Luciad demonstrates Java for high performance 3D and 2D graphical applications at JavaPolis

Leuven, Belgium 3 December 2007 - At JavaPolis 2007, Frank Suykens, keynote speaker from Luciad, will demonstrate how LuciadMap - a leading GIS Toolkit for high demanding Air Traffic Management systems and a native Java platform is very well suited for building high performance 3D and 2D applications in the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) world. Techniques combining Swing and JOGL, and other developer’s tricks provide the necessary boost in graphic performance.

Speaking at JavaPolis on 14 December, Luciad will share some of its eight years of advanced Java experience in the context of advanced graphical applications. The presentation focuses on some of the essential techniques used to obtain the high performance of LuciadMap and discusses pros and cons, do's and don'ts. For developers new to Java graphics, it should be clear that Java holds no limitations for high performance graphics, the more advanced Java graphics developer may pick up a few new ideas.

Foolish or brave

From the start in 1999, LuciadMap was implemented in Java. Today it is believed that the choice back then was the right one to make. The Java platform has proven to be very well suited for high performance graphical applications, such as high demanding 3D and 2D visualization for air traffic management systems. Moreover, the Java platform has allowed LuciadMap to take advantage of the recent hardware evolutions (such as the availability of multi-core CPUs) in a transparent way.

Java, OpenGL, and Swing

The high performance requirement for displaying static and moving geo-referenced recorded or realtime air traffic data in 3D has had a big impact on the design choices. In the early design stages, OpenGL was preferred over Java3D because OpenGL allows direct rendering of the data, without building a 3D scene graph. An internal abstraction layer allows to easily choose a specific OpenGL binding. The supported OpenGL bindings have evolved over the years, from GL4Java over JOGL to the JSR-231 binding (actually also known as JOGL). The JSR-231 binding has proven to be the most stable one, and currently provides the most rich API capability.

In this context, the use of NIO buffers is important. NIO buffers allow the setup of a pipeline to quickly pass terrain data from disk to the OpenGL hardware, without involving Java memory allocation.

Next to these design decisions, a number of language independent OpenGL techniques are employed, such as the use of vertexbuffers and other primitives for fast rendering.

Using OpenGL components in a SWING application also needs special attention, since OpenGL components are heavyweight components. Issues with moving and resizing windows, with heavyweight menu bars and tabbed panes, can often be solved by applying “Context sharing”, an OpenGL functionality that is only available in the JSR-231.

Java for high performance soft-realtime applications

Java’s garbage collection has always been one of the key Java characteristics, being a blessing for the developer who does not have to worry too much about memory management and at the same time a source of worry for those who are concerned with responsiveness, efficient memory usage, and performance in general. Soft-realtime applications need an almost 100% guarantee of reaching a given display rate and responsiveness of the application. Operational ATC (Air Traffic Control) applications, for instance, require a guarantee that an update of the screen is done each 300ms. Therefore it is a challenge building soft-realtime applications with Java.

Techniques such as object pooling try to give the developer more control over memory management, but they do not always provide the optimal solution. To a large extent, the solution is provided by the Java platform itself by the garbage collection improvements and tuning possibilities in the JVM.

In the context of high performance graphical applications, special attention should be given to the concept of multi-threading.


A well known principle for building responsive applications is to make proper use of multithreading. Basically all time consuming processing or I/O needs to be done in another thread than the GUI updates, so that the GUI thread is minimally blocked and can respond to user interactions. In the context of graphical applications this may not be sufficient: the graphical rendering that is part of the GUI updates may already consume a considerable amount of time, and hence have an impact on the responsiveness of the application. A typical time consuming process in the context of 2D graphical applications is label decluttering.

LuciadMap’s “Paint in background” functionality uses the commonly known idea of drawing the GUI in an image on a separate thread, and then visualizing the image on the screen. Although this sounds simple, it is not always the case, since it is possible that rendering settings are changed while the rendering on the offline image is still ongoing. It means that applying the changes and the actual drawing must be properly sequenced (e.g., similarly to what a call to invokeLater would do).

High performance graphics at JavaPolis

With an early, strategic choice for Java technology and 8 years of experience, Luciad has demonstrated that high performance graphical applications can indeed be developed in Java. The maturity of Java and the built up experience allow Luciad to move to more and more high-end, mission critical visualization applications.

Speaker’s Bio
Frank Suykens - a PhD in computer graphics from the University of Leuven – is Product Manager at Luciad. Leading a team of expert Java software engineers he is responsible for all product development, including API design, performance and technology, combining the power and ease of Java development with high performance graphics.

About JavaPolis
Dec. 10th till 14th, the center of the Java universe will be at MetroPolis in Antwerp (Belgium), as Java developers from around Europe come together for the annual BeJUG Conference, JavaPolis. For software developers, web developers, architects, system administrators and IT managers who innovate using Java technology, JavaPolis is your ultimate source for technical insight, information, networking and inspiration. With 3.200 attendees, you'll have a chance to meet other Java professionals in an informal environment where new ideas and connections are created every minute of the day. Visit for more info.

About Luciad
Luciad provides open software solutions for distribution and visualizing of geographical information in networked environments. Luciad’s core product is LuciadMap, a Java toolbox of platform-independent software components that system integrators and original equipment manufactures can easily integrate into their existing systems. LuciadMap can handle large numbers of static and moving data on top of geographical information, including maps, satellite imagery, and terrain elevation in many different formats and references to achieve a high situational awareness.

Luciad also offers an end-user product, based on LuciadMap’s technology: ATCPlayback, a viewing capability to play back, review, and analyze simulated or recorded air traffic data. It is a powerful, user-friendly suite that graphically replays and intuitively analyses ATC simulation results by enabling users to interactively refine the analysis process and graphically visualize the results.

For more information, please consult

Press contact:
Jan Schoovaerts
Marketing Manager
Luciad NV
Gaston Geenslaan 9
3001 Leuven
Phone: +32 16 23 95 91
Fax: +32 16 29 34 22
Email Contact


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