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Science Spotlight: C Tech

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About C Tech

In 1989, Reed D. Copsey, Sr. (a graduate of MIT and Caltech) formed C Tech Development Corporation, a research and development company, which has been focused on the development of C Tech’s Earth Science software, Earth Volumetric Studio. C Tech’s software is recognized around the world for environmental, oceanic, archaeology, mining, and geologic data analysis and visualization. Since 1977, Mr. Copsey has been involved in three-dimensional data analysis and visualization on projects that range from gold mines, Superfund sites, and earthquake-generated subsidence to analytically guided explosives technology for naval countermine weapon systems as well as other fields of explosives technology. One of those projects was the first successful gun-fired aircraft-launched projectile capable of supercavitating underwater flight in over 20 years of Navy research. The bullet, which was capable of high-speed and low-drag, stable flight through the water, was featured in the May 2001 issue of Scientific American magazine in an article titled Warp Speed Underwater.

In 1995, C Tech was separated into two corporations C Tech Defense Corporation, which pursued C Tech’s defense technology, and C Tech Development Corporation, which is exclusively involved in Earth Sciences. In 1997 Mr. Copsey sold C Tech Defense Corporation to allow him to focus exclusively on C Tech’s Earth Science software.

Mr. Copsey’s role as President and CEO of C Tech Development Corp. includes managing the corporation, architecting the development of C Tech’s software products, and managing large consulting programs for clients all over the world. C Tech now has hundreds of customers and thousands of users on all continents of the world. Our Earth Science software is the gold standard for environmental engineering projects, geology, geophysics, oceanography, archaeology, mining, and many other fields.

3D Model Creation

Unlike many of the models found on Sketchfab, all of our models are created by our software, Earth Volumetric Studio, from measured Earth Science data. Models generally have no primary elements that are drawn or 3D sculpted, though we do provide tools to allow our users to perform some editing functions. The quality, quantity, and types of data used to create our models are, therefore, fundamental to the complexity of the models and what they represent.

The types of data used by our customers depends primarily on the nature and purpose of the model. For example, if we want to model the quality of municipal groundwater in a countywide (or larger) region, the typical data required would be:

  • Topography data
  • Geologic borings to determine subsurface lithology
  • Elevation of the water table at multiple locations (usually from well data)
  • Water quality lab results (usually from well data)
  • Georeferenced aerial photos
  • CAD or GIS data with roads or other annotation data

Our company does not get involved in data collection of any kind, and we never see the vast majority of models created with our software, since most work is done by organizations that buy our software and use it for projects all over the world. In nearly all cases, those models are kept confidential because they represent financial assets (e.g., mining) or financial liabilities (e.g., environmental contamination). Even “simple” subsurface 3D models of site geology can reveal the strengths or weaknesses of a site that can have profound financial implications.

What Makes C Tech’s 3D Technology Different

Our product’s middle name (Volumetric) has been our credo for 30 years. Most of the products in the world of 3D technology, including Sketchfab, display the 3D exterior surfaces of computer-generated and real-world objects. Furthermore, computer displays (including VR) can only present 2D projections of those 3D objects. However, what differentiates C Tech’s software is that our models are truly volumetric. The simplest example I can give is to imagine a 3D model of a watermelon. If you make a 3D model of a “whole” watermelon, it is generally just an ellipsoidal balloon textured (painted) to look like a watermelon. If you cut into that model, the balloon is hollow and there is no rind, fruit, or seeds inside.

When we make a model of 3D objects, like contaminant plumes, subsurface geology, or even air pollution, our models are volumetric. We often display “subsets” of them, showing the external surfaces of those subsets, but if we cut into them further, they are solid. In the case of the watermelon, there would be skin, rind, fruit, and seeds. Because our models are volumetric, they are far more data-rich. Information extends beyond the exterior surfaces, into the volumetric interior. Our software can compute the mass of contaminants below a leaking gas station or the value of gold within a mine. From one model, we can cut, slice, and subset using a multitude of methods to create many different displays of the same data.

The data our customers collect tends to be sparse. What we mean by that is that we want to estimate one or more properties into a 3D volume, and the data is usually collected at a limited number of 3D locations (usually points). Unlike scanning topography with LIDAR, there are no 3D data collection techniques that are capable of similar dense volumetric data collection (scanning). We generally use an estimation process called kriging to perform the interpolation (and extrapolation) of the sparse data onto a much finer 3D grid of nodes (points) or volumetric cells. The most primitive volumetric cell is a tetrahedron, which is effectively a 3-sided pyramid. We also support pyramids, prisms, and hexahedrons (6-sided boxes). Kriging is an estimation method that falls into the field of geostatistics. When we use kriging, we not only get the best “nominal” estimate at every point in our 3D grid, but we also get the standard deviations at each point, which provides a measure of the quality of the estimate.

Using Earth Volumetric Studio

Our software is a tool designed to be used by geologists, engineers, and scientists working in the Earth Sciences. It is possible to learn the mechanics of using our software, but without an appreciation of the science in the field of application, it would be difficult to understand how the science affects the underlying data, and use that knowledge to optimize the models properly.

Our most successful software users have these strong academic backgrounds in their respective Earth Science field. They can learn to use our software to an intermediate level in just a few days of video-course based training.

Though we’ve been offering true volumetric modeling for Earth Science applications for nearly 30 years, we still encounter resistance from companies and individuals who continue to cling to older methods of hand-drawn or CAD-drawn 2D cross-sections to try to explain complex 3D sites.

Why C Tech and Our Customers Use Sketchfab

Because C Tech is first and foremost a software developer who sells directly to our customers all over the world, why and how our customers use Sketchfab is as (or more) important than why we do. Sketchfab offers a unique 3D publishing platform that is device and browser independent. We offer other 3D publishing options including our own 4D Interactive Models (4DIMs) and 3D PDFs which can be integrated into PDF reports and displayed with Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat. However, none of these options works across as wide a range of devices and operating systems as Sketchfab.

When our customers use Sketchfab, their clients do not need to install any third-party software and the models can be viewed on PCs, Macs, smartphones (Android and Apple), and tablets of all sorts. When the client is a large organization or government agency, installing third-party software can be difficult if not impossible. Sketchfab bypasses these issues and offers file security options for sensitive and proprietary results.

 

About the author

Reed D. Copsey, Sr.

President and CEO of C Tech Development Corp.


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