Reverse Engineer Obsolete Parts With 3D Scanning

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Chad Manning
Chad Manning

Finding out that a manufacturer of a critical machine component is discontinuing its production is every business owner’s worst nightmare. It's challenging to find suppliers of parts that are no longer in production. Manufacturers can buy old parts in bulk that are expected to go out of production soon and store them for future use; however, this is an expensive option.

A better and more cost-effective option is to

reverse engineer old parts with 3D scanning.

This non-contact, non-destructive method involves using 3D scanners to capture the shape and size of objects and then creating their 3D models from the captured data. Detailed 3D digital models can be created to reverse engineer legacy parts, so manufacturers need not invest in replacement parts.  

Many manufacturers reverse engineer legacy parts (that are no longer in production) of their in-demand products so they can continue to produce them. Reverse engineering can also be used to update old/outdated products, reconstruct old expensive products with more affordable and/or readily available parts, and learn about other companies’ products.

3D engineering allows you to better understand the design of legacy parts and improve them. If a legacy product’s original design intent has been lost due to tool degradation or changes in the production process, reverse engineering can help identify and reconstruct design intent.

Reverse engineering services use different types of scanners, including laser-based 3D scanners, x-ray scanners, and projected or structured 3D light scanners. Each type has specific capabilities that make it ideal for certain applications. 3D scanners accurately capture the geometry and measurements of objects (of virtually any shape and size).  

3D scanning services can analyze the design of your legacy products and give you the option to make changes, ensuring that the design meets contemporary performance standards.  

The Reverse Engineering Process  

There are three steps of the reverse engineering process.  

  • Data collection: Using advanced tools such as industrial computed tomography, laser scanners, CMM, video measurement systems, or blue light scanners, engineers gather data needed to complete the 3D model.
  • Data processing: In this step, the data collected in the previous step is used to create a polygonal .STL model. If you want to convert the mesh to a solid body, the .STL may need further processing. In case you just want to analyze data or have our in-house metrology department measure and provide a dimensional report, you may skip the last step.
  • Creating a CAD model: The most cost-effective and fastest way to create a CAD model is to convert the polygonal .STL file into a solid .STEP file. A surface is shrink-wrapped over the STL model so it is completely surfaced and exactly matches the original part. The surfaced model is then exported in an IGES or STEP format for further processing. Alternatively, a parametric model can be built using the mesh as a starting point. This method builds perfect geometries on top of an imperfect part. The parametric model can be exported into IGES or STEP files or provided in a native Solidworks format.

Nel PreTech offers top-notch industrial 3D and CT scanning services. Our ability to tailor 3D scanning solutions to our clients’ unique needs sets us apart. To make an appointment, call 708-429-4887.  

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