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What is reverse engineering

It is a process in which a physical product is deconstructed to extract design information from it.

This term was initially used in Japan to refer to the first Japanese design method.

Today the term reverse engineering is a process widely used in the industrial field: it consists in the digitization of an object through the three-dimensional scanning of a component.

Reverse Engineering

With this operation it is possible to replicate an industrial product, make changes to the file and start a new production process.

The process is very useful if:

  • you want to obtain the CAD of the object;
  • you want to update the geometry of a component following changes on the part.

What is reverse engineering for

The reverse engineering is a useful operation for several purposes:

  1. the component is obsolete and there are no 2D drawings or 3D files of the product;
  2. a drawing nedds to be updated after some physical changes
  3. to measure the accuracy of a component and compare it to its 3D file.

This last operation is very requested by our customers which certifies the conformity of the goods.

Dimensional control is often an essential requirement on prototypes and production components.

After scanning, the software overlays the generated file with the designed one and through a chromatic report highlights the different areas on the drawing.

In this way it is easy to identify areas with discrepancies and decide how to intervene on the production process.

In which industrial sectors it applies

One of the first industrial sectors to use reverse engineering was the automotive, as well as naval and military.

Over time, all plastic, casting and die-casting mold makers have had to adapt to the numerous requests for digitization.

Nowadays it is a very used process also in the architectural and artistic sector.

The goal is to have a digital archive of unique objects and limit the damage of any losses.

What skills are needed

First of all you need to have a proper scanning tool.

The machines for scanning or reverse engineering are divided into 3 main categories:

  • Bridge Coordinate Measuring Machines
  • Laser scanning
  • Optical scanning

Each tool is suitable for specific applications.

The steps for scanning are:

  1. Scanning of the object : the operator prepares the surface with an opacifying spray and applies markers.
  2. The software reconstructs the position of the points and generates a triangular mesh of the object
  3. Mesh optimization : The operator optimizes the file, corrects scan errors and makes changes if needed.
  4. Extrapolation of the file : the 3d mathematical model can be extrapolated to start the prototyping or production of the component.

The system we use internally is an optical scanner.

It is a GOM system that meets the best quality standards required in automotive, military, and also in other industrial sectors.

It is suitable for both plastic and metal objects; it returns highly accurate data that allows you to optimize the process quickly.

This system supports and optimizes the acquired data according to the following steps such as 3D printing, 3D visualization and reverse engineering.

Scanning is quite fast, a lot depends on the size of the objects and the complexity of the model.

Subsequent mesh editing steps make it easy to reproduce parts, create accurate 3D models, or develop new products.

The software allows you to reduce polygon meshes, fill holes or extract curvature lines.

In order to have a usable and editable file after scanning it is necessary to use suitable software to transform the .stl file into a .stp or .iges file.

Case histories: practical examples of reverse engineering

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