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Developer(s) Kitware Inc.
Stable release
7.1.0 / 23 November 2016; 5 months ago (2016-11-23)
Written in C, C++, Python[1]
Operating system Cross-platform
Type Scientific visualization
License 3-Clause BSD
Website www.vtk.org

The Visualization Toolkit (VTK) is an open-source, freely available software system for 3D computer graphics, image processing and visualization. VTK consists of a C++ class library and several interpreted interface layers including Tcl/Tk, Java, and Python. Kitware, whose team created and continues to extend the toolkit, offers professional support and consulting services for VTK. VTK supports a wide variety of visualization algorithms including: scalar, vector, tensor, texture, and volumetric methods; and advanced modeling techniques such as: implicit modeling, polygon reduction, mesh smoothing, cutting, contouring, and Delaunay triangulation. VTK has an extensive information visualization framework, has a suite of 3D interaction widgets, supports parallel processing, and integrates with various databases and GUI toolkits such as Qt and Tk. VTK is cross-platform and runs on Linux, Windows, Mac and Unix platforms. At its core VTK is implemented as a C++ toolkit, requiring users to build applications by combining various objects into an application. The system also supports automated wrapping of the C++ core into Python, Java and Tcl, so that VTK applications may also be written using these interpreted programming languages.

VTK is used worldwide in commercial applications, research and development,[citation needed] and is the basis of many advanced visualization applications such as: Molekel, ParaView,[2] VisIt, VisTrails, MOOSE, 3DSlicer, MayaVi,[3] and OsiriX.[4]

VTK is an open-source toolkit licensed under the BSD license.


VTK was initially created in 1993 as companion software to the book "The Visualization Toolkit: An Object-Oriented Approach to 3D Graphics" published by Prentice-Hall. The book and software were written by three researchers (Will Schroeder, Ken Martin and Bill Lorensen) on their own time and with permission from GE (thus the ownership of the software resided with, and continues to reside with, the authors). After the core of VTK was written, users and developers around the world began to improve and apply the system to real-world problems. In particular, GE Medical Systems and other GE businesses graciously contributed to the system. Some researchers, such as Penny Rheinghans began to teach with the book. Other early supporters included Jim Ahrens at Los Alamos National Labs, and unnamed, but generous oil and gas supporters. In recent years, Sandia National Labs have been strong supporters and co-developers with particular focus on adding information visualization to VTK.

To support what was becoming a large, active and worldwide VTK community Ken and Will, along with Lisa Avila, Charles Law and Bill Hoffman left GE Research to found Kitware Inc. in 1998. Since that time, hundreds of additional developers have created what is now the premier visualization system in the world today.

With the founding of Kitware, the VTK community grew rapidly, and toolkit usage expanded into academic, research and commercial applications. For example, VTK forms the core of the 3DSlicer biomedical computing application, and numerous research papers at IEEE Visualization and other conferences based on VTK have appeared. VTK has been used on a large 1024-processor computer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to process nearly a Petabyte of data. In 2005, ParaView (based on VTK) was used for real-time rendering of a ZSU-23-4 Russian Anti-Aircraft vehicle being hit by a planar wave, with 2.5 billion cell calculation, in the United States Army Research Laboratory. VTK also forms the basis of several collaborations between Kitware and national organizations such as Sandia, Los Alamos, and Livermore National Labs, who are using VTK as the foundation for their large data visualization needs.

VTK is also one of the key computing tools for the recently established National Alliance for Medical Image Computing, NA-MIC (www.na-mic.org), part of NIH's roadmap initiative for future computing tools.

Recently work on VTK includes a significant expansion of the toolkit to support the ingestion, processing and display of informatics data. This work is supported by Sandia National Laboratories under the 'Titan' project and represents one of the first concentrated efforts to unify scientific visualization with informatics functionality.[5]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Schroeder, Will; Martin, Ken; Lorensen, Bill (2006), The Visualization Toolkit (4th ed.), Kitware, ISBN 978-1-930934-19-1 
  • Avila, Lisa Sobierajski (2010), The VTK User's Guide (11th ed.), Kitware, ISBN 978-1-930934-23-8 


External links[edit]