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Reverse Engineering

Why do I need to reverse engineer?

All 3D models are not created equal

3D scanning produces a point map, or “mesh”, of an object’s surface that makes no distinction between features such as faces or holes. For many applications, the mesh needs to be converted into a solid model, such as an IGES or STEP file via reverse engineering.

These “dumb” solids can be used with most manufacturing processes to replicate your part directly. However, these files are not without their own limitations. STEP and IGES files lack the feature tree that you would have had you designed your part from scratch in a CAD package.

reverse engineer automotive part

How does reverse engineering from a 3D scan work?

A key contributor in making reverse engineering an easier task is to start with accurate, clean, and high resolution scan data. It helps to utilize a 3D scanning system that will capture your part’s smallest and most complex geometric features. This will greatly aide in minimizing time and potential guesswork associated with the downstream processing. Starting with “bad or poor” quality scan data is like trying to get to a final destination with cryptic directions. Sure, you might be able to make it because of your navigational skills, but it will definitely take some time, effort, and frustration. Our reverse engineering customers have told us, because of fast and easy physical to digital workflow and scan data quality, they have a precise and accurate foundation that minimizes their CAD creation time.

3d scanning to reverse engineering process

In simplest terms, 3D scanners measures the geometries of a physical part and brings it into the digital world. The data output is typically a point-cloud represented in STL (stereolithography) file format. This data is used throughout the design to manufacturing product life cycle for various applications: creating a CAD model, inspection analysis, reverse engineering, CFD/FEA analysis, rapid prototyping, and more.

Types of 3D Models

reverse engineering mesh


Produced By: 3D Scanning

File Types: STL, PLY, OBJ, WRL

Applications: Part Inspection, GD&T, Computational Analysis, etc

reverse engineering solid

Dumb Solid

Produced By: Reverse Engineering

File Types: STEP, IGES

Applications: Machining, Molding, 3D Printing

reverse engineering CAD

Suite-Specific CAD

Produced By: Design from Scratch

File Types: SLDPRT, IPT

Applications: Design Modification, Tooling Design, Use in an Assembly