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Jyh-Ming Lien, "Approximate Convex Decomposition and Its Applications," Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Texas A&M University, Dec 2006.
Ph.D. Thesis(pdf, abstract)

Geometric computations are essential in many real-world problems. One important issue in geometric computations is that the geometric models in these problems can be so large that computations on them have infeasible storage or computation time requirements. Decomposition is a technique commonly used to partition complex models into simpler components. Whereas decomposition into convex components results in pieces that are easy to process, such decompositions can be costly to construct and can result in representations with an unmanageable number of components. In this work, we have developed an approximate technique, called Approximate Convex Decomposition (ACD), which decomposes a given polygon or polyhedron into approximately convex pieces that may provide similar benefits as convex components, while the resulting decomposition is both significantly smaller (typically by orders of magnitude) and can be computed more efficiently. Indeed, for many applications, an ACD can represent the important structural features of the model more accurately by providing a mechanism for ignoring less significant features, such as wrinkles and surface texture. Our study of a wide range of applications shows that in addition to providing computational efficiency, ACD also provides natural multi-resolution or hierarchical representations. In this dissertation, we provide some examples of ACD's many potential applications, such as particle simulation, mesh generation, motion planning, and skeleton extraction.