How 3D Scanning Speeds Reverse Engineering

3D scanning is a process that captures physical objects as digital 3D representations.  A scanner like you have in your office, or the camera in your smartphone captures a two-dimensional representation; but a 3D scanner captures height, width, and depth information and turns it all into three-dimensional models on your computer that you can navigate through, look around, and edit.   While 3D scanning has been around for decades, advancements in both 3D scanning and 3D technology, have made both available at reasonable prices. 

When it comes to reverse engineering, using the kinds of 3D scan data that you get from 3D scanning is the most efficient way to generate a CAD model.  This is particularly true if the original physical object has a complex or irregular shape, because traditional measurement methods, such as calipers, just don’t work on such freeform designs.  Moreover, traditional measurement methods can’t take into account the original “design intent, “while 3D scanning is better able to help design engineers not only visualize the original design intent but also improve it.

However, just because 3D scanning is efficient, doesn’t mean that it’s easy.  This is because the most critical step in the reverse engineering process is the modeling bridge performed by the applications engineers. Simply, this means that the reverse engineering process can be complex and dependent upon the skill and expertise of the engineers doing the work and those managing the project.

The Importance of the Modeling Bridge

According to a paper by Hugh Dubberly, Shelley Evenson, and Rick Robinson titled The Analysis-Synthesis Bridge Model:

The simplest way to describe the design process is to divide it into two phases: analysis and synthesis. Or preparation and inspiration. But those descriptions miss a crucial element—the connection between the two, the active move from one state to another, the transition or transformation that is at the heart of designing. How do designers move from analysis to synthesis? From problem to solution? From current situation to preferred future? From research to the concept? From constituent needs to proposed response? From context to form?
How do designers bridge the gap?
The bridge model illustrates one way of thinking about the path from analysis to synthesis—the way in which the use of models to frame research results acts as a basis for framing possible futures. It says something more than “then the other thing happens.” It shows how designers and researchers move up through a level of analysis in order to move forward through time to the next desired state. And models act as the vehicle for that move.

Successful reverse engineering requires, as the paper states, designers…to move up to a level of analysis in order to move forward to the next desired state.   This means that when you’re doing reverse engineering, the better the engineers, the better the results.

We recommend looking for a 3D scanning service that is willing to consult with you and take part in your problem-solving process.  Even if you’re looking for nothing more than a surface model, you want to ensure that the 3D file you get works the way you intend.  And for more complex models, such as parametric models, you should make sure that the 3D scanning service has engineers on staff that are experienced in working with whichever CAD file type you need:   SolidWorks, AutoCAD, Pro/E, CATIA or Rhino.

Learn more about Reverse Engineering for Legacy Products and Tool and Die Reverse Engineering.


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