Why Reverse Engineering?

Reverse Engineering has changed a great deal over the past 20 years, with new technology and ever improving techniques. Within this blog we shall be discussing how Reverse Engineering is used in today’s industries, and how it can help you. …

Alejandro Auerbach

September 11, 2020

Reverse Engineering has changed a great deal over the past 20 years, with new technology and ever improving techniques. Within this blog we shall be discussing how Reverse Engineering is used in today’s industries, and how it can help you.

What is Reverse Engineering

To understand what reverse engineering is, we must remember what engineering itself does: Getting desired outputs (i.e. Products, services, solutions), from available inputs (i.e. Parameters, data, resources) through a set of processes. So reverse engineering can be understood as the process where we get inputs from outputs; in other words, a deconstruction process.

RE has always been a thing since the dawn of civilization. It has been an essential part of innovation to study a piece of technology for replication, especially throughout wars. For example, Romans examined Carthaginian ships and redesigning them to get an advantage at naval warfare or the USA and USSR continually scrutinising each other’s technologies during the cold war. But where are we today in this matter? Thanks to digital technologies like CAD software, 3D scanning, and 3D printing the way we do engineering is taking a great turn, RE is not the exception.  

Reverse Engineering Process

Traditionally, a RE process consisted of analogical measurement and analysis. But today, having a 3D scanner is the best option. There are many 3D scanning technologies like photogrammetry, laser triangulation, time of flight, contact, and, the ideal choice for RE (thanks to its versatility and accuracy), structured light. Solid Print 3D offers two market-leading handheld scanners, Peel 3D and Creaform, for more information on 3D scanners, check out this article.

Once you have the 3D scanner, your main objective is to get a CAD part as accurate as possible from a physical object. The following are the main steps:

  1. Scan the object to get the point cloud data.
  2. Point cloud processing and meshing.
  3. Convert mesh into CAD solid.
  4. Once you get into the CAD environment, the limit is the sky and looking into its benefits would be on another whole subject.

For more information on the RE process, click here.


Reverse Engineering Purposes

Now that we know what RE is and how CAD technology is vital to achieving it, we’ll go deeper into specific purposes. Great enterprises have adopted new methodologies based on this technology to ease,  their entire production cycles. The following uses that we are going to tackle are making outstanding contributions with flexible processes and optimal results.

Legacy Designs to CAD

Sometimes, it might happen that an old part must be replaced, and design specifications for manufacturing are missing. Maybe you have the specifications, but you just want to digitalize them. Whatever the case may be, having legacy parts made into CAD is highly advantageous. First of all, you get digital documentation that is easy to access, transfer, and edit. Moreover, if you want to send it to digital manufacturing processes like 3d printing, CNC, or mould tooling, you must have a 3D model. Lastly, you can even redesign the part into an improved version once you get parametric data (geometry, dimensions, and tolerance).


For those who have worked with freeform surface modelling in the past, it’s not a secret how difficult it is to replicate organic shapes. But thankfully, a 3D scanner and CAD software solve this issue. To give some examples, you can digitalize a sculpted model to document or to remanufacturing. Capturing facial, anatomic traits and patterns in nature or studying airfoil or bodywork designs are other common uses.


RE goes way beyond just digitalizing something into CAD. As software technology keeps developing, solutions are limitless once a physical object’s geometric data is in a digital environment. One outstanding achievement of this technology is in failure analysis, scientific research, and forensics. Digital software allows investigators to reconstruct incidents and causes.

If a mechanical part or a structural member fails unexpectedly, causing damage (Being a threat to human safety, financial, or both), engineers must investigate the case to make a report on what or who to make accountable. By scanning the part, researchers can use software simulations and analysis tools like FEA to have a firm grasp on the issue. Once a report is ready, this information can be used to assess the case and make conclusions on whether or not it was a case of negligence, deliberate damage, poor maintenance, a manufacturing defect, or the design itself. This same principle is beneficial for forensics studies and reverse engineering the mechanics of nature itself.

Another use of RE is for deconstructing a product or piece of technology to uncover the design intent behind it. Researching competition’s work is a common practice in today’s demanding and competitive market; this is, even more, the case for military engineering. As a response to this, there are laws of patent infringement and, ironically, RE is handy for studying an alleged violation by comparing design intents. For more details on patent infringement in the UK, click here.

Quality Control and Reverse Engineering

In every product development process, there’s always a standard to preserve, and that’s where quality control is needed. According to ISO 9000, quality control is “A part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements”. Actually, techniques used for this purpose are closely linked with what we have been reviewing so far.

After manufacturing a prototype, you can 3D scan the object and compare it to the original design file. Many powerful software tools can process both models and generate a comparative report along with a deviation colour map, which is incredibly valuable visually speaking. From this, inspectors and metrologists can assess if the product passes standard tolerances, check for sink marks and check wall thicknesses.

Namely, successful cases where this practice implementation has improved efficiency are aerofoil geometry testing, manufacturing line inspection, and tooling implementation. As for enhancing RE accuracy, you can use this same process with many samples to reach an optimum result.


Final thoughts

In brief, it’s more than evident why reverse engineering is a crucial way to improve innovation nowadays. As software technologies continually improve, new possibilities will continue to emerge as valuable solutions to engineering problems.

Solid Print3D is here to help you make the right decision with your next 3D Scanner purchase. For more information, please call Solid Print3D at 01926 333 777 or email at info@solidprint3d.co.uk

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