Surface reconstruction from unorganized points (PhD Thesis)

Surface reconstruction from unorganized points (PhD Thesis)
Hugues Hoppe.
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington, June 1994.
Robust surface topology and optimized geometry from scanned 3D points.
Abstract: This thesis describes a general method for automatic reconstruction of accurate, concise, piecewise smooth surfaces from unorganized 3D points. Instances of surface reconstruction arise in numerous scientific and engineering applications, including reverse-engineering — the automatic generation of CAD models from physical objects.
Previous surface reconstruction methods have typically required additional knowledge, such as structure in the data, known surface genus, or orientation information. In contrast, the method outlined in this thesis requires only the 3D coordinates of the data points. From the data, the method is able to automatically infer the topological type of the surface, its geometry, and the presence and location of features such as boundaries, creases, and corners.
The reconstruction method has three major phases: 1) initial surface estimation, 2) mesh optimization, and 3) piecewise smooth surface optimization. A key ingredient in phase 3, and another principal contribution of this thesis, is the introduction of a new class of piecewise smooth representations based on subdivision. The effectiveness of the three-phase reconstruction method is demonstrated on a number of examples using both simulated and real data.
Phases 2 and 3 of the surface reconstruction method can also be used to approximate existing surface models. By casting surface approximation as a global optimization problem with an energy function that directly measures deviation of the approximation from the original surface, models are obtained that exhibit excellent accuracy to conciseness trade-offs. Examples of piecewise linear and piecewise smooth approximations are generated for various surfaces, including meshes, NURBS surfaces, CSG models, and implicit surfaces.

Really, there was more work here than the stapling of three papers :-)    This surface reconstruction problem has continued to be an active area; see the recent papers by Nina Amenta and the commercial product by Geomagic. This reconstructed mannequin head is my small contribution to the pool of geometric models commonly used in graphics.

See also my 2006 work Poisson surface reconstruction, which assumes oriented points but achieves greater robustness using a global (yet efficient) solution.