In the design and manufacturing of shell structures it is frequently necessary to construct trimming curves on surfaces. The novel method introduced in this paper was formulated to be coordinate independent and computationally efficient for a very general class of surfaces. Generality of the formulation is attained by solving a tensorial differential equation that is formulated in terms of local differential properties of the surface.

In the method proposed here, a space curve is mapped onto the surface by tracing a surface curve whose points are connected to the space curve via surface normals. This surface curve is called to be an orthogonal projection of the space curve onto the surface. Tracing of the orthogonal projection is achieved by solving the aforementionned tensorial differential equation. For an implicitely represented surface, the differential equation is solved in three-space. For a parametric surface the tensorial differential equation is solved in the parametric space associated with the surface representation. This method has been tested on a broad class of examples including polynomials, splines, transcendental parametric and implicit surface representations.

Orthogonal projection of a curve onto a surface was also developed in the context of surface blending. The orthogonal projection of a curve onto two surfaces to be blended provides not only a trimming curve design tool, but it was also used to construct smooth natural maps between trimming curves on different surfaces. This provides a coordinate and representation independent tool for constructing blend surfaces.

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