I'm looking for a solution that will let me add a 100m buffer around 2 million points and then dissolve/union that output into a single multipart polygon.

On a much smaller scale (100 points) using R I can do this:

bbox <- st_sfc(st_polygon(list(rbind(c(0,0),c(90,0),c(90,90),c(0,90),c(0,0)))), crs = st_crs(27700))
points <- st_sample(bbox,100)
buffer <- st_buffer(points,5)
union <- st_union(buffer)

However, I know this will not scale well.

Are there any solutions using any tool (preferably something that is free) that could run this type of operation on a laptop with 20GB RAM without crashing or taking days to complete?

2 Answers 2


If you really mean a buffer of every single point, I'd make a copy of a boilerplate circle polygon at 0,0 and then update its geometry by translation (there are Arith methods for affine transformation, we only need "+").

This runs in a few minutes. I haven't tried 2e6. Please try with a small sample of your own data first.

 pts <- matrix(rnorm(2e6), ncol = 2)
 buf <-  0.1
 p <- st_buffer(st_point(cbind(0, 0)), buf)
 ## copy the poly
 l <- replicate(nrow(pts), p, simplify = FALSE)
 for (i in seq_len(nrow(pts))) {
  l[[i]] <- l[[i]] + pts[i, ]
 x <- st_union(st_sfc(l))
  • About 300s for 1e6 points, the union I can't vouch for , you might want to chunk and reduce that one. Good luck
    – mdsumner
    May 28, 2020 at 3:49
  • 1
    Thanks. For 1.3 million points with the union it took 35 minutes.
    – Chris
    May 28, 2020 at 21:42

When you are buffering above you get a (circle) polygon buffer for every point, is that what you want?

Is the convex hull sufficient? No problem with 2e6 points.

pts <- matrix(rnorm(4e6), ncol  = 2L)
idx <- chull(pts)  # convex hull
## hull as POLYGON
p <- sf::st_polygon(list(pts[c(idx, idx[1]), ]))
sf::st_buffer(p, 1)

(I would never ever create sf POINT with that many coordinates, it's wildly inefficient to explode simple x/y vectors into lists of pairs and I do everything I can to avoid it).

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