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AI Interview with Ping Fu, president and CEO of Geomagic Inc

When VITEC wanted to design and manufacture fuel tanks in a more cost-efficient and timely manner, it opted for Geomagic Inc’s (Geomagic) digital shape sampling and processing or DSSP solution called Geomagic Studio. DSSP takes advantage of 3D scanning hardware and digital reconstruction software to transform physical objects into highly accurate 3D models. The models are used for design, engineering, analysis and inspection.

VITEC used Geomagic Studio to capture the geometry of its existing tanks and remodel them for its blow molding process. Geomagic Qualify computer-aided inspection software was used to inspect the finished tank against the optimal design. VITEC produces plastic fuel storage and delivery systems for automotive manufacturers, including General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and Harley-Davidson. Like most suppliers, VITEC uses volume and grade-line studies to assess manufacturability and functional performance of its designs before production.

In the VITEC process, a 3D comparison analysis was performed in Geomagic Studio to compute the negative and positive tank wall deformations that occur during the blow molding process. The studies required variable thickness information that is not available without the manufactured part. In the past, VITEC conducted simulations based on an average thickness value assigned throughout the tank shell. But such estimates leave room for errors that can add to production time and lead to retooling costs.

“Customers don’t have to wait anymore for physical tests to evaluate whether a fuel tank will perform in a vehicle environment. That is the main reason why these computer simulation technologies are used by VITEC. We can anticipate issues relating to manufacturing, structure or refueling prior to actual production. Cost savings are achieved and customers benefit,” said Dr. Karim Amellal, product development manager at VITEC.

The North Carolina-based Geomagic is a global software and services company with subsidiaries in Europe and Asia and distributors worldwide. Its software and services are used by more than 5000 professionals in industries such as automotive, aerospace, medical devices and consumer products. Geomagic is a leader in DSSP with revenues growing more than 35 percent annually.

The growth is the result of many industries finding huge benefits in using DSSP. For example, the automotive industry is increasingly applying DSSP solutions for a wide range of activities. A major vehicle manufacturer is using it at the end of the production line to analyze instances of faults in the positioning and alignment of

body panels and components in finished vehicles that result in unacceptable perceived quality. The offending area of the car is scanned and the data is read into Geomagic Qualify software. The 3D scan data is then compared with the original 3D CAD model to identify where the problem lies. This enables a solution to be agreed upon in hours rather than the days it used to take – and with more confidence in the results than before.

Then there is a vehicle research, design and testing organization that uses Geomagic Studio digital reconstruction software to create 3D digital models of existing vehicles, components and assemblies where no CAD data exists for them. Polygon models are created from the scan data by Geomagic Studio for use in vehicle and passenger safety tests, without having to carry out physical tests. The 3D models created in Geomagic Studio are then exported to CATIA CAD/CAM software to design

specialist vehicles based on standard passenger vehicles.

The automotive industry, traditionally a large-scale user of CAD/CAM software, is now teaming CAD/CAM with DSSP. Whereas CAD/CAM is based on prescriptive

modeling methods that require pre-defined geometry, DSSP offers descriptive modeling methods. DSSP software extracts geometry and topology from measurement data and describes them to users for archiving and reuse for multiple purposes.

DSSP starts in the real world with a goal to produce high-quality digital models in the virtual world that can be used by CAD/CAM/CAE applications. So DSSP is a complement to CAD/CAM rather than a competitor to it. It closes the loop between the physical and virtual worlds, enabling people to modify and incorporate existing products into new designs and to inspect the as-built against the as-designed.

Geomagic says that the combination of greater price/performance for desktop computers and innovation in geometry processing algorithms has moved DSSP forward at a

breathtaking pace. Point-cloud data that would choke a high-end computing system a few years ago is now easily digested by modern PCs.

“Gaps and noise in scanning data that used to take days to resolve are now corrected automatically in the best DSSP software. Conversion to polygons and NURBS surfaces, once requiring days of tedious work, can now be handled in minutes using a natural, intuitive workflow. Interaction between parametric CAD software and programs such as Geomagic Studio and Qualify is fast and intuitive,” says the company.


AI: DSSP and CAD/CAM complement each other – so are both markets growing equally? If not, why is DSSP scorching the market and are the days of CAD/CAM going to come to an end?

The growth of DSSP and CAD/CAM are closely linked. Although CAD/CAM is a mature industry, it is still enjoying healthy growth. Jon Peddie Research recently reported that the CAD software market increased by 20 percent in 2007 compared to 2006. Although a slow economy might impact growth, the CAD industry is still expected to have an average annual growth rate of 11 percent through 2012.

DSSP is at the tipping point of accelerated growth. The principal market drivers are aesthetic design, mass customization, and speed to market. Other factors include 64-bit computing and high-performance GPUs, price reductions for 3D scanners, and the introduction of Geomagic Fashion, which creates intelligent DSSP models that are device-independent and can be edited easily in CAD.

Mainstream CAD users have become more aware of DSSP and they are starting to discover the dramatic productivity gains it delivers. CAD companies are realizing that DSSP can drive market expansion in two ways: by opening markets beyond mechanical design and as a vehicle for selling new software to existing CAD users. A recent report by the Aberdeen Group shows that best-in-class companies are 2.7 times more likely to deploy DSSP in product lifecycle management. By using DSSP to blend both virtual and physical processes, companies can design aesthetically pleasing products people want to buy, reduce time to market and production costs, and ensure quality throughout the product lifecycle.

AI: Using the automotive sector as an example, how has DSSP impacted industry?

DSSP has become a major tool in helping automotive companies and their suppliers speed product design and improve quality. One major automaker has used DSSP to reduce digital design time by as much as 80 percent for complex objects such as engine and transmission housings. The resulting models, generated from as-built parts, are used for faster, more accurate FEA and CFD analysis. The new process reduces the risk of performing analysis on a CAD model that frequently differs from the actual production part. With the Fashion module in Geomagic Studio 10, if the physical part differs from the CAD model, the CAD model can be quickly updated to capture the changes introduced by fabrication.

An Italian luxury car manufacturer whose brand is defined by quality says that DSSP has “opened a whole new world.” Inspection is faster, enabling suppliers to deliver parts in less time. Design engineers have better information about the quality of specific parts, saving the company money, improving processes, and producing a better end product for consumers.

DSSP is unique in that it adds value for auto makers throughout the product development lifecycle. At the front end, it is used for conceptual design. In the middle, it computes accurate models on the fly in the proper format and level of detail for CAD/CAM/CAE. At the back end, it is used to ensure that what’s being manufactured conforms to design specifications.

James Hilton of Automotive Industries caught up with Ms Ping Fu, president and CEO of Geomagic Inc.

AI: What are some of the technological advancements Geomagic is working on for its DSSP solutions?

DSSP products from Geomagic contain several technology innovations:

Advances in computer vision. This enables any 3D shape to be captured in a process that resembles digital photography. The multiple views are aligned and stitched together, holes are filled, and noise is removed automatically to deliver a clean 3D model to the user.

Massive data handling. Because 3D scanners create massive amounts of data, the behind-the-scenes large data handling in DSSP software is critical for the interactive performance that users expect.

Geometry and topology processing. One of the most exciting developments is the recent introduction of Geomagic Fashion. This new software automatically extracts design intent from scanned physical objects, quickly recreates original surface aesthetics, and decomposes the surface into CAD-like structures. For years, CAD users have complained about “dumb surfaces” – what they mean is the surfaces imported into CAD cannot be easily edited and do not interface to other CAD parts. Geomagic Fashion creates intelligent surfaces, much like forms in Adobe software. The primitive geometry entities are described in parametric design and solid constructive geometry for easy editing using parameters, and the freeform surfaces are expressed in NURBS.

For industrial designers, Geomagic Fashion represents the most intelligent tool available for aesthetic design in a variety of forms that are CAD-compatible for functional design. Think of thousands of models of Nike shoes based on iconic designs, recreating a design element from a timeless Rolls Royce car, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a choice of hundreds of customized gas tank designs, or scissors fit exactly to your hand. All the product designs we love can now be seamlessly integrated with mechanical engineering software. Design and engineering is no longer separated by the difficulties of incompatibility experienced in the past.

AI: What are some of the challenges you face when creating new products for industry – does each industry have different requirements and if so, how do your products meet all expectations?

This is a classic problem facing any company with innovative new products. We are fortunate in being able to stand on the shoulders of giants: the CAD/CAM companies that have paved the road. There are 3 million trained CAD/CAM users who recognize the value of practical solutions. They want it to be as simple as possible to design, engineer and inspect great products. The foundation for all Geomagic products is making it simple to bridge the physical and digital worlds. Being able to capture and recreate any 3D shape in digital form simply, quickly, accurately and elegantly is what differentiates our products, and what makes our solutions valuable to a wide range of vertical industries. In certain industries we provide special modules that meet specific needs, such as Geomagic Blade for turbine blade inspection, and in others such as dental we provide the turnkey solution for large dental companies that brand and sell their own products.

We know we cannot meet the needs of everybody in every industry. We depend on an ecosystem of hardware companies, CAD/CAM and digital content creation software vendors, and service companies to deliver complete solutions. We strive to be both an innovator and the best company to do business with. It takes many companies, partners and competitors to work together and compete for DSSP to continue evolving.

AI: What is the future of DSSP in your opinion – how will it evolve, grow and change?

DSSP is no less than a revolution. Growth will continue to accelerate because DSSP combines the efficiency, quality and automation that manufacturers want combined with the customization and aesthetics that customers increasingly require. Companies adopting DSSP technology are shifting the business paradigm from manufacturing-centric production to consumer-centric customization.

DSSP offers an effective new way of processing limitless shapes for everything that exists. It enables designers, engineers and manufacturers to spend less time modeling and more time on design and engineering of form, fit and function. In that way, DSSP is to digital manufacturing what Adobe is to publishing. DSSP will continue to evolve, grow and change because it applies to everything we use and produce.

By making it faster and simpler to sample and process shape information, DSSP will increasingly enable manufacturers to deliver exactly what consumers want at a competitive price. Just as mass production was the hallmark of the Industrial Age in the 20th century, mass customization promises to dominate the Knowledge Age in the 21st century.

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Mon. July 15th, 2024

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