Software Review: Digital-Reconstruction Software Simplifies Scanning to CAD

Oct. 23, 2008
Our company, Advanced Design Concepts, has used Geomagic Studio software for nearly 10 years to digitally reconstruct complex parts for companies such as Harley-Davidson, Briggs & Stratton, Fiskars, and American Blimp.

The latest version, Geomagic Studio 10, delivers a big breakthrough with the new Fashion module because it provides a completely intuitive bridge between scanning and CAD. There are also many other notable changes.

Geomagic Studio 10 comes from Geomagic, Box 12213, Research Triangle Park, NC 27708,

Edited by Leslie Gordon
[email protected]

First, the interface looks great, and it’s not just skin-deep beauty. Icons, sliders, and menus are cleaner and more compact, making it easy to access the workflow and focus on getting the job done. A streamlined framework puts tools readily at hand to create, review, modify, and use features during every stage of your work. New extension-editing capabilities let users make global adjustments such as resizing, repositioning, and smoothing extension lines. And configurable display themes let users customize Studio for specific applications.

Many companies are moving to 64-bit CAD systems, so Studio 10 now provides 64-bit support to process the increasingly large datasets generated by the latest scanners.

And multisensor metrology support lets designers use touch probes in combination with 3D laser scanners. So in the single, well-designed interface, users can quickly capture 3D scans of objects and then use a hard probe to create features such as cylinders, cones, and spheres, as well as measure areas that are out of the sightlines of a laser scanner.

V10 has taken what we consider a benchmark software for reverse engineering and made it better. That alone would have been a suitable upgrade for a new version. But other enhancements take things above and beyond “better.” For example, users now have the flexibility to create models in two different ways: Use the Shape module to reconstruct exact digital models of physical parts, or use the Fashion module to automate the creation of original surface aesthetics often lost in manufactured or scanned objects.

In fact, the Fashion module adds a real “wow” factor to V10, giving users the capability for the first time to automatically produce so-called “intelligent” surfaces from scan data. Intelligent surfaces are configured such that they can be immediately manipulated in popular CAD programs.

Fashion quickly identifies planes, radiuses, and free-form shapes from scan data. The analytic surfaces and profile curves are ready to manipulate in CAD, reducing the amount of time required to create a parametric CAD model. This is a major step ahead for industrial designers such as automotive stylists who want to capture the design intent of a clay model.

Creating CAD-ready models in Geomagic Fashion takes six simple steps:

Just like with Geomagic Shape, the first step is to use the Geomagic Wrap module to clean up the scan data and create a polygonal model. Next comes detecting contours. The software defines the surface regions of the model and presents them as unique colors separated by red boundaries. With Fashion’s editing tools, users can paint over boundaries to further refine segmentation. After editing, the software extracts the contour curves. The third step is fine-tuning the contours to ensure optimal curves. Contours that are not extracted automatically can be added manually by drawing directly on the mesh displayed on the screen.

Once contours are fine-tuned, users must create an extended contour structure that lays the foundation for a trimmed model. Here, Geomagic Fashion provides a helpful adaptive method: The extended contour structure adapts to the width of the highcurvature regions to yield high-quality connecting surfaces. Next is editing the extended contours. This ensures that connecting surfaces flow smoothly into primary surfaces for optimal quality.

Last comes classifying regions and creating CAD-ready surfaces. Primary surface regions are first classified as one of several different surface types:

planes, cylinders, cones, spheres, free-form surfaces, extrusions, drafted extrusions, and rotations. Each surface is displayed in a different color for easy identification. Once surfaces are classified, users apply the primary surfaces using controlling parameters such as fitting tolerance, outlier percentages, dimensions, and 2D profiles.

The six-step procedure creates surface models that provide smaller IGES/STEP files, speed CNC code generation, and improve machining.

A veteran CAD user might ask two questions: “What does Fashion do that CAD can’t?” And, “Why doesn’t Fashion provide tools to create a full parametric model?”

The answer to the first question is that Fashion provides automatic surface classification and extraction not possible in CAD. To go from scanning to an accurate digital model in CAD is a tedious and time-consuming process at best. At worst, it’s just not possible with certain complex, organically shaped parts. Fashion provides a fast and simple path from scanning to CAD-ready models.

To answer the second question, it seems redundant to create a parametric model in Fashion when users already have proven tools to do this in CAD. Why recreate the wheel? Geomagic Fashion and CAD software are complementary tools. Fashion is the best tool for getting from scanning to CAD-ready models as easily and efficiently as possible. CAD is best at taking Geomagic models and turning them into parametric models. Think of design as a winning relay team, with Fashion passing the baton smoothly to CAD for the final leg.

— Greg Groth

Greg Groth is a senior designer with Advanced Design Concepts, Pewaukee, Wis.,


The image shows how the Fashion module in Geomagic Studio 10 extracts design intent from a scanned physical object and displays its surfaces by color according to basic shapes such as plane, cylinder, and free-form.


Texture mapping shows the high quality of surfaces generated using Geomagic Fashion.

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