Reverse Engineering

Steps Involved in Reverse Engineering a Part

Reverse engineering is the process of duplicating an existing component, subassembly, or product without having the original drawings, documentation, or computer models.

We have used reverse engineering to provide a wide variety of services to companies in the manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, and even nuclear industries. Using our best-in-class software and equipment, we have been able to capture data from parts as small as a golf ball to entire manufacturing facilities.

Reverse engineering can be useful in situations where you need to:

  • Identify an assembly’s components and their interrelationships.
  • Build new digital models of the assembly or part.
  • Rebuild a part and need a new digital model.
  • Inspect equipment and parts to ensure quality and tolerances.
  • Scan a facility and plan changes in the layout to improve performance.

In this article, I’m going to show you more situations where reverse engineering is helpful. I’ll also walk through the steps that you go through to reverse engineer a part.

When Should You Reverse Engineer a Part?

Reverse engineering is a common need across a wide variety of industries and technologies.

For example, when a new machine is released on the market, a competing company can take that machine, disassemble it, and learn how it works and how it was built.

Companies can also use reverse engineering to defend their patents. If a competitor knocks off their product, they can reverse engineer it to prove they stole their design.

In other scenarios, designers shape their ideas with other materials – like clay, plaster, wood, or foam – but a CAD model is required if they want to have the part manufactured. They can use reverse engineering to scan the model and generate a digital representation.

Additionally, reverse engineering might also be needed if:

  • The original manufacturer of a part or assembly no longer makes it.
  • There is documentation missing for a part.
  • The original manufacturer of an assembly no longer exists, and a customer needs to replace a part.
  • There are bad features of a part that needs to be redesigned, such as improving where a product is experiencing excessive wear.
  • To analyze competitor’s products for performance and benchmarking.
  • When the original CAD model is missing data, and you need to make modifications or changes to your manufacturing methods.
  • The original supplier is unable or unwilling to provide replacement parts.
  • To update obsolete materials or antiquated manufacturing processes.

Steps Involved in Reverse Engineering a Part

Reverse engineering is exactly what it sounds like. In forward engineering, you have an idea for a part, and you build the models. You then produce the part using those CAD models.

To reverse engineer a part, you reverse that process. You start with a finished part, scan it to build a CAD model, and then refine that CAD model.


Step 1: Capture Data

The first step in reverse engineering a part is to capture the data from the existing part. Depending on the material and size of the part or facility, a variety of different scanning equipment can be utilized.

We use a variety of technology to capture data, including our fully mobile Faro arms and Faro laser scanner.

The scanners output the 3D scan data as a dense triangle mesh. This data serves as a visual sketch and will require manipulation before it becomes a final CAD file.


Step 2: Refine the Model

Now that you have the detailed dimensions of the part from the scan files, they can be refined into a final part. This process varies based on the software program that is used.

It is a combination of using automated technology inside the software and human manipulation to complete the CAD model.

They turn the point cloud or mesh that was received from the scanner into a polygonal model. The resulting mesh is cleaned up, smoothed, and sculpted to retain it’s required shape and accuracy.


Step 3: Manufacturing

Now that the CAD model is complete, it’s ready to be manufactured. Depending on the size of the part and application for it, you may choose to do a 3D print of the CAD model to compare it against the original before having it mass produced or manufactured.

You can also take this model and make adjustments or refinements to improve it before manufacturing.

Have a Project to Reverse Engineer – But Don’t Have the Tools?

Our team at Engineered Mechanical Systems has all of the equipment, software, and trained experts that you need for your projects. From small parts to full facilities, we have you covered.

Contact our team today to learn more.