In CAGD applications, a curve may have a so complicated shape that it cannot be represented by a single Bézier cubic curve since the shape of a cubic curve is not rich enough. Increasing the degree of a Bézier curve adds flexibility to the curve for shape design. However, this will significantly increase processing effort for curve evaluation and manipulation. Furthermore, a Bézier curve of high degree may cause numerical noise in computation. For these reasons, we often split the curve such that each subdivided segment can be represented by a lower degree Bézier curve. This technique is known as piecewise representation. A curve that is made of several Bézier curves is called a composite Bézier curve or a Bézier spline curve. In some area (e.g., computer data exchange), a composite Bézier cubic curve is known as the PolyBézier. If a composite Bézier curve of degree n has m Bézier curves, then the composite Bézier curve has in total m×n+1 control vertices.
A curve with complex shape may be represented by a composite Bézier curve formed by joining a number of Bézier curves with some constraints at the joints. The default constraint is that the curves are jointed smoothly. This in turn requires the continuity of the firstorder derivative at the joint, which is known as the firstorder parametric continuity. We may relax the constraint to require only the continuity of the tangent directions at the joint, which is known as the firstorder geometric continuity. Increasing the order of continuity usually improves the smoothness of a composite Bézier curve. Although a composite Bézier curve may be used to describe a complex shape in CAGD applications, there are primarily two disadvantages associated the use of the composite Bézier curve:
These disadvantages can be eliminated by working with spline curves. Originally, a spline curve was a draughtsman's aid. It was a thin elastic wooden or metal strip that was used to draw curves through certain fixed points (called nodes). The resulting curve minimizes the internal strain energy in the splines and hence is considered to be smooth. The mathematical equivalent is the cubic polynomial spline. However, conventional polynomial splines are not popular in CAD systems since they are not intuitive for iterative shape design. Bsplines (sometimes, interpreted as basis splines) were investigated by a number of researchers in the 1940s. But Bsplines did not gain popularity in industry until de Boor and Cox published their work in the early 1970s. Their recurrence formula to derive Bsplines is still the most useful tool for computer implementation.
It is beyond the scope of this section to discuss different ways of deriving Bsplines and their generic properties. Instead, we shall take you directly to the definition of a Bspline curve and then explain to you the mathematics of Bsplines. Given M control vertices (or de Boor points) d_{i} (i = 0,1,¼,M1), a Bspline curve of order k (or degree n = k1) is defined as


As we said previously, there are several methods to derive the Bspline basis functions N_{i,k}(u) in terms of the knot vector. We present only the recursive formula derived by de Boor and Cox as follows:

