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inpolyhedron - are points inside a triangulated volume?

version (22.4 KB) by Sven
Test if 3d points are inside a mesh. Or, voxelise a mask from a surface. Mesh can be non-convex too!


Updated 12 Nov 2015

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Editor's Note: This file was selected as MATLAB Central Pick of the Week

INPOLYHEDRON Tests if points are inside a 3D triangulated (faces/vertices) surface
User's note:
inpolyhedron adopts the widely used convention that surface face normals point OUT from the object. If your faces point in, simply call inpolyhedron(...,'flipNormals',true).
(see discussion at
IN = INPOLYHEDRON(FV,QPTS) tests if the query points (QPTS) are inside the
patch/surface/polyhedron defined by FV (a structure with fields 'vertices' and
'faces'). QPTS is an N-by-3 set of XYZ coordinates. IN is an N-by-1 logical
vector which will be TRUE for each query point inside the surface.
INPOLYHEDRON(FACES,VERTICES,...) takes faces/vertices separately, rather than in
an FV structure.

IN = INPOLYHEDRON(..., X, Y, Z) voxelises a mask of 3D gridded query points
rather than an N-by-3 array of points. X, Y, and Z coordinates of the grid
supplied in XVEC, YVEC, and ZVEC respectively. IN will return as a 3D logical
volume with SIZE(IN) = [LENGTH(YVEC) LENGTH(XVEC) LENGTH(ZVEC)], equivalent to
syntax used by MESHGRID. INPOLYHEDRON handles this input faster and with a lower
memory footprint than using MESHGRID to make full X, Y, Z query points matrices.

INPOLYHEDRON(...,'PropertyName',VALUE,'PropertyName',VALUE,...) tests query
points using the following optional property values:

TOL - Tolerance on the tests for "inside" the surface. You can think of
tol as the distance a point may possibly lie above/below the surface, and still
be perceived as on the surface. Due to numerical rounding nothing can ever be
done exactly here. Defaults to ZERO. Note that in the current implementation TOL
only affects points lying above/below a surface triangle (in the Z-direction).
Points coincident with a vertex in the XY plane are considered INside the surface.
More formal rules can be implemented with input/feedback from users.

GRIDSIZE - Internally, INPOLYHEDRON uses a divide-and-conquer algorithm to
split all faces into a chessboard-like grid of GRIDSIZE-by-GRIDSIZE regions.
Performance will be a tradeoff between a small GRIDSIZE (few iterations, more
data per iteration) and a large GRIDSIZE (many iterations of small data
calculations). The sweet-spot has been experimentally determined (on a win64
system) to be correlated with the number of faces/vertices. You can overwrite
this automatically computed choice by specifying a GRIDSIZE parameter.

FACENORMALS - By default, the normals to the FACE triangles are computed as the
cross-product of the first two triangle edges. You may optionally specify face
normals here if they have been pre-computed.

FLIPNORMALS - (Defaults FALSE). To match a wider convention, triangle
face normals are presumed to point OUT from the object's surface. If
your surface normals are defined pointing IN, then you should set the
FLIPNORMALS option to TRUE to use the reverse of this convention.

tmpvol = zeros(20,20,20); % Empty voxel volume
tmpvol(5:15,8:12,8:12) = 1; % Turn some voxels on
tmpvol(8:12,5:15,8:12) = 1;
tmpvol(8:12,8:12,5:15) = 1;
fv = isosurface(tmpvol, 0.99); % Create the patch object
fv.faces = fliplr(fv.faces); % Ensure normals point OUT
% Test SCATTERED query points
pts = rand(200,3)*12 + 4; % Make some query points
in = inpolyhedron(fv, pts); % Test which are inside the patch
figure, hold on, view(3) % Display the result
plot3(pts(~in,1),pts(~in,2),pts(~in,3),'ro'), axis image
% Test STRUCTURED GRID of query points
gridLocs = 3:2.1:19;
[x,y,z] = meshgrid(gridLocs,gridLocs,gridLocs);
in = inpolyhedron(fv, gridLocs,gridLocs,gridLocs);
figure, hold on, view(3) % Display the result
plot3(x(in), y(in), z(in),'bo','MarkerFaceColor','b')
plot3(x(~in),y(~in),z(~in),'ro'), axis image

Comments and Ratings (73)

Great tool, perfectly fitting my needs.

Line 191: replacing 'clear' with 'clearvars' yields a considerable performance boost


I am trying to use this with a shape model of comet 67P:
>> load('cg-spc-shap5-v1.5-cheops.mat')
>> shp = patch('Faces',redf,'Vertices',redv,'FaceVertexC',[1 1 1],'FaceC','f','LineS','n');

and a set of point-coordinates
>> test = [1.8955 -0.2307 1.2290];

But I get this error:

>> IN = inpolyhedron(shp,test)
Function 'subsindex' is not defined for values of class

Error in inpolyhedron>parseInputs (line 425)
facets = permute(reshape(facets(:,faces'), 3, 3, []),[2 1 3]);

Error in inpolyhedron (line 105)
[facets, qPts, options] = parseInputs(varargin{:});

....what am I doing wrong, please?

Thank you for the code. It works perfectly. I need the principle behind the code. Please can you give me the link/literature/paper based on which it is done? I will be greatfull if you provide me.

Hi again Sven,

This might help. I've tried using

[faces,vertices] = isosurface(X, Y, Z, LEV,-1);

X, Y, Z, and LEV are data that are loaded in

in_2 = inpolyhedron(faces,vertices,TestPoints,'FlipNormals',true);
Points_inside = [TestPoints(in_2,1),TestPoints(in_2,2),TestPoints(in_2,3)];
in_3 = inpolyhedron(faces,vertices,TestPoints);
Points_outside = [TestPoints(in_3,1),TestPoints(in_3,2),TestPoints(in_3,3)];
[intr,i_IN,i_OUT] = intersect(Points_inside,Points_outside,'rows');

Unfortunately, the "extra" points found and saved as in_2, have no intersection with those in in_3. The "extra" points are simply a few scattered lines outside the isosurface.

Sunita Saha

Error in inpolyhedron (line 185)
cells{yi,xi} = cat(1,tmpInds{xyMinMask & yi >= unqLHgrids(:,2) & yi <= unqLHgrids(:,4)});
Please help with this error

Jay Willis

deru jian


This is a great function which saved me a lot of time. Well documented as well!

Hi Sven,
Thanks for the upload! Are there any papers/references on which the toolbox is based? Could you share them?


Amazing function! Just save my ass! Thanks a lot!

Weizhou Li

I am using point as center of element. When there is thin walled structure, this code will determine the element is outside. I tried to use tolerance to make it inside. However, the tolerance is only working on z direction. Could changes be made to let user define tolerance in x, y direction?

king june

@James Farrell The reason for the error was the 'verLessThan' funtion ,you should modify your code like this:

function options = parseOptions(varargin)
IP = inputParser;
if verLessThan('matlab', '') % change 'R2013b' to ''
fcn = 'addParamValue';
fcn = 'addParameter';

Hi, I copied the example into a seperate script but when I run the script I get the following error:

No appropriate method, property, or field addParameter for class inputParser.

Error in inpolyhedron>parseOptions (line 453)
IP.(fcn)('gridsize',[], @(x)isscalar(x) && isnumeric(x))

Error in inpolyhedron>parseInputs (line 439)
options = parseOptions(varargin{:});

Error in inpolyhedron (line 105)
[facets, qPts, options] = parseInputs(varargin{:});

I am using MATLAB 2013a

No appropriate method, property, or field addParameter for class inputParser.


Not working for cone type. If it is needed I can send you vertex and faces to examine. contact to me

Deepa Iyer


Fabian Wolf

Hello Sven,

thank you so much!
That is exactly what I needed.



Try this, adjusting TOL as needed. It detects point ON a 3d triangulation (within a tolerance).

F = [1 2 4;2 3 4;2 1 6;1 5 6;1 4 8;5 1 8;3 2 7;2 6 7;4 3 7;8 4 7;6 5 7;5 8 7];
V = [0 0 0;10 0 0;10 0 10;0 0 10;0 10 0;10 10 0;10 10 10;0 10 10];
points = rand(200,3) * 12 - 1;

TOL = 0.5;
% Make the original triangulation and show it
T1 = triangulation(F, V);
figure, hold on

% Offset vertices by tiny amounts each way, make new triangulations
T_pos = triangulation(F, T1.Points + T1.vertexNormal*TOL);
T_neg = triangulation(F, T1.Points - T1.vertexNormal*TOL);


% Use inpolyhedron on the offset triangulations
in_pos = inpolyhedron(F,T_pos.Points, points);
in_neg = inpolyhedron(F,T_neg.Points, points);
% Some logic to get inside, outside, and on the edge
on_vol = in_pos & ~in_neg;
in_vol = in_neg & ~on_vol;
out_vol = ~in_pos;
% Display
doplot3 = @(x,varargin)plot3(x(:,1),x(:,2),x(:,3),varargin{:});
inH = doplot3(points(in_vol,:),'ko','MarkerFaceColor','b');
outH = doplot3(points(out_vol,:),'ko','MarkerFaceColor','r');
onH = doplot3(points(on_vol,:),'ko','MarkerFaceColor','g');
legend([inH outH onH],{'IN','OUT','ON'})

Fabian Wolf

I solved the issue with the nodes above the polyhedron being recognized (user error...)

My other problem changed, as well. The nodes on the edges of the polyhedron aren't recognized that well. I attached the figure to show you (I hope it's allowed to post links here):
'TOL' didn't help.

Fabian Wolf

Hello everybody!
First of all, thank you Sven for putting so much work in this tool and your work that you put into MatLab. It’s much appreciated.
I have a few difficulties getting inpolyhedron to work. But first, let me explain my situation.
I have a test mesh in the form of a cuboid consisting of around 20000 nodes. This mesh is made of hexa-elements of 8 nodes each.
The first step that I want to do, won’t make a lot of sense but it’s just for testing purpose.
I take the nodes of 1 element and create a polyhedron by using delaunayn and freeboundary, giving me a vertices and faces matrix.
Then, I take the 20000 nodes and check if the nodes are inside that 1 element. Only 8 nodes should be found, the ones creating the 1 element, right?
However, I get a lot more. I get all the nodes that are in the same x- and y- locations as the 8 nodes of the element but which have different z-locations. Can you tell me what I am doing wrong?
My next question is, how can I ignore the elements that are on the surface of that 1 element or rather in the same locations as the 8 nodes. I couldn’t get it to work with vertexnormal() as you suggested to Gabrielle 2 years ago…

I hope you guys can help me! I am rather new to this subject so I feel a little bit lost.
Thanks in advance!
- Fabian


Fab B

Hi Sven,
I can now confirm that the qPtsXY(':',':') bugfix works for me on R2012b and R2015b.
Thanks a lot,


Ah, yes, Tim and Fab - you are right. I had both versions on my machine and didn't realise the link was to 2015a so that's what I was actually running :)
I'll upload a new version with quotes around the semicolons to avoid that error.

Tim Lueth

qPtsXY(':',':') solved at least my problem on R2015b

Tim Lueth

Hi Sven, we also use R2015b (academic) and have the same problem on PC and MAC. R2015a was working as expected. Tim

Fab B

Hi Sven,
I'm think I'm using the full release of R2015b. The exact version is (R2015b).
I've already tried the bugfix you propose ("qPtsXY(':',':')") before and it seems that it did not work properly: in some cases it did in others not (unfortunately I don't have access to another version such that I could compare properly).


Hi Fab, I think there are 2 solutions:

Firstly, are you using the 2015b "Pre-release" or the actual 2015b full release?
I suspect that this issue is with the 2015b pre-release (I saw it too) but I don't actually see it now in the official 2015b so I think that this is where the problem lies.

If you need to continue using the release you have, then I *think* that you can just change instances of "qPtsXY(:,:)" to "qPtsXY(':',':')" and it will work (sorry, I can't verify this for you since I uninstalled the pre-release and can't replicate the problem at the moment).


Fab B

Hey Sven,

Thanks a lot for this great function, I've been using it for a while!

However, after having changed to Matlab R2015b the function does fail with the following error:
"Input arguments to function include colon operator. To input the colon
character, use ':' instead.
Error in inpolyhedron (line 233)
qPtGridXY = floor(bsxfun(@rdivide, bsxfun(@minus, qPtsXY(:,:),

Any suggestions?




Ariel Lu

thanks Sven, it's perfect to work.


@James: Sure, there should be a "contact" button if you click on my name>profile. A short description (sounds like you're testing inpolyhedron against a dense point cloud) and your email and I'll see what can be done.

Hey Sven I have some issues using your program and I was wondering if you can assist me. I tried to email you but it couldn't go through.



Thanks Sven. I will try what you mentioned. I am waiting for a new solution.


Hi Khaldon, you've hit an issue that I'm looking to fix. It occurs as you said when query XY points are *exactly* the same as vertex XY points, and those vertices connect faces which "overhang" at a high angle. In those cases machine precision issues (from calculating the distance to an angled surface) can mean that the wrong face is detected as "nearest" and points above/below that face are wrongly set in or out.
I have a slow solution (involving re-testing points detected as coincident with vertices) and I'm looking for a fast(er) solution. In the meantime, I think the best solution is to simply offset your query points by a very tiny amount. I'll email you when I get something.

Hello Sven,
very nice job. I tried your code with an STL file, where the 3D object vertices are also the query points. The result was that some of the points are regarded as OUT. How to resolve this bug or is there something to modify.
Thanks again

Amazing performance, great to have the grid input option. Sad about meshgrid (Y,X,Z) instead of ndgrid (X,Y,Z) type output though, can't simply convert to list doing IN(:).
Sept 2013 update indicates normals should point in, but help still says out...

Thanks for sharing, Sven - works great indeed.


Thank you Sven.

This code works perfectly


Hi Sven,
I am working on a project for my research where I would need to write a C++ program that calculates whether-or-not a point lies inside an STL object.

To do this, I would like to port you code over to C++, but I didn't want to do this without your permission since the BSD license says that I should not modify the source code.

If you would be alright with me porting it to C++ and using it for my own research, please let me know by emailing me at .

Thanks a lot for making this program available!

Oh, and if it's not too much trouble, could you also include a .txt with any copyright and credits that you'd like me to include in my program.

Thanks again! :)
Vladimir H.


This works brilliantly! Thank you!!!


John, Sven, thanks for the reply.
The reason why I put "exactly" within quotation marks is because I intended implicitly a check considering a tolerance. Since I saw it is possible to specify a TOL parameter to inpolyhedron, I thought it could have been used also for checking whether a point is on the surface within a tolerance, hence the use of "exactly" ;-)
Anyway, again, compliments for the code!


Hi Bart, I don't think this would be an easy extension since inpolyhedron uses Z-ray (vertical vector) intersections whereas surface distances would be calculated via arbitrary 3D face normal vectors.

Perhaps inpolyhedron would be a useful first filter if you considered all points inside a surface as having zero distance, but it wouldn't save computation for actually computing that distance.

It sounds like an interesting problem with similar performance issues to inpolyhedron. A related question with a proposed algorithm is here:

Works perfectly, thanks! Could this easily be extended to also compute the distance of the point to the triangulated surface?

By the way, the code looks nice. Superb help. I love to see copious internal comments, enough that it is easy to follow what was done and how the code works.


Hi Gabriele: John speaks the truth - there's no such thing as exactly on a surface when floating point numbers are involved and the best you can do is check within a tolerance.

To practically get to your query though I'm afraid that even that check will be a little tricky. inpolyhedron uses a separate check on the XY projection of a point (via dot products which range from -1 to 1) and then Z location of a point (using the actual coordinates), so two separate calls to inpolyhedron() with different values for the TOL parameter won't actually do quite what you're looking for.

Instead I suggest this:
1. Run inpolyhedron() on your points.
2. Use the vertexNormal() method of a triangulation object (available from 2012b, I think) to shift every vertex of your surface out/in by a tiny distance
3. Run inpolyhedron() on your points with this shifted surface.

Any points that differed in IN/OUT state between steps 1 and 3 can be considered ON the surface, at least within the tiny distance you specified.

Gabriele - you will never be able to identify points as EXACTLY on the surface, but only on the surface to within a requested tolerance by some metric.


Hi Sven,
very nice and well working.
I'm wondering if you plan providing a specific output to identify those query points which are "exactly" on the surface.



@Scott, @Yan,
I've just finished a tool that will help both of your input situations. Please use this:

It will take your faces/vertices input and align all of the face normals so that inpolyhedron can do its job.




Is there a way to find the coordinates of face normals that are pointed in different directions? Majority of my faces are pointed in the right direction but a few are in the opposite direction. I can use 'flipnormals' but that flips every face, not just the few I need flipped. Any help is appreciated.


The problem here is just that your face normals are inconsistent. Only the bottom triangle (3rd face) is pointed IN, while the other 3 triangles are pointed OUT. If you replace:
face = [1,2,3;3,2,4;1,2,4;1,3,4];
face = [1,2,3;3,2,4;2,1,4;1,3,4];

and use (...,'flipnormals',true), then your input will work just fine.

Yan Ou

I have tried to following case and it does not work
vertex = [0,0,0;2,0,0;1,0,1.75;1,2,0];
face = [1,2,3;3,2,4;1,2,4;1,3,4];
fv.vertices = vertex;
fv.faces = face;


@Dun Kirk: Please send me your input points and triangles by email. This sounds like there could be something wrong and I would like to see if I can troubleshoot it.

Dun Kirk

My FV has only 63 points and 122 triangles. But it took me 6.9 seconds to analyze 36144 query points and produced the wrong output.

Exactly what I needed. Worked out of the box.


@ Ahmad: The latest version I just uploaded handles your input well now.

It was modified to detect the in/out of query points that are coincident with a mesh node.

I think there's probably a small (I haven't tested exactly how much) speed hit to make an extra comparison, but the new logic actually removes a loop so it will still be quite fast.

I know that there's one more potential issue: query nodes coincident with an edge that is acute (one connecting triangle pointing up, one pointing down)... but that's another issue for another time :)


For my case, inpolyhedron takes less than a second to analyze 60,000 points in the STL I have. STL has 7500 faces and 3800 points. Before inpolyhedron, I used Triangle/Ray Intersection which took me about 80 seconds to analyze all 60,000 query points.

So, good job Sven.


It worked. Super fast. Great job. Thanks.



Ok, I've found the issue. For the short term, try this for a solution:

in = inpolyhedron(myStl,X + 0.0001);

The reason you were having issues is that the faces/vertices you have are exactly aligned with the grid of your query points. This means that every query point lies exactly ON an edge. At the moment in my code, ON is considered OUT of the surface (only IN is considered IN). I had only anticipated this would be an issue for the outer surface points, but the same issue arises for inner points too like in your case.

In the help file I mention this as an issue awaiting user feedback. It looks like you're giving that feedback - thanks.

For the moment, just use the little work-around I gave. I think from your example I will try to change the definition so that I add a small tolerance to regard ON query points as actually IN to address this issue in a next version of inpolyhedron.



Ok, I've found the issue. For the short term, try this for a solution:

in = inpolyhedron(myStl,X + 0.0001);

The reason you were having issues is that the faces/vertices you have are exactly aligned with the grid of your query points. This means that every query point lies exactly ON an edge. At the moment in my code, ON is considered OUT of the surface (only IN is considered IN). I had only anticipated this would be an issue for the outer surface points, but the same issue arises for inner points too like in your case.

In the help file I mention this as an issue awaiting user feedback. It looks like you're giving that feedback - thanks.

For the moment, just use the little work-around I gave. I think from your example I will try to change the definition so that I add a small tolerance to regard ON query points as actually IN to address this issue in a next version of inpolyhedron.


I have found the bug of the code. The function does not run the following loop in the code for some query points:

for ptNo = find(qPtHitsTriangles(:))'

which I think is because of the part in the code that gathers the unique XY query locations. In my case, since I have generated a grid of 3D points by meshgrid this would eliminate some of the points and will prevent that aformentioned for-loop. In the example, shown in the code, query points are random.

Now in the example code, instead of generating random points, create the query point according to the following. You will get all the points outside the domain.

[xq, yq, zq] = meshgrid(4:16,4:16,4:16);
pts = [xq(:), yq(:), zq(:)];


@Sven: When I run patch and look at the query points and the triangulated surface, there are many points that are located inside the surface. It is interesting that if the point is inside the surface, calling the function with one single query point will return the correct result.


@A. Falahatpisheh: Send me a small sample of mesh/query points that don't work for you - I'm sure this can be trouble-shooted. Keep in mind that you should be able to call the following with your input:

figure, hold on, view(3), patch(fv,'FaceColor','g','FaceAlpha',0.2), plot3(pts(:,1),pts(:,2),pts(:,3),'bo','MarkerFaceColor','b')

If you make that call, and you see some of your points inside your volume, inpolyhedron() should be able to tell you which ones.


I flipped the face normals but it did not help. The output of the function is all zero. Any suggestion?

Shawn Walker

Awesome utility. I needed this!

Note to users: if it doesn't look like it is working, you may have to flip the normals of the faces. See help file.

Shawn Walker


Fixed title.

Used quoted semicolons ':' inside function handle calls to conform with new 2015b syntax interpreter

Fixed indeterminate behaviour for when query
points lie *exactly* in line with an "overhanging" vertex.

Put an upper limit on gridsize to prevent memory issues for huge trianulations.

v3.1 - Dropped nested unique call made redundant via v2.1 gridded point handling. Refreshed grid size selection via optimisation.

NEW CONVENTION ADOPTED to expect face normals pointing IN
Vertically oriented faces are now ignored. Results in speed-up and bug-fix.

The icon was lost last upload...

Much improved handling of gridded input. Now no longer unpacks the 3d grid. Saves big memory footprint!

Added logic to consider query points coincident with a vertex as IN (previously considered OUT)

A speedup tweak to distribute facets to grid locations - way to go, accumarray()

MATLAB Release Compatibility
Created with R2012a
Compatible with any release
Platform Compatibility
Windows macOS Linux

Inspired by: Inhull

Inspired: in_polyhedron

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