Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In Latin, tessella was a small cubical piece of clay, stone or glass used to make mosaics. The word "tessella" means "small square" (from "tessera", square, which in its turn is from the Greek word for "four").
One may also speak of tessellations of parts of the plane or of other surfaces. Generalizations to higher dimensions are also possible.
In the subject of computer graphics, tessellation techniques are often used to manage datasets of polygons and divide them into suitable structures for rendering. Normally, at least for real-time rendering, the data is tessellated into triangles, which sometimes get referred to as triangulation.
Some geodesic domes are designed by tessellating the sphere with triangles that are as close to equilateral triangles as possible.
In computer-aided design, arbitrary 3D shapes are often too complicated to analyze directly. So they are divided (tessellated) into a mesh of small, easy-to-analyze pieces -- usually either irregular tetrahedrons, or irregular hexahedrons. The mesh is used for finite element analysis.
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