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Raindrop Geomagic Awarded NSF Grant for Further Development of 3D imaging

(August 06, 2001)
Raindrop Geomagic has been awarded an additional $350,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue its research into 3D photography technology that helps companies mass-manufacture highly customized products.

The grant focuses on Raindrop Geomagic technology that automatically creates NURBS (non-uniform rational b-spline) patches from triangulated surfaces. This process is the basis for 3D photography, which allows designers and engineers to scan a physical part and automatically generate an accurate 3D digital model for customized manufacturing or computer graphics applications such as marketing over the Internet.

Raindrop Geomagic has already made considerable progress in 3D photography. The company's flagship product, Geomagic Studio, is the only software that automates the complete process of transforming a physical object into a 3D digital model. It is used by more than 300 customers around the world for industrial design, mass manufacturing of customized medical devices, and 3D Internet applications.

The NSF grant will bring Raindrop Geomagic closer to its ultimate goal: to make 3D photography almost as fast and simple as 2D digital photography. The key is Raindrop Geomagic's ability to handle data represented as points, polygons and NURBS, something no other company can do.

"Our technology is like having a camera that handles both film and digital pictures," says Ping Fu, Raindrop Geomagic's president and CEO. "A user could indicate that he or she wants film or a digital image, and the camera would take care of it. In 3D photography, a user can indicate NURBS for manufacturing or polygons for 3D graphics applications and the software takes care of the rest."

Fu sees 3D photography enabling manufacturers to cost-effectively transform mass production into mass customization. Since Geomagic products are compatible with common CAD/CAM standards, manufacturers can take advantage of their existing CAD/CAM technology, adding 3D photography processes to provide more flexibility and productivity.

"Manufacturers will be able to use mass customization to cater to individualized needs and differentiate themselves from the competition," says Fu. "It will be like the days of hand-crafted goods, except on a huge scale."

The ability to create one model for both computer graphics applications and manufacturing creates some intriguing possibilities. Currently, the 3D computer graphics models used in games and movies cannot be converted easily for manufacturing.

"If game developers used Geomagic technology to create a character, they could use the same model to manufacture a toy version," says Fu. "Anytime you have a customized product, it's important to market the design before you build it. 3D photography allows you to automatically translate the marketing model into a model ready for manufacturing."

This is the second NSF grant Raindrop Geomagic has received for 3D photography technology. The two grants total nearly $750,000. The primary objective of the NSF grant is to increase incentives for small companies to undertake cutting-edge engineering or science research that could have a high economic payoff if the research is successful.

"We thank the National Science Foundation for its continuing support of advanced scientific and engineering research," says Fu. "This program has been tremendously helpful in our efforts to create a fully automated solution for manufacturers. The commercial implication of this technology will be huge in years to come. The challenge is to continue to innovate and improve the quality of the technology."

Since 1996, Raindrop Geomagic has provided the best tools for creating polygon models and NURBS surfaces from scanned point clouds. Manufacturers worldwide - including Toyota, Harley-Davidson, Align and many others - turn to Raindrop Geomagic as their technology partner for mass customization and quality assurance.

Raindrop's flagship product, Geomagic Studio, delivers the power of 3D photography, allowing users to automatically turn physical objects into digital assets for mass customization. Major applications include design, reverse engineering, rapid manufacturing and web-based marketing of medical devices and other customized products.

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