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How to Effectively Use 3D Scanning and 3D Printing for Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering is a robust way to create digital files from physical objects quickly. It is done by keeping the physical component into a device that will do an exceptionally accurate job taking digital measurements, which can then be used to create CAD files for 3D printing. The use of 3D scanning and computer-aided design (CAD) software is more than just practical; it’s important to stay ahead of the competition.

If you manufacture products, chances are you have made some changes to your process lately. Whether it was simply updating some part designs or switching suppliers entirely, keeping up with these types of incremental changes is extremely important.

3D scanners can measure any complex geometry quickly and accurately. It speeds up the design workflow and verifies product tolerance and functionality. 3D printing has given you the ability to create products quickly. With the growing popularity of reverse engineering, several companies do not offer affordable 3d scanning in Melbourne and many other places.

How To 3d Scan an Object For 3d Printing: Here’s The Reverse Engineering Workflow

Reverse engineering becomes essential when you manufacture new things referencing the old designs. This process becomes practical when the original CAD file is not available. For example, if you need to 3d print a damaged spare part and the CAD file is not available, then 3d scanning can streamline this operation.


Engineers can quickly scan the damaged spare part and take accurate measurements to print a new piece. Below is the complete step-by-step workflow of performing 3d scanning for reverse engineering:

Preparing The Object For 3d Scanning

For preparing an object for 3d scanning, you need to coat the item using a temporary matte powder. It will help in improving the overall scan accuracy. Powder coating is necessary because even the slightly glossy surface can reduce the scan quality. In addition, it becomes challenging to scan shiny reflective or transparent surfaces without the matte coating.

3d Scanning The Object

Next, you need to use a professional 3d scanner to capture all critical sections of the object. You can choose laser scanners or tabletop structure lights to perform the scanning operation. These two scanners can offer a higher accuracy of up to ±100 or even better. Also, you need to move and orient the object multiple times to re-scan several surfaces with deep cavities. If you don’t have an in-house 3d scanner, it’s better to opt for 3d scanning services to speed up the job.

Refining The Mesh

It’s essential to refine the mesh as some scanners produce heavy and oversized mesh that is difficult to operate. If the mesh size is big, it will affect the upcoming steps of the reverse engineering workflow. The scanner software can fix small gaps and simplify the overall scan. It makes the collected data more operational and manageable in CAD. Try to optimize the model without hindering the essential details. One important tip is that if you need more firm control over the design, use tools like Meshmixer to refine the scan as per your preference.

Importing The Mesh File To CAD

Start importing the mesh file into the CAD software equipped with advanced reverse engineering tools. For example, you can use tools like Geomagic for Solidworks for resurfacing intricate shapes. On the other hand, if you need to reverse engineer a simple design part, then go for software like Xtract3D as it’s lightweight and less expensive. Next, you need to move and rotate the mesh to align it with the existing design component. Make this process quick by rotating and aligning the scan towards the orthographic view directions.

Extracting Important Surfaces

You have three options to perform this operation — manual redrawing, semi-automatic surfacing and automatic surfacing. Which one to choose depends on the complexity and intricate details of the object. For example, if the component is highly complex in design, manual redrawing is inefficient.

If you need specific automation and firm control over the process, then semi-automatic surfacing is ideal. It will allow you to generate surfaces that fit perfectly in the scan regions. In addition, you can vary the surface detection’s sensitivity for firm control. You can use Geomagic for Solidworks for this purpose — use the brush feature to add or remove surfaces.

On the other hand, the automatic surfacing can generate a solid model using any watertight scan. You can use any CAD tool to add or remove elements from this auto-surfaced body. However, you have to understand that moving the basic features around the body will become problematic.

Integrating The New Objects

Once the scan is converted into a solid model, you can subtract it from another solid body to create a jib to hold the original component. The new gauge component’s design references the scan’s dimensions using the curves extracted with the semi-automatic surfacing.

3D Printing The Design

You can either go for online 3d printing or search for “3d printing stores near me” to turn your CAD model into a physical object. For industrial purposes, SLA 3d printing is one of the best additive manufacturing technologies. Once the printing is done, the jig is ready to assemble the new gauge over the OEM air vent.

Where Is Reverse Engineering Used Most?

3d laser scan for measuring or reverse engineering during scan automotive part of industrial manufacture process, CMM 3d laser scan.
3d laser scan for measuring or reverse engineering during scan automotive part of industrial manufacture process, CMM 3d laser scan.

Reverse engineering is mainly used in the aircraft industry, car manufacturing sector and electronics industry. The aerospace sector allows engineers to reuse components made from expensive materials. In addition, they can change their material to save money and time by optimizing the design for additive manufacturing.

Similarly, it helps reduce costs and cut down development time in the automotive industry. For example, it’s common to find old car parts that are non-functional but still intact with their original chassis structure. Again, reverse engineering can help a lot here as engineers can quickly re-design a new component without recreating everything from scratch.

Wrapping Up!

We will see more applications of 3d scanning in Australia and other places as more industries are opting for this advancement. The combination of 3d scanning and additive manufacturing will allow companies to drive innovation and streamline their overall production.


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