Feb 8, 2017 -- The use of 3D scanning technique is no longer restricted to generate 3D CAD models for reverse engineering of parts and components, but is now also being utilized to understand the composition required to produce the part using rapid prototyping techniques. Although there is a great improvement in recovering design information from complex objects through advanced scanning tools, the term “reverse engineering” is still misunderstood in many instances.
To simplify, reverse engineering is essentially the process of measuring the dimensions of an object accurately and converting that dimensional information to 3D CAD model. Its use in the engineering industry is steadily growing. This is primarily due to companies utilizing equipment or component that is no longer being developed by the supplier or there is no support available for the old models. In order to replace these equipment or parts, companies are left with the only option to recreate them, which is made possible through reverse engineering.
Utilization of Reverse Engineering in Different Industries
Aerospace is one of the prominent industries that require reverse engineering to recover design information for aircraft parts and machinery that has already crossed its useful life and has limited technical data. Reverse engineering for these components ensures that aircrafts keep flying and machines keep running.
Another notable use of RE is in machine and tools industry. Companies often require purchasing parts for tools and machines, which were patented but those patents have now expired. Through reverse engineering, low-cost replacement parts can be developed to extend the life of these machines and tools.
Mergers and acquisitions also play an important role in the usage of reverse engineering today. It is common for the acquiring company to find that smaller companies often have CAD drawings that are not updated and hence they do not match with the new tooling. Leading companies however follow a stringent process control, requiring CAD models that can be integrated with their PLM systems.
Reverse engineering is also seen as a useful tool for petrochemical plants, where stacks are required to be replaced every seven years. Any delay in shifting of equipment to upper floors will cost millions of dollars. Through scanning technologies however, existing structures with piping and equipment can be modeled, which allows the supplier to understand how the equipment will be moved and what modification will be required to ensure that existing piping will fit the new equipment accurately.
For older plants developed in a pre-CAD period, reverse engineering helps owners to have a digital record of the layout, which can be utilized for renovation or replicating the layout to other locations.
Purchase or Outsource?
Reverse engineering essentially requires investing in scanning technologies. However, there is also an option to outsource reverse engineering projects to service providers. To choose between the two, it is first crucial to evaluate your reverse engineering needs. You might need more than one measuring tool along with an experienced team who can operate the equipment and software. The pricing of scanning equipment may start from $10,000 and can extend to even $500,000, depending upon the level of accuracy required. Investing in scanning equipment is worth only if the need for scanning is expected to be frequent, or in cases where the confidentiality of the design data is critical.
Outsourcing on the contrary will require you to obtain quotes from multiple service providers for the reverse engineering services they will deliver. The quoting process can be more easy and accurate if you define your need in the first place.
Knowledge on how the data will be used and what specific information is required will enable the provider to select the best possible scanning tool. For example, if your part is required to have high precision such as turbine blade, you will need .001” accuracy.
Other important things to consider before outsourcing is to know about the past experience of the service provider, their ability to provide on-site services, experience in the similar industry and other services they provide such as 2D drawings development along with 3D models.
Finally, it is important to ask about the file format required. With IGES and STEP format, it is easy to modify the models on any CAD platform. Also, a native CAD model with complete feature tree is a good option, if the model is supposed to undergo multiple modifications.
About Author: Gaurang Trivedi is Engineering consultant at TrueCADD. He has applied his engineering expertise across several highly complex and big scale projects, consequently managing to flawlessly deliver as per the client requirements.