[1] N. Olischläger. Processing Elastic Surfaces and Related Gradient Flows. Dissertation, University Bonn, 2010.
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Surface processing tools and techniques have a long history in the fields of computer graphics, computer aided geometric design and engineering. In this thesis we consider variational methods and geometric evolution problems for various surface processing applications including surface fairing, surface restoration and surface matching. Geometric evolution problems are often based on the gradient flow of geometric energies. The Willmore functional, defined as the integral of the squared mean curvature over the surface, is a geometric energy that measures the deviation of a surface from a sphere. Therefore, it is a suitable functional for surface restoration, where a destroyed surface patch is replaced by a smooth patch defined as the minimizer of the Willmore functional with boundary conditions for the position and the normal at the patch boundary. However, using the Willmore functional does not lead to satisfying results if an edge or a corner of the surface is destroyed. The anisotropic Willmore energy is a natural generalization of the Willmore energy which has crystal-shaped surfaces like cubes or octahedra as minimizers. The corresponding L2-gradient flow, the anisotropic Willmore flow, leads to a fourth-order partial differential equation that can be written as a system of two coupled second second order equations. Using linear Finite Elements, we develop a semi-implicit scheme for the anisotropic Willmore flow with boundary conditions. This approach suffer from significant restrictions on the time step size. Effectively, one usually has to enforce time steps smaller than the squared spatial grid size. Based on a natural approach for the time discretization of gradient flows we present a new scheme for the time and space discretization of the isotropic and anisotropic Willmore flow. The approach is variational and takes into account an approximation of the L2-distance between the surface at the current time step and the unknown surface at the new time step as well as a fully implicity approximation of the anisotropic Willmore functional at the new time step. To evaluate the anisotropic Willmore energy on the unknown surface of the next time step, we first ask for the solution of an inner, secondary variational problem describing a time step of anisotropic mean curvature motion. The time discrete velocity deduced from the solution of the latter problem is regarded as an approximation of the anisotropic mean curvature vector and enters the approximation of the actual anisotropic Willmore functional. The resulting two step time discretization of the Willmore flow is applied to polygonal curves and triangular surfaces and is independent of the co-dimension. Various numerical examples underline the stability of the new scheme, which enables time steps of the order of the spatial grid size. The Willmore functional of a surface is referred to as the elastic surface energy. Another interesting application of modeling elastic surfaces as minimizers of elastic energies is surface matching, where a correspondence between two surfaces is subject of investigation. There, we seek a mapping between two surfaces respecting certain properties of the surfaces. The approach is variational and based on well-established matching methods from image processing in the parameter domains of the surfaces instead of finding a correspondence between the two surfaces directly in 3D. Besides the appropriate modeling we analyze the derived model theoretically. The resulting deformations are globally smooth, one-to-one mappings. A physically proper morphing of characters in computer graphic is capable with the resulting computational approach.