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3D Scanning for Reverse Engineering

With new advancements in 3D scanning, engineers are on the lookout for applications to use this cutting-edge technology. Shifting from more traditional metrology to a more modern digital method for archiving, product development, and design for the architecture, engineering & construction (AEC) industry.


In particular, reverse engineering has been entirely transformed by 3D scanning by obtaining accurate data from the real world and generating impressive point clouds and 3D models.


As 3D scanning continues to experience a boost in its adoption for reverse engineering, you will need to understand what this new technology is and how it functions in the practical world.

This guide below looks at how 3D scanning is used for reverse engineering and what the future holds for this technology.


An Overview of 3D Scanning


The market is filled with an array of 3D scanning technology ranging in terms of capability and costs.


Probably, the most affordable option is photogrammetry, but it is also the least accurate. It essentially converts a sequence of photos of an area or an object into a 3-dimensional model using progressive software algorithms.


Even though photogrammetry is able to reconstruct three-dimensional data out of images, it still lacks the accuracy that can be observed with the two other predominant methods, namely laser and structured light scanners.


Structured light scanners cast a white or blue LED light onto the objects.

The additional sensors work to identify edges to define the shape of the object.

A process called trigonometric triangulation is used to determine the location of these various features in space.


Similarly, laser line scanners use the same approach to project one or multiple laser lines onto a given object. It then calculates the reflection of these lasers from the object via attached sensors.


Structured light scanners are typically smaller handheld 3D scanners and have better accuracy and higher resolution. However, they are constrained by the ambient light’s impact. Scanning an object with an uneven light source can be enough to throw off the algorithm of a structured light scanner.


On the other hand, laser line scanners are relatively less sensitive to light in the scanning environment.


Designers across many industries, like the automotive space, use this technology to reverse engineer car parts or build more custom-designed components. Designers and engineers can effectively scan complex geometric elements using structured light or laser scanners to capture the organic, molded aspects accurately.

This valuable information can be used to manufacture and build an array of custom products and components that you know will work with the final product.


The automotive, manufacturing, aerospace, and defense industries have already started using 3D metrology to modify the design of objects. Allowing them to produce spare parts, customized components, and even take up the production of discontinued parts and tools.


Physical or Structural Reverse Engineering


The process of reverse structural engineering entails a comprehensive examination of the existing objects/products to understand their many components, followed by planning its entire dismantling process. This process is carried out for each sub-component of a product.


The results are accurately recorded and fully documented to provide a thorough and clear understanding of the entire process.


Faster product analyses, better precision, and the ability to modify the original products are the key driving characteristics of the 3D metrology market for reverse engineering.


Rather than creating a particular component from square one, reverse engineering incorporates the existing component.


This is especially crucial for products or components with incomplete or poor design documentation or vague construct processes.


Benefits of 3D Laser Scanning in Reverse Engineering


Listed below are some advantages that 3D laser scanning offers in reverse engineering applications:

  • Reduces the need for manual construction and templating.

  • Allows you to check if the modified or changed designs will work out or not.

  • Eliminates the challenges of measuring difficult-to-measure or inconsistently shaped components.

  • Drastically reduces reverse engineering time.

  • Enables you to make changes to the design.

  • Provides accurate measurements and diagrams.

  • Simplifies the reverse engineering process.


The Future of Reverse Engineering


The incredible power of new and advanced manufacturing technologies and 3D scanning solutions is only just the beginning. These new technologies have shown they can have new products and services delivered in record time.


3D printing has resulted in various possibilities, with topology optimization and generative design being two of them.


Usually, such topology optimization techniques are centered on organic geometries, like the microscopic porous structures you find in bones.


These geometries and features are incredibly beneficial to the automotive and aerospace industries, where the concept of “lightweight” is the secret to boost speed and minimize costs.


Designers depend on simulation software and algorithms to calculate the part stresses to determine the product design with the ideal strength-to-weight ratio successfully. Then it is possible to create an extensive range of design iterations with generative design tools. After the designers and engineers have created a series of options, they can then select the best choice for the job at hand.


It is not too hard to envision these new manufacturing and design tools combined with the rapidly evolving 3D scanning technology will transform reverse engineering even further!


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