Reverse Engineering


  • Performed after 3D scanning 
  • Requires powerful, highly-specialized software
  • Used for accurately “converting” a 3D scan into CAD models
  • Can be used to create a digital replica of a physical object
  • Highly useful for design of mating parts, tooling and fixtures
  • Can be used for comparing “perfect world” CAD models to real, as-built parts

See examples


Though 3D scanning has become an essential tool in designing products quickly and accurately, it's critical to note that scanning something is only part of an overall process (shown in the first picture below). While it can amazingly bring physical objects into the digital design environment, there are certain key points that are often misunderstood or overlooked. One is that 3D scan data is not the same as a CAD model. As a direct consequence, it usually can't be modified or manipulated in the same ways the design process usually requires.

In the context of CAD and 3D modeling, "reverse engineering" is the process of using specialized software (such as Geomagic DesignX) to create solid or surface models that accurately represent the shape of a scanned object. Using powerful tools in the software, we can re-construct it as smooth, cleanly-defined solids and surfaces which can then be used across multiple downstream design and manufacturing processes. Built-in deviation analysis tools guide the process by generating "heat maps" to indicate location and size of any variations that exist between the "as-built" shape of the original part and the new, reconstructed geometry.

Depending on each project's specific needs, the extent of reverse engineering performed can result in as much as highly-detailed, digital "replicas" or as little as basic representations of only certain areas of interest.

Common uses for reverse-engineered 3D scans include:

  • duplicating an existing part
  • using an existing part as the basis for a brand new design
  • using an existing part as the basis highly similar design with minor changes
  • creating a design for a mating part with very high quality of fit
  • designing fixtures, molds or other tooling
  • quality control / metrology to compare ideal, as-designed geometry to as-built pieces

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