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I am designing a network for a max flow and would appreciate the following feature:

Say there is a flow incoming to a vertex. I would like to consume some specified amount of that flow and let through the rest. Unlike vertex capacity, which says "let though at most N units of flow", I need to "let through everything but N units of flow".

An example:

  • Vertex of relative capacity 10
  • Incoming flow = 15. Outgoing flow will be 15 - 10 = 5.
  • Incoming flow = 10. Outgoing flow will be 10 - 10 = 0.
  • Incoming flow = 5. Outgoing flow will be 5 - 10, which is less than 0, so 0.

Does such a feature exist? And if yes, which edges/vertices/edge capacities do I need to add/remove/modify and how?

Thanks a lot!

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  • $\begingroup$ The Linear Programming approach should be easy to modify to allow for this feature. $\endgroup$ – usul Nov 6 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ could you please elaborate a bit more? $\endgroup$ – karlosss Nov 6 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ The LP has a bunch of flow constraints of the form "total flow into v = total flow out of v". So I think you can just modify these constraints and leave everything else as is. $\endgroup$ – usul Nov 7 at 4:26
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For edge "consumptions" I believe the following approach should work: [I misread your question at first, but am leaving this part for the benefit of future people reading this]

Suppose you have some edge $u\rightarrow v$ with "consumption" $c$. Then you can model this by inserting a vertex $w$ in the middle to get $u\rightarrow w \rightarrow v$ and then add an edge $w\rightarrow t$ with capacity $c$, where $t$ is your sink. Then you have to ensure that your max-flow algorithm prioritizes pushing flow through $w\rightarrow t$ over $w\rightarrow v$. Thus this flow will be "consumed" as much as possible before going through the edge. I see two ways in which this can be done:

  • If your algorithm works by finding an augmenting path, make sure that this augmenting path goes through $w\rightarrow t$ rather than $w\rightarrow v$ if possible (i.e. if $w\rightarrow t$ is not saturated). Also make sure that this holds for the "reverse edges" (i.e prioritize taking flow away from $w\rightarrow v$ rather than $w\rightarrow t$). This should not be difficult to do, but depends on the exact implementation, and on your access to it.

  • Or you can use a max-flow min-cost algorithm and give a positive cost (say 1) to every edge except those of the $w\rightarrow t$ type (who receive a cost of 0).

Then to get the answer to your original problem just ignore all the $w\rightarrow t$ edges.

Now, for vertex $v$ with "consumptions" $c$ you can simply add an edge $v\rightarrow t$ with capacity $c$ and modify your algorithm in the same way.

If you don't care about the exact value of the flow through each edge but only the total max-flow, then you don't even need to change anything to the algorithm and can just use the returned value for the new graph as is.

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  • $\begingroup$ I need a vertex to consume the flow, not an edge. Maybe it is too late in the night now, but I just cannot see how to use your approach here. $\endgroup$ – karlosss Nov 6 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ My bad, I misread that. To do that with vertices just use the same approach as for vertex capacities : replace every vertex $v$ by $v-\rightarrow w \rightarrow v+$ where all in-coming edges to $v$ get connected to $v-$ instead and all out-going edges from $v$ get connected to $v+$ instead. And $w$ works as in my answer. I'll edit my answer accordingly if that solves your problem. $\endgroup$ – Tassle Nov 6 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ Yup, seems like. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – karlosss Nov 6 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ Cool, you're welcome :) $\endgroup$ – Tassle Nov 6 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ @kalosss Actually I think you can simply add an edge $v\rightarrow t$ with capacity $c$ instead of splitting $v$ in two parts. Edited the answer accordingly. $\endgroup$ – Tassle Nov 6 at 23:08

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