Digital terrain modeling has a micro-and nanoscale counterpart in surface metrology, the numerical characterization of industrial surfaces. Instrumentation in semiconductor manufacturing and other high-technology fields can now contour surface irregularities down to the atomic scale. Surface metrology has been revolutionized by its ability to manipulate square-grid height matrices that are analogous to the digital elevation models (DEMs) used in physical geography. Because the shaping of industrial surfaces is a spatial process, the same concepts of analytical cartography that represent ground-surface form in geography evolved independently in metrology: The surface topography of manufactured components, exemplified here by automobile-engine cylinders, is routinely modeled by variogram analysis, relief shading, and most other techniques of parameterization and visualization familiar to geography. This article introduces industrial surface-metrology, examines the field in the context of terrain modeling and geomorphology and notes their similarities and differences, and raises theoretical issues to be addressed in progressing toward a unified practice of surface morphometry.
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Digital terrain modeling and industrial surface metrology: Converging realms