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Laura Lathan, December 10, 2007
Ping Fu has a vision. She wants to digitize everything -- not just
documents or music -- so that it can be re-created, stored and viewed.
Dr. Fu has a passion. She wants the company she co-founded around her
vision to serve its target market with 100% fidelity. As the chairman,
president and CEO of Geomagic, Inc., she has become the human face of
Started in 1997, Geomagic employs approximately 100, half at its
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina headquarters and the others at
offices in seven countries. The company got off to a rocky start. The
first CEO was unfamiliar with running a start-up, there was a sales team
with no sales, and the venture capital quickly dissipated. The private
company doesn’t release sales data, but according to Cathy Hofknecht,
marketing director, it has been profitable since 2003. There is an
industry calculation floating around that based on employment, Geomagic
revenue ranges from $15 million to $20 million annually.
It’s All About the Technology
Digital shape sampling and processing, or DSSP, “describes the
ability to use scanning hardware and processing software to digitally
capture physical objects and automatically create accurate 3D models
with associated structural properties for design, engineering,
inspection and custom manufacturing.” Geomagic considers itself the
pioneer of DSSP, and here’s why: they defined it. Literally. That
definition above is from an article written by Dr. Fu. It’s the one
generally accepted -- and quoted, more or less -- by those who are
The company's two core products are Geomagic Studio, which is used
mainly for design and manufacturing purposes, and Geomagic Qualify,
which is mostly used for inspection. The breakthrough technology within
is found during the vital third step of how a point cloud becomes a
digitized shape. High-speed 3D scanners capture an object’s shape.
Geomagic takes in the resulting point cloud data, where each point is
connected to two neighboring points, then with a single click comes the
creation of smooth surfaces using Non-uniform rational B-splines (NURBS).
This automated surfacing used to be a long-term process, up to two weeks
to digitally process an object such as a turbine part.
Once the software extracts geometry and topology from measurement
data and creates high-quality digital models, those models can be used
by CAD/CAM/CAE applications for downstream functions such as engineering
analysis, simulation and machining.
What About CAD?
There are some concerns in the design world that DSSP in
general -- and perhaps Geomagic specifically -- is an overlapping
technology. Dr. Fu begs to disagree. In her article,
DSSP: The Shape of Things to Come, published in January 2006, she
explains how DSSP complements CAD.
“DSSP bridges the gap between the point domain of measurement and the
shape domain of design. It aligns the physical and digital worlds,
ensuring that the design model is an accurate representation of the
as-built product. This alignment is often missing in CAD/CAM, where
changes required to adapt a design to manufacturing creates differences
between the CAD model and the physical product. DSSP closes the
physical- digital loop.” She goes on to say that DSSP is an essential
part of the digital design and manufacturing life cycle.