 in Eq. 3.2.

The linear blending functions that satisfy the function conditions in Eq. 3.3 are
10 ( ) = 1
20 ( ) =
10 () = 1
20 () =
10 ( ) = 1
20 ( ) =

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FIGURE 3.3

Boundary surfaces for linear TFI.

The univariate interpolations and tensor products are


U( I , J , K ) = (1 I )X(0, J , k ) + I X(1, J , K )
V( I , J , K ) = (1 I )X( , 0, k ) + I X( I ,1, K )

W( I , J , K ) = (1 K )X( I , J , 0) + I X( I , J ,1)

UW( I , J , K ) = (1 I )(1 - K )X(0, J , 0) + (1 I , K )X(0, J ,1) \

+ I (1 K )X(1, J , 0) + X(1, 0, K ) + I J X(1,1, K )

UV( I , J , K ) = (1 I )(1 - J )X(0, 0, K ) + I K X(1, J ,1)

+ I (1 J )X(1 - J )X(1, 0, K ) + I J X(1,1, K )

VW( I , J , K ) = (1 J )(1 - K )X( I , 0, 0) + (1 J ) K X( I ,1, 0)


+ J (1 K )X( I , 0,1) + J K X( I ,1,1)

UVW( I , J , K ) = (1 I )(1 J )(1 K )X(0, 0, 0) + (1 I )(1 J ) K X(0, 0,1)


+ (1 I ) J (1 K )X(0,1, 0) + (1 I ) J K X(1, 0,1)
+ I J (1 K )X(1,1, 0) + I J K X(1,1,1)

The expression for a TFI grid ( I = 1, , I,


interpolation functions (Eq. 3.5) is

J = 1, , J ,

K = 1, , K ) with linear

X( I , J , K ) = U( I , J , K ) + V( I , J , K ) + W( I , J , K ) UW( I , J , K )
UV( I , J , K ) VW( I , J , K ) + UVW( I , J , K )

(3.9)

3.5.2 Lagrangian TFI


When additional surfaces corresponding to the interior of the computational box can be provided (see
Figure 3.4 for the case of two interior surfaces that would correspond to cubic Lagrangian interpolation),

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FIGURE 3.4

Transfinite interpolation with Lagrangian blending functions.

a general formula for the blending functions can be used. The formula for a computational coordinate,
for instance, the coordinate is

i i ( i )
i0

i =1

( ) =

(3.10)

i i (i i )
i =1

The univariate interpolation function in the computational coordinate direction is


L

U( , , ) = i0 ( )

0 X( , , )

i =1

= i0 ( )X( , , )

(3.11)

i =1

The Lagrange blending function allows a polynomial interpolation of degree L 1 through L points and
satisfies the cardinal condition a i0 ( x i ) = d ii . It is not recommended that high-degree Lagrangian blending functions be used for grid generation because of the large quantity of geometric data that must be
supplied and the potential excessive movement in the interpolation. Using L = 2 results in the linear
interpolation above being a special case of Lagrangian interpolation.

3.5.3 Hermite Cubic TFI


Often in grid generation, the outward derivative at one or more sides of the physical domain corresponding to sites of the computational domain can be specified. It is then feasible to use Hermite
blending functions in the coordinate direction in which derivative information can be specified. For
example, if is the coordinate direction, the univariate Hermite interpolation (L = 2, P = 1) corresponding to Eq. 3.2 is
2

U( , , ) = in ( )
i =1 n = 0

10

( )X(1 ,, )

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+ 11

n X(i , , )
n

X( , , )
X( , , )
( ) 1 + 20 ( )X(2 ,, ) + 12 ( ) 2

(3.12)

FIGURE 3.5

FIGURE 3.6

Transfinite interpolation with Hermite cubic blending functions.

Outward derivatives obtained from cross-product of surface derivatives.

where

10 ( ) = 2 3 3 2 + 1
11 ( ) = 3 2 2 +
20 ( ) = 2 3 + 3 2
12 ( ) = 3 2
The outward derivatives in the coordinate direction can be specified by the cross-product of the
tangential surface derivatives in the and coordinate directions at = 0 and = 1. This effectively
creates the trajectories of grid curves that are orthogonal to the surfaces X(1, , ) and X(2, , ). That is,
X(1 , , )

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X(1 , , ) X(1 , , )
=

1 (, )

(3.13)

and
X(2 , , )

X(2 , , ) X(2 , , )
=

2 (, )

(3.14)

The scalar functions 1( h , z ) and 2( h , z ) are magnitudes of the outward derivatives in the
direction at X ( x 1 h, z ) and X ( x 2 h, z ). The derivative magnitude parameters can be constants or surface
functions. Increasing the magnitudes of the derivatives extends the orthogonality effect further into the
physical domain between the two opposing surfaces. However, the magnitudes can be excessively large,
resulting in the interpolations equation being multivalued. This is manifested by grid crossover and is
remedied by lowering the magnitudes. Note that when the interpolations in the and directions are
applied, the orthogonality effect achieved with the above application of Hermite interpolation in the
direction can be altered.

3.6 Grid Spacing Control


TFI transforms a rectangular computational domain to a physical domain with irregular boundaries. A
uniform grid in the computational domain is obtained by partitioning each computational coordinate
into equal increments. With the transformation, the discrete points in the computational domain map
into irregular spaced points in the physical domain creating a physical grid. The spacing between points
in the physical domain is controlled by the blending functions a in ( x ), b mj ( h ) and g kl ( ). Blending
functions that produce the desired shape of a grid (i.e., relative orientation between points) may not
produce the desired spacing between points. In order to create grids with desired grid concentrations,
additional information must be provided. One approach is to design or modify the blending functions
to exactly produce the desired concentrations. Another approach, which is effective and practical, is to
define an intermediate control domain between the computational domain and the physical domain.
An intermediate control domain is defined to be a rectangular domain where each intermediate
coordinate is related to the computational coordinates by
u = f ( , , ) v = g( , , ) w = h( , , )

(3.15)

Under the application of these functions, uniformly spaced grid points in the computational domain
map to nonuniformly spaced grid points in the control domain enclosed by the unit cube (Figure 3.7).
The intermediate coordinates u, v, and w must be single-valued functions of f(,, ), g(,, ), and
h(,, ), respectively.
The blending functions are redefined with the intermediate coordinates as the independent variables.
That is a in ( u ), b mj ( v ) and g kl ( w ) .
There are many practical considerations to be exercised at this point. The overall TFI formulation will
shape a grid to fit the six boundary surfaces. Control functions that manipulate the grid point spacing
are applied. These functions can be simple and be applied universally, or they can be complex and blend
from one form to another, transversing from one boundary to an opposite boundary. It may be desirable
for a control function to cause concentration of grid points at the extremes of the computational
coordinate or somewhere in between. A low slope in a control function leads to grid concentration and
high slope leads to grid dispersion. Several control functions are described.

3.6.1 Single-Exponential Function


A useful function that maps an independent variable, r, 0 r 1, to a monotonically increasing
dependent variable, r, 0 r 1, is

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FIGURE 3.7

FIGURE 3.8

Intermediate control domain.

Single-exponential control function example.

r=

e A 1
eA 1

(3.16)

where is assumed to be a computational coordinate and r is assumed to be an intermediate variable.


The sign and magnitude of the parameter A specifies whether the lowest slope is near (0, 0) or (1, 1)
and the magnitude of the slope (Figure 3.8). For A = 0 the single exponential function is singular and is
not useful for producing an exact straight line between (0, 0) and (1, 1). This would correspond to a
uniform clustering of the dependent variable. However, a magnitude of A = .0001 will produce a very
near straight line. A uniform discrete spacing of the independent variable evaluation of the control
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function produces concentration or dispersion in the discrete values of the dependent variable. Often
the r2 value (r1 = 0) at r or the r N 1 value ( r N = 1 ) at 1 r is specified, and the value of A that
causes the function to pass through the point ( r, r 2 ) or ( 1 r, r N 1 ) is determined with a
NewtonRaphson iteration. This creates a control function that specifies the spacing between the first
and second grid point or the next to last and last grid point in a coordinate direction. N is the index
for the last grid point.

3.6.2 Double-Exponential Function


Another function that maps an independent variable, r, 0 r 1, to a monotonically increasing dependent variable r, 0 r 1, and provides more flexibility than the single exponential is
A2

A3

e
1
e A2 1
0 A3
0 r A1

r = A1

A4

A3
1 A3

1
e 1
A1 r 1

r = A1 + (1 A1 )
A3 1
A4 chosen

A4

Dr( A3 )

(3.17)

C1

The user-specified parameters in Eq. 3.17 are A1, A2, and A3. The parameter A4 is computed. A3 and
A1 are the abscissa and ordinate of a point inside the unit square through which the function will pass.
A2 and A4 are exponential parameters for the two segments. The derivative condition at the joining of
the two exponential functions is satisfied by applying a NewtonRaphson iteration that adjusts the value
of the parameter A4. The double exponential control function provides added spacing control as compared
to the single exponential function for concentrations near (0, 0) or (1, 1). Also, the double-exponential
function allows a grid concentration in the interior or the domain (Figure 3.9). The concept of the doubleexponential function can be extended to an arbitrary number of segments, but it is recommended to
keep the number of segments small.

3.6.3 Hyperbolic Tangent and Sine Control Functions


Two other single-segment control functions that are used for grid clustering are the hyperbolic tangent
(tanh) control function and the hyperbolic sine (sinh) control function. They are
r = 1+

r = 1+

tanh B( 1)
tanh B

(3.18)

sinh C(1 )

sinh C
0 1 0 r 1

(3.19)

where the parameters B and C govern the control functions and their derivatives. The hyperbolic tangent
function in many references is a preferred control function for clustering grid points in a boundary-layer
for computational fluid dynamics applications.

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FIGURE 3.9 Double-exponential control function example.

FIGURE 3.10 Arclength control function example.

3.6.4 Arclength Control Functions


Very often an existing sequence of grid points along a coordinate curve, for instance, along a boundary
curve, is known (Figure 3.10). It is desirable to use the sequence of points to create a control function.
This can be done by normalizing the indices of the points to create the independent variable and
computing the normalized accumulated chord lengths along the sequence of points to create the dependent variable. This process approximates the normalized arclength along the curve. A sequence of points
is {xI,J,K, yI,J,K, zI,J,K, I = 1, 2, N } and J and K are fixed, the formulae for the independent variable
r, 0 r 1, and the dependent variable r, 0 r 1, are

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FIGURE 3.11

Boundary-blended control function example.

I =
sI =

I 1
N 1

( x I, J , K x I 1, J , K )2 + ( yI, J , K y1, J , K )2 + (z I, J , K z I 1, J , K )2 + sI 1
rI =

(3.20)

sI
s N

Note that if the number of grid points to be used in the grid generation formula (i.e., TFI) is N , there
is no need to compute the independent variable I. If, however, the number of grid points in the coordinate
direction is different from N , then the dependent variable rI must be interpolated from the normalized
approximate arclength evaluation, and the independent variable values I are necessary.

3.6.5 Boundary-Blended Control Functions


One of the practical problems that occurs in grid generation is the need to have different control functions
specified along each edge of the intermediate domain and compute blended values of the intermediate
variables interior to the domain. Soni [8] has proposed a blending formula for arclength control functions
along the boundary edges that is very useful. This formula also is applicable for other control functions
defined along the edges (Figure 3.11). A two-dimensional description of this type of blending is shown.
Let s1( ), 0 s 1 ( x ) 1, and s2( ), 0 s 2 ( x ) 1, be control functions along the edges spanning between
t1( = 0), t2( = 0) and t1( = 1), t2( = 1). Let t1(), 0 h 1, 0 t 1 ( h ) 1 and
t 2 ( h ), 0 h 1, 0 t 2 ( h ) 1 , be control functions along the edges spanning between s1( = 0), s2( = 0)
and s1( = 1), s2( = 1). The blended values of intermediate control variables are
u=

(1 t1 ())s1 ( ) + t1 ()s2 ( )
1 ( s2 ( ) s1 ( ))(t2 () t1 ())

(1 s1 ( ))t1 () + s1 ( )t2 ()
v=
1 (t2 () t1 ())( s2 ( ) s1 ( ))

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(3.21)

3.7 Conforming an Existing Grid to New Boundaries


TFI is normally used to generate a grid given three pairs of defined opposing boundaries. A variation of TFI
can also be used to adjust an existing grid to three new pairs of opposing boundaries. This TFI variation can
be stated in the following way. Note that x I , h J , and z K are replaced with the indices I, J, and K.
(I, J, K), I = 1, 2I, J = 1, 2, J , K = 1, 2, K and boundary surface grids
Given a grid X
X(1, J, K), X( I , J, K), X(I, 1, K), X(I, J , K), X(I, J, 1), and X(I, J, K ), an adjusted grid X(I, J, K), can
be produced by

X1 ( I , J , K ) = X ( I , J , K )

[(

) (

)]

[(

)]

[(

)]

+ 10 ( ) X (1, J , K ) X (1, J , K ) + 20 ( ) X I, J , K X I, J , K
X2 ( I , J , K ) = X1 ( I , J , K )

+ 10 ()[ X ( I ,1, K ) X1 ( I ,1, K )] + 20 () X I , J, K X1 I , J, K


X ( I , J , K ) = X2 ( I , J , K )

+ 10 ( )[ X ( I , J ,1) X2 ( I , J ,1)] + 20 ( ) X I , J , K X2 I , J , K

( ) = 1 u1 ( )
20 ( ) = u2 ( )

10

10 () = 1 v1 ()
20 () = v2 ()
10 ( ) = 1 w1 ( )
20 ( ) = w2 ( )
u1 ( ) =

e C1 1
e C1 1

u2 ( ) =

e C2 1
e C2 1

v1 () =

e C3 1
e C3 1

v2 () =

e C4 1
e C4 1

w1 ( ) =

e C 5 1
e C5 1

w2 ( ) =

e C6 1
e C6 1

where the constants C1, C2, C6 specify how far into the original grid the effect of the six boundary
surfaces is carried.

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3.8 Summary
TFI generates grids that conform to specified boundaries. The recipe is a Boolean sum of univariate
interpolations, and it is also expressed as a recursion formula. Since any univariate interpolation subject
to conditions can be applied in a coordinate direction, there are an infinite number of variations of
TFI. However, low-order univariate interpolation functions are the most practical. Lagrangian and
Hermite cubic formulae have been presented.
Grid spacing control can be best achieved by creating intermediate variables to be used in the interpolation functions. The intermediate variables are computed with control functions whose independent
variables are computational coordinates and have adjustable parameters affecting spacing. Several examples of practical control functions have been presented.
A variation of TFI to conform an existing grid to new specified boundaries has also been represented.
This minor variation is highly useful in a practical grid generation environment.

References
1. Gordon, W.N. and Hall, C.A., Construction of curvilinear coordinate systems and application to
mesh generation, International J. Num. Methods in Eng., Vol. 7, pp. 461477, 1973.
2. Eriksson, L.-E., Three-dimensional spline-generated coordinate transformations for grids around
wing-body configurations, Numerical Grid Generation Techniques, NASA CP 2166, 1980.
3. Eriksson, L.-E., Generation of boundary conforming grids around wing-body configurations using
transfinite interpolation, AIAA J., Vol. 20, pp. 13131320, 1982.
4. Eriksson, L.-E., Transfinite Mesh Generation and Computer-Aided Analysis of Mesh Effects, Ph.D.
Dissertation, University of Uppsala, Sweden, 1984.
5. Smith, R.E. and Wiese, M.R., Interactive Algebraic Grid Generation, NASA TP 2533, 1986.
6. Eiseman, P.R. and Smith, R.E., Applications of algebraic grid generation, AGARD Specialist Meeting
Applications of Mesh Generation to Complex 3-D Configurations, 1989.
7. Samareh-Abolhassani, J., Sadrehaghighi, I., Smith, R.E., and Tiwari, S.N., Applications of
Lagrangian blending functions for grid generation around airplane geometries, J. Aircraft, 27(10),
pp. 873877, 1990.
8. Soni, B.K., Two- and three-dimensional grid generation for internal flow applications, AIAA Paper
85-1526, 1985.

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