Implementation details

This page describes the internal behavior of PyMzn. It is useful to understand how problems are solved, serialization is ensured, and models are parsed.

Model flattening

The model flattening is carried out by the pymzn.mzn2fzn function (in pymzn/mzn/ which in turn executes the MiniZinc mzn2fzn utility to compile a MiniZinc model into a FlatZinc one. The model flattening takes place exclusively through files. While there is the possibility of executing the mzn2fzn writing the input model on the standard input, it is rather inconvenient since it excludes the possibility of providing inline data and dzn files.

Solver classes

To interface PyMzn to a solver, it needs a wrapper class that implements a solve function, which takes the solver’s arguments as input, executes the solver with the provided arguments and the given MiniZinc/FlatZinc model and returns the solution stream as output. An example of that is the pymzn.Gecode class, which wraps the Gecode solver and implementes the solve function by calling the mzn-gecode or fzn-gecode commands of Gecode. To the time of writing, PyMzn supports Gecode, Opturion, OptiMathSat and Gurobi, while the definition of additional solver classes is left to the user or to future development.

Solution output stream

The solution output stream provided by the solver solve implementation can then be passed to the pymzn.solns2out function, which wraps the MiniZinc solns2out utility. The pymzn.solns2out function takes as input the solution stream and the ozn file returned by the pymzn.mzn2fzn function and outputs a stream of solutions encoded in the format specified in the ozn file, i.e. the format from the output statement in the model.

Solution parsing

When using the pymzn.minizinc function, the solutions are automatically parsed into Python objects (if using output_mode='dict'). This is carried out by dropping the output statement of the original model and parsing either the json or the dzn output of the solver. The original model file is isolated from the new model file, as specified in the next section.

Thread safety

Some of the goals of PyMzn are to provide inline problem specification, solution parsing, isolation of the solving instances and dynamic modelling. These problems arise when one has a sequence of instances of a problem to solve, possibly in parallel. To automatically ensure isolation of the original problem from the solving instance, the pymzn.minizinc function always compiles a new model file in a temporary file that is deleated right after the problem has been successfully solved. If the paramenter keep is True, then the temporary file is written into the folder containing the .mzn file or the working directory if a model string is provided. In case of error, the script that caused it is not deleated, even if keep=False. Writing the models to temporary files ensures isolation of the solving instances and thus thread safety.