Geomagic Studio 9 (First Look Review)

13 May, 2007 By: IDSA ,Mike Hudspeth

Polygon reducer balances detail and file size to simplify 3D model repurposing.

Geomagic Studio 9
Reverse-Engineering Software
Pros: Incredible capability; turns real parts into fully detailed virtual models.
Cons: Costs as much as a high-end 3D modeling package.
Price: $10,000-$20,000


Reverse engineering suffers from a bad reputation. It doesn't always mean you're trying to steal someone else's designs (alien crash site stories aside). It has very legitimate purposes. Say, for example, you have a product that has no 3D computer model. If you want to make a change or design a mating part for it, you have little other choice than using reverse engineering. You have to sit for hours with calipers or a CMM (coordinate-measuring machine) measuring and hoping you got it right, or you can perform a 3D scan. Let's assume you scan your part. What next? Fire up Geomagic Studio 9!

Geomagic Studio 9 uses DSSP (digital shape sampling and processing) to acquire the point cloud that results from a 3D scan and convert it to usable NURBS (nonuniforn rational B-spline) surfaces. Geomagic says Studio 9 doesn't replace but rather complements whatever 3D CAD system you already have. It's used in many disciplines for a wide range of jobs. Automotive companies can input clay models. The dental industry uses it to design custom implants, scanning the old tooth and making an exact copy so the patient will never feel the difference.

Getting Started
Geomagic Studio 9 starts with a point cloud. You will polygonize the model, which means converting all the points to tiny triangular faces. It's like what you see in an STL file or a gaming object. If the model has holes, you can easily fill them by selecting the edges and letting Geomagic Studio 9 build the patch for you.

After you scan your part, import the point cloud into Geomagic Studio 9. You can make a whole range of repairs to model in the program.

One of the first things you'll notice is the bumpy texture of the surface. Don't want it that rough? Not to worry! Geomagic Studio 9 has tools to help you reduce the noise of the model. There's a tool called Sandpaper that is very much like a paintbrush in that it lets you paint out texture in areas you want smooth. If there is a bigger element that you don't want, say raised text, you can use the De-Feature command to select the entire area and smooth it like it was never there.

After you have repaired your model or made whatever changes, use the Geomagic Shape function to construct the NURBS surface. Geomagic Studio 9 will examine the model and highlight the surface divisions it finds.

Geomagic Studio 9 will color your model to indicate the surface transitions it finds based on curvature. Then you can tell it where you would rather see them.

You then tell the system which surfaces you want to appear on the same face. The result is a surface quilt. A one-touch surfacing command works pretty well, but if you use it you will have to accept what you get. (I personally prefer more control, so I would rather do my own surfacing.) When you're ready to align all the edge curves, Geomagic Studio 9 will assign edges to the regions and slap four-sided surfaces over them. You can make whatever changes you need to get your desired results.

The next step is to attach grids to the four-sided patches. These grids are the U and V grids everyone knows. Each patch becomes a surface with edges that match what's around them and a UV grid is applied to them. Then you save it to the file format of your choice. Geomagic Studio 9 will write most major 3D modeling file formats (STEP, IGES etc.). The last step is to import it into your modeling program of choice.

The end result will be a mathematically watertight model of NURBS surfaces that you can bring into just about any 3D modeling system as a solid. It can even maintain the surface finish of a cast part!

For visualization purposes, you can project images onto the models so that you can quickly create the look of a part that has a great paint job, or create important labeling without having to use all kinds of different software. You can do it right there in Geomagic Studio 9.

These capabilities -- and I've just scratched the surface -- don't come cheap. Geomagic Studio 9 costs $19,950 ($15,000 without align ability). If you have trouble figuring out how to do something, Geomagic's online videos cover just about everything you might want to learn.

Rebuilding a Better Mousetrap
Geomagic Studio 9 is an amazing tool for work that is vital to just about every company. It enables designers to produce models that would be hard -- if not impossible -- to build using a traditional 3D CAD system. For more information about Geomagic Studio 9 or its companion program Geomagic Qualify, visit the Geomagic Web site.

About the Author: IDSA

About the Author: Mike Hudspeth

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