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Geomagic Seeks the Digitization of Everything

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Full article is available for a fee

Laura Lathan, December 10, 2007

Dr. 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 mass customization.

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 interested.

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.

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The full article is available for a fee at CADCAMNet