The modelling of nominal product geometry by computer-aided design tools has gained immense attention in industry during the last decades and is nowadays an integral part of the virtual product development process. However, the established geometry representation schemes for CAD imply severe drawbacks regarding the modelling of geometric part deviations, which are inevitably observed on every manufactured artefact. As a response, the concept of Skin Model Shapes, which stems from international standards for geometric product specification and verification, has been developed as a novel approach for the consideration of product shape variability. It employs discrete geometry methods and computational techniques, such as point clouds, surface meshes and geometric processing, to model shape variability and to facilitate the communication of geometric product information throughout the product design, manufacturing, and inspection processes. This paper highlights the foundations of this concept, demonstrates its potentials for the representation of product geometry considering geometric variations along the product lifecycle, and illustrates main applications in the context of computer aided product and process development. In this regard, a focus is laid upon recent results and contributions, such as contact modelling, tolerance analysis, and motion tolerancing based on Skin Model Shapes. Furthermore, challenges for future research, such as the application to complex shapes and compliant parts, as well as the consideration of novel manufacturing processes, are discussed.

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