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Technical Perspective: Linking Form, Function, and Fabrication

By Helmut Pottmann

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 60 No. 8, Page 91

"Computer graphics are pictures and movies created using computers." This opening sentence from Wikipedia's entry on computer graphics becomes increasingly outdated as graphics is about to close the loop between virtual and physical reality and from digital design to fabrication. Is this a new trend? Not quite, but the magnitude of the current development and the potential impact may be bigger than ever before.

Geometric modeling, a subfield of computer graphics, has been motivated by industrial needs at the advent of computer-aided manufacturing, aiming at increased productivity via a completely digital workflow from design to production. Research in geometric modeling has been highly successful in creating a huge variety of shape modeling functionalities for 3D-design systems. The possibilities for digital shape design are almost unlimited and highly effective for the creation of "pictures and movies." But did the field achieve the goals toward manufacturing? I am not convinced here, since purely geometry-driven shape modeling creates bottlenecks when moving toward engineering and fabrication.


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