Building a Component Plugin from a Python Module

For this example we’ll build a plugin for the component shown in the figure Conceptual View of a Simple Component (from the User’s Guide). This component simply computes the value of its single output by adding its two inputs.

Our first step is to create our class. We want to inherit from openmdao.main.api.Component, because that provides us with the interface we need to function properly as an OpenMDAO component.

The code defines the class SimpleAdder, which inherits from the Component class defined in openmdao.main.api, so we have to import it from there. The function in our component that performs a computation is called execute(), and there we define c as the sum of a and b. The self object that is passed as an argument to execute() represents an instance of our SimpleAdder class.

SimpleAdder has three Public Variables of type Float with the names a, b, and c. All three attributes have a default value of 0.0. Attributes a and b are inputs, so we specify that they have an iotype of ‘in’. Attribute c is an output, so it has an iotype of ‘out’.

The Float variable is defined in the package openmdao.lib.api, so we have to import it from there before we can use it. This package defines a wide variety of traits, including basic types like Int, Str, and Bool; containers like List and Dictionary; and many others. Public Variables are actually based off of Enthought’s Traits, and a larger selection of less commonly used traits are available by importing from the package enthought.traits.api. To learn more about traits, you may want to look at the Traits User Manual and the list of available traits.

At this point, our SimpleAdder plugin is usable within OpenMDAO. We could simply import the module containing it and use it in a model; but we want more than that. By packaging our plugin in a Python egg, we can make it more usable by others in the OpenMDAO community. We can give our egg a version identifier and other metadata that will help you determine if our egg will meet your needs. We can also upload our egg to a package index so that it can be installed via easy_install or zc.buildout.

Egg Creation

Creating an egg out of a Python module is straightforward, but it does require the creation of a simple directory structure, because eggs are intended to contain Python packages, not just individual modules.

For example, if our SimpleAdder class is in a file called, we need a directory structure that looks like this to make it distributable as a package in an egg:

   |-- simple_adder
   |     |
   |     |--
   |     `--

The file is empty and is only there because that is how Python determines that the directory simple_adder is a Python package. The only other file in the directory structure besides is the file, which describes how to build an egg containing our module. In this case, the file looks like this:

from setuptools import setup, find_packages

    install_requires=['openmdao.lib', 'Traits>=3.1.0'],
    'openmdao.component': ['SimpleAdder = simple_adder:SimpleAdder']

The setup() command has many options in addition to those shown above, e.g., author, author_email, maintainer, maintainer_email, url, license, description, long_description, keywords, platforms, fullname, contact, contact_email, classifiers, and download_url. If you supply any of these, their values will be stored as metadata in the egg. To keep things simple, we won’t describe all of the options in detail, but if you’re interested, you can go to and

The following options are required for our egg to function properly within the OpenMDAO framework:

The package must have a name, and generally it should be the name of the module, minus the .py extension, e.g., ‘simple_adder’, or the name of the class within the module, assuming that the module contains only one class.
Packages tend to evolve over time, so providing a version id for a package is extremely important. You must update the version id of your package prior to creating an egg (or any other type of distribution) out of it. The assumption being that once a distribution is created from a particular version of a package, that distribution should never change. People may build things that depend on a particular version of your distribution, so changing that version could break their code. If, however, you update your distribution’s version id, then users of your distribution have the option to either use the updated distribution and make whatever modifications are necessary to their own code to make it work or stick with an older version that already works with their code. The value of version is specified as a string, e.g., ‘1.0.4’.
In the case where you have only one module, there will be only one package, but the egg format allows for the existence of multiple packages. You can specify packages as an explicit list of strings, but the easiest thing to do is to use the find_packages() function from setuptools as shown in the example above.
This specifies the packages that your egg depends upon. Note that you need to include only direct dependencies in this list, i.e., if your package depends on package_A, which in turn depends on package_B, you need to include only package_A. Make sure not to leave out any direct dependencies here, because doing so will result in failure to install needed dependent distributions whenever your egg is installed. The value of install_requires should be a list of strings.

Entry points can be used by OpenMDAO to determine which plugins are available within an egg. Entry points are divided into groups, and each type of OpenMDAO plugin has a particular group. For example, Component plugins are found in the openmdao.component group. Each individual entry point is specified by its name, followed by an equals sign, followed by dotted module path (dotted path you would use to import the module in Python), followed by a colon and the name of the plugin class. The value of entry_points should be a string in INI file format or a dictionary.

For example:

SimpleAdder = simple_adder:SimpleAdder

MyDriver = mydriver:MyDriver


{ 'openmdao.components': ['SimpleAdder = simple_adder:SimpleAdder'],
  'openmdao.drivers': ['MyDriver = mydriver:MyDriver']

With the simple_adder directory structure shown above and the file shown, we can now build our egg. From the simple_adder directory, typing python bdist_egg -d . will create the egg in our current directory. The version of the egg and the Python version will be included in the filename of the egg. For example, since the version we specified in our file was ‘1.0’, and assuming we’re using Python 2.6, our egg will be named simple_adder-1.0-py2.6.egg. If our package had contained compiled code, then our egg name would also include the name of the platform we’re on, but since simple_adder is nothing but pure Python code, that’s not necessary.

Egg Creation for the Lazy

A tool called mod2egg exists for those of us who don’t want to create a package directory structure and a file manually. It has a number of options that you can see if you run mod2egg -h. The only required options are the desired version of the egg and the module to use to generate the egg. For example, the command

mod2egg -v 1.0

will generate the same egg that we built manually earlier in this example.

Building a Variable Plugin from a Python Module

Sometimes it’s necessary to create a new type of variable that can be passed between OpenMDAO components. This section describes how to do this using a pure Python OpenMDAO plugin.

Let’s assume we want to have a variable that represents a set of Cartesian coordinates, with the value of the variable being a 3-tuple of floating point values representing the x, y, and z position. We’ll start by creating a file called and put the following code in it:

from enthought.traits.api import TraitType

class Coordinates(TraitType):

    def __init__(self, default_value = (0.,0.,0.), **metadata):
        super(Coordinates, self).__init__(default_value=default_value,

    def validate(self, object, name, value):
        if isinstance(value, tuple) and len(value) == 3 and \
           all([isinstance(val,float) or isinstance(val,int) for val in value]):
            return value
            self.error(object, name, value)

OpenMDAO uses the Traits package from Enthought to implement component variables. The base class for custom traits is TraitType, so that’s the base class for our coordinates variable. If a component or a component class contains a TraitType object and that object has a metadata attribute called iostatus, then that object is exposed to the framework as a variable whose value can be passed between components. One thing to note that can be a little confusing to people first using Traits is that the Trait object itself is just a validator and possibly a converter. The object that actually gets passed around between components is the value that the trait corresponds to and not the trait itself. For example, if we had a component named wheel that contained one of our Coordinates traits named center_location, then the value of wheel.center_location would be a 3-tuple, not a Coordinates object.

We override the base class constructor so we can supply a default value of (0.,0.,0.) if the caller doesn’t supply one. After that, the only function we need to supply is the validate function, which will be called with the following arguments:

The object that contains the value of our coordinates variable
The name of our coordinates variable
The value that our current value is being replaced with

Our validate function should test that the value we’ve been called with is valid. In this particular case, we just need to verify that the value is a 3-tuple and it has float or int entries. If the value is acceptable, then we just return it. We don’t need to do it in this case, but in other custom traits, we could convert the value before returning it. If the value is not acceptable, then we call the error function, which will generate an exception.

That’s all of the source code required to make our coordinates variable functional. The next step is to turn our module into a package and define an mentry point for our new class. This is very similar to what we did in the section earlier where we made a component plugin, except this time we use a different entry point group name.

from setuptools import setup, find_packages

      'openmdao.variable': ['Coordinates = coord:Coordinates']

We can create this file by hand or generate it using mod2egg as we showed in the earlier section.