Using VTK 7.0 I have found that rendering a 20k triangle STL model takes approximately 17ms on my Nvidia GTX970. However, I am only interested in the silhouette of this model (like the image below) and was wondering if: a) such speeds are reasonable for this model size, and b) since I am not really interested in a full render, is there a much faster way to compute just that silhouette? I considered a ray tracing approach where I just compute whether or not each pixel hits the model, but since I am only interested in speed I do not know if this is a good route to pursue. As a side note, these questions need not be specific to VTK - I am really just conerned with the fastest way to utilize a GPU to compute a silhouette (suggestions algorithms, theory, or libraries are all all welcome!) and what reasonable times I can expect for such model sizes.
OpenGL (scanline rendering) is always going to be way faster than ray tracing.
Ray tracing computes pixels one by one using physics (at least a good 90% of the time it's going to be real physics). Although some of it can now be done with a GPU, it is not really helping as much as one would expect. Calculating speculative lightning is not something you can easily do in parallel (ray 1 will bounce from object A to object B, ray 2 will bounce from object A to object C... you can't parallelize the computations on B and C.) The GPU helps with the matrix math, though.
In comparison, OpenGL is a total fake in comparison. It renders triangles really fast with shades coming from textures and fast gradient computations from your various light sources.