Reverse Engineering

The process of analyzing the design, composition and the manufacturing method of an object using different methods like manual measurement or high-quality 3D scanners in order to develop 3D CAD files and 2D engineering drawings for manufacturing.

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Reverse engineering enables the duplication of an existing part by capturing the component’s physical dimensions, features, and material properties. Reverse engineering is the first step towards innovation, where one would start by duplicating, developing, enhancing/optimizing, and then transition into innovating. There are a wide range of reasons for reverse engineering a part/object/structure, including:

1. Obsolescence Components
For many components that were designed and manufactured years ago, there are no existing 2D drawings or 3D CAD data from which to reproduce the object. In this case, reverse engineering is a vital means to gain the information to recreate the product.

2. Localize Manufacturing
Anytime raw material, manufacturing, design, and customer are all within close proximity to one another; competitiveness becomes hard to beat. If an organization becomes interested in Just-In-Time manufacturing, Reverse Engineering becomes a viable solution to develop the engineering package (3D CAD file, 2D shop drawings (compliant with ASME 14.5 standards & reflecting operating conditions), and detailed metallurgy analysis report) required to localize manufacturing.

3. Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Issues
If the OEM is no longer trading or has lost design measurements for legacy components, then Reverse Engineering will supply the vital product information to continue manufacturing of that part to ensure the longevity of equipment.

4. Design Development, Part Testing, and Analysis
To test and evaluate a part/equipment without incurring too much investment, a 3D parts can be quickly captured in digital form and remodelled or analyzed using Revers Engineering in order to achieve optimized design iterations.

5. Competitor Analysis
For companies keen on being ahead of the game and ahead of their competitors, Reverse Engineering can unveil competitor’s product details by enabling one to study and understand the inner working of parts or equipment. This process is completely legal if the parts/equipment is not patent-protected, and in the case that the part/equipment is patent protected; one would have to either change/modify the geometry or material composition of parts to diverge away patent infringement, which is done at one’s own risk.

6. Warehouse Digital Archiving
Conventional brick-and-mortar warehouse storage space occupies relatively large real estate and costs companies’ money when not used or pulled out of storage within a year’s time of logged into the warehouse as inventory items. This is common behaviour in the industry because when parts are required due for scheduled or worse; forced outage, one would need to have the comfort of knowing that they could fetch the part from inventory. Alternatively, Reverse Engineering allows companies of developing their own digital inventory of spare parts, while allowing a buffer of spare parts available in their physical warehouse to serve as a quick response to unexpected forced outages. In other words, companies would have a comprehensive digital archive of their own assets that relies on a pull vs push system, which is the holy grail of lean manufacturing and Just-In-Time manufacturing.

7. Digital Manufacturing
The term digital manufacturing refers to the reliance on digital representation of parts/objects that have been reverse engineered to manufacture using precision digital equipment. These manufacturing methods could be either conventional subtractive manufacturing or advanced additive manufacturing (3D Printing).

8. Historical Restoration
Where there is no information about the dimensions of objects except for the physical appearance, the quickest and most reliable way to reproduce it will be by Reverse Engineering. Where a product is freeform in shape (not a standard geometry such as cuboid or cylindrical), designing in CAD may be challenging as it can be difficult to ensure that the CAD model will be close enough to the sculpted model. Reverse Engineering using a laser or optical scanners avoids this problem as the physical model is the source of the information for the CAD model instead of the engineer or artist’s conventional hand measurements on interpretation. Museum pieces and historic artefacts can be captured through 3D scanning, then Reverse Engineered, and the resulting 3D CAD data can be held in case of any future damage to the object or any need to reproduce parts of the item.

9. Time & Cost Saving
The process of Reverse Engineering is particularly cost-effective if the items to be reverse engineered represent a significant financial investment or will be reproduced in large quantities. Another advantage presented by reverse engineering is in compressing the product development cycle. In a highly competitive global market, manufacturers constantly strive to shorten lead-times to bring a new product to market. With reverse engineering, a 3D model can be quickly captured in digital form and re-modelled if necessary or exported for a variety of manufacturing methods, such as, Additive Manufacturing, CNC machining, or investment casting to name a few.

10. Capturing Data for Reverse Engineering
Representing the geometry of the part in terms of Point Cloud is the first step in creating parametric or free-form surfaces. A highly accurate and dense polygon mesh is created from the Point Cloud data using the native measurement software or a dedicated reverse engineering software.

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