ES Products & Design: An E2E Reverse Engineering Case

Lately, we’ve been keen on covering that transition between the analogue and the increasingly digital approaches to engineering solutions with the help of 3D scanning. However, we never got the opportunity to truly explore what 3D scanning can do for …

Alejandro Auerbach

May 12, 2021

Lately, we’ve been keen on covering that transition between the analogue and the increasingly digital approaches to engineering solutions with the help of 3D scanning. However, we never got the opportunity to truly explore what 3D scanning can do for us engineers in a real-life setting, not until now.

Recently Edward Smith shared with us his experience with his company, ES Products & Design, and their speciality for reverse engineering solutions and remanufacturing of heritage vehicles. In this article, we’re glad to show you four case studies where ESP&D successfully managed to apply 3D scanning into reverse engineering workflows to boost the efficacy of design cycles. But first and before we go into that, let’s get some background on how ESP&D came to be and a slight peek at their unique approach to decision making and problem-solving.

ESP&D Background

ES Products & Design Ltd is a company based in Northamptonshire. Beyond professional degree qualifications, ESP&D is born out of a career that has encompassed several practical roles: A valuable motor vehicle apprenticeship and 5 seasons of professional single-seater motorsport (British Formula 3 and International F3000), preparing, repairing and setting up cars for drivers. 

All those years of experience not only lead to a robust understanding of engineering design, reverse engineering and remanufacturing of legacy parts, but also to a logistical mindset where project management, procurement and supplier liaison is offered to their clients’ production cycles. In fact, Edward has a solid database of reliable suppliers, locally and globally, he has built over the years. Edward has the means to help you, for instance, by outsourcing manufacturing to China where appropriate or, contrastingly, help you find means of local production.

ESP&D broad capabilities involve any kind of bespoke mechanical design, reverse engineering and remanufacturing you might want to start off. Still, their speciality is undoubtedly vehicles of all types like classic and vintage cars, historic military vehicles, motorsport and vintage aircraft.

ESP&D Workflow: Work Philosophy

After studying Edward’s work, we want to point out two core ideas we consider the essence of his working ethic: Close communication and versatility. Why close communication, you ask? Well, ESP&D offers end-to-end solutions, from rough concepts all the way to delivery. And from that very moment of the initial inquiry, Edward initiates a workflow based on fostering trusted relationships and constant discussions with the client, a commitment to satisfy his requirements within close collaborative feedback.

Edward also assures confidentiality to his clients, and he only shares what the client is willing to share. So, we also want to acknowledge his clients for allowing us to share their works with our readers for this case study article. Moreover, the ESP&D team adapts a workflow to the circumstances of every particular project. For instance, they are extraordinarily flexible in gathering the requirements. You can provide them with digital drawings and legacy documentation. They can even help you develop a project from rough sketches, existing parts for reverse engineering, or even just vague ideas. ESP&D conciliates hi-tech with the traditional, specific or end-to-end solutions, small or large batch production, one-offs and replacements, a perfect example of versatility.

ESP&D Workflow: 3D Scanning for Reverse Engineering

Going specifically to their 3D scanning workflows, the key is to always generate CAD data for manufacturing purposes. Scanning either in-house or at the customer’s place, ESP&D is well prepared to take one of those problematic surfaces and features that could give untrained 3D scanner users many headaches. For more information on good scanning practices, check out the new SolidPrint3D’s 3D scanning guide.

Regarding his scan to CAD workflow, he sees the use of the auto surface function ideal to generate STEP models. However, it doesn’t always work. In other cases, he just sends the mesh STL file with some specific modelled key entities (like the cylindrical inlets and outlets of a scanned radiator, for example). Then to reverse engineer, he imports his files to Siemens NX, his CAD software of choice. After the reverse engineering process is done, he typically sends mesh files, STEP files, mechanical drawings, and reference pictures. It all depends on the application. If it is, for example, a reference for packaging purposes, a mesh file will suffice.

We asked Edward if he has other interests in mind for 3D scanning beyond his main line of work (Vehicles), and his answer was yes. He told us that he also experiments with body parts like hands, sculptures, clothes, and everyday objects in his spare times. From just playing with his scanner at home, he developed a genuine interest in the potential 3D scanning has for heritage preservation in museums and prosthetics development.

Edward’s 3D Scanner of Choice

In regards to his decision-making process, Edward told us that it didn’t take too long, mainly because his main drive was financial. So, while searching for a scanner within his price bracket, with a good enough quality for his uses and a friendly software interface, he got the opportunity to test the Peel 2 CAD scanner and was pleased with the experience. He appreciates the Peel 2 CAD performance when it comes to using textures and colour as references to capture geometries instead of purely relying on targets, he considers this facility extremely useful and it bridges the gap to some far more highly priced scanners.  

For Edward, the pros of this Peel3D scanner can be abridged in the following points:

  • Quick to setup
  • Intuitive software
  • Versatility
  • Good tracking capabilities, leaving aside typical surface registration issues that all optical scanners share. The Peel3D deals pretty good despite all
  • Colour and texture capturing adds a lot to its tracking abilities, and thus not having to rely too much on targets
  • The range of objects it can capture suits accordingly with the stuff he works with

Nonetheless, Edward is aware and honest about his limitations too. For example, if a part has features like fine details, deep pockets or thin walls, he is aware that complementary methods with CMMs and hand tools are sometimes the best approach. For this reason, Edward prefers to keep the object he needs to reverse engineer. As someone with years of experience, he knows that traditional methods and something as simple as good communication with a customer is still of great value in this increasingly digital world.

Coincidently, Peel3D recently released the Peel 2 CAD-S, a modified version of the original Peel 2 CAD specifically made to tackle those problematic fine details. Kudos to Peel3D for their awareness of this issue! If you’re interested in exploring the full capabilities of the Peel 2 CAD, check this special bundle offer!

We also asked Edward if he has other interest in mind for 3D scanning beyond his main line of work (Vehicles), and his answer was yes. He told us that he also experiments with body parts like hands, sculptures, clothes, and everyday objects in his spare times. From just playing with his scanner at home, he developed a genuine interest in the potential 3D scanning has for heritage preservation in museums and prosthetics development.

Peel 2 CAD and Peel 2 CAD-S

Case Studies

Now, let’s take this story to a more practical level with the following four case studies.

Case 1: Brake Shoe Remanufacturing for a Vintage Car

A supplier of discontinued spare parts for a specific British vintage car approached ESP&D requiring to satisfy the demand of 1500 die-cast aluminium brake shoes, assembled with stainless steel wear plates fitted. For this purpose, the customer provided them with a used sample part for them to reverse engineer.

To capture the geometrical data, they scanned the part with a low-resolution setting due to its small size. Then, they post-processed the mesh data by selecting both cylindrical and planar entities to pick out key features and export them to Siemens NX for reverse engineering. After finishing the reverse engineering process, the resulting STEP model and drawings in PDF format were sent for quoting and manufacturing.

Scanning Automotive
Figure 1. The resulting mesh after 3D scanning
Automotive Scanning Part
Figure 2. Overlaying the final model with the mesh

This project might sound simple on paper, but this is far from the truth. ESP&D had to commit to a huge responsibility for several reasons:

  1. Manufacturing in volume and committing to new tooling considering that die casting tooling is costly compared to other casting processes.
  2. To meet target costs, they had to manage outsourcing manufacturing to China. Establishing links with China implies, beyond strong logistics, carefully choosing a reliable supplier when it comes to experience and IP protection. Thankfully, Edward has a great network.
  3. Constant feedback and planning with the customer

Before fully committing to die cast tooling, they decided to 3D print a prototype through an SLS process, which delivers high-performance polyamide parts fit for demanding trials. Then they fitted the brake linings and other associated items to the printed part and trial fitted that assembly to a car. With enough confidence in the design, they proceeded with die casting samples that they also tested driving a car before finally committing to mass production.

Brake Lining SLS Process
Figure 3. From the original to 3D printed prototype, to aluminium, to mass production
Brake Plate SLS Scanning
Figure 4. Final assembly with wear plates

Case 2: Design and Manufacture of Wing Templates for a Vintage Car

This client needed to remanufacture rear and frontal wings via traditional steel forming processes that involved skilled craftsmen shaping them with hand tools. Nonetheless, they required some templates to guide their forging work into their intended shapes by a progressive comparison. ESP&D then provided the means to reverse engineer the original wings and generate the exact measurements, proportions and surface curvatures needed for the templates.

They included in the scan some matting features to give some sense of proportion. Also, they leveraged the textures to scan the wings without issues. Afterwards, they used the auto surface function to generate a simple CAD surface modified and styled following the customer’s direction until achieving the final shape. With the surface as a guide, they proceeded to make the model of the jig assembly, a skeletal structure made out of 18mm birch plywood interlocking panels. Lastly, they cut the plywood with a CNC router, assembled the parts, and, after making sure it was a snug fit, sent it to the customer.

Figure 5. The original wings
Car Part Scan Model
Figure 6. Modelling the templates from scanned surfaces

To summarise, ESP&D’s work provided the client with the following benefits:

  1. To remanufacture an exact copy of one set of original vintage car wings with high precision
  2. The means to incorporate styling changes to the other set with the flexibility only CAD software can provide
  3. Lots of savings in time and energy, allowing the craftsmen to focus on the forging process itself solely
  4. A simple, elegant and cost-effective solution

With that said, ESP&D once again proved how new technologies can complement traditional craftsmanship.

Assembled Car Part Scan
Figure 7. Final template assemblies

Case 3: Remanufacture of Carbon Fibre Side Panels

This customer was developing a 4×4 vehicle based on a Land-Rover. Moreover, he wanted to step further and make its doors, bonnet, front wings, and rear quarter panel out of carbon fibre to reduce weight and make them more aesthetically desirable.

He provided mock-up panels based on the OE versions with all the design information required. ESP&D then scanned the panels, taking care of capturing common targets so that the scans could be aligned and merged properly afterwards. Then, again with the auto surface function, they generated STEP files to create the moulds and subsequently work with carbon fibre layouts.

Figure 8. Mesh from scanned data
Figure 9. Auto surface generated
Automotive Scan Model
Figure 10. Final model in Siemens NX

Working with carbon fibre and other composite moulds is not an easy process. It requires lots of skill, time and patience. Thankfully, Massivit3D’s unique approach enables manufacturers to create moulds in five easy steps. Click here for more information.

Case 4: Reverse Engineering to Replace a Spring Saddle

In this case, the customer had to replace deteriorated spring saddles (A rear suspension item) of a classic British tourer. Because they neither possessed foundry tooling nor detail drawings, they requested ESP&D to reverse engineer its design for remanufacturing. After being provided with the original part and a basic drawing, Edward’s team proceeded to scan the part using the patina and colour patterns to their advantage. After creating the auto surface, they exported the STEP file to CAD.

Figure 11. Original part
Tourer 3D Scan Model
Figure 12. 3D scanned result

It is important to note that the original part was cast. However, times change, and technologies evolve. Since it was a low volume production, they decided to CNC the new parts. Taking this into consideration, they created a fully parametric solid model of the part and its bronze bush. They also had to modify some features that couldn’t be replicated via CNC milling. After finishing the model, the team made a detailed drawing with all the required tolerances and machining datum. With the drawing and the model at hand, they could program the CNC mill to produce the final product from billet aluminium.

Figure 13. Solid model of the saddle with the bronze bush included

If you’ve an interest in desktop CNC milling solutions, check out the Pocket NC. For more information on the basics of CNC milling, check this article.

Further Info

If you are into reverse engineering, SolidPrint3D is here to help you. For more information, please call SolidPrint3D on 01926 333 777 or email on info@solidprint3d.co.uk.

For more information on Edward Smith Products & Design, follow him on:

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