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Reverse Engineering for CAD Requirements

Reverse engineering is being widely practiced across all the industries, be it about decoding the software program or knowing the design intent of a physical product.

Reverse Engineering for CAD

Engineers and product developers use it to recover information, study competitor products and sometimes improve the existing design. Reverse engineering practices can be both positive and negative.

Consider a critical turbine component that was developed years ago, and there’s no design information available to re-manufacture that critical component. Reverse engineering in this case can be termed positive. However, if a person decides to build a program to remove the copyright restriction through reverse engineering the software, the intention is completely negative.

Thus, determining the need of reverse engineering for CAD requires answering few important questions, to ensure that the practice remains positive in all terms and does not hurt anyone’s intellectual property rights.

The questions can be of the following sort:

Let’s discuss each of them in detail:

How specific reverse engineering will be useful in CAD?

The use of reverse engineering for CAD is different than the technique focused on reproducing the functionality of the machine or software. Thus, RE for CAD is not meant to disassemble the product or machine and identify the functionality, but it is to identify the geometric shape of the product, so that it can be modeled and fabricated.

This is usually done through laser scanning the object, which generates digital data that can be converted into a 3D model. This method is useful to archive obsolete or damaged parts that are out of service and are required to be investigated to improve or fix them. Consider an example of a failed component of a steel strapping machine.

Steel Strapping Machine Developing in SOLIDWORKS

CAD Model of a Component from Steel Strapping Machine Developing in SOLIDWORKS

To determine the fatigue life of component, it is required to figure out the material used for manufacturing, failure mechanisms and geometrical aspects.

Through reverse engineering, a 3D model of the component can be generated; the material can be assigned to the model virtually and a virtual test can be performed by replicating the failure mechanisms using finite element analysis (FEA). The results can thus prove beneficial in determining the causes of failures timely and the design can be improved based on the investigation.

What limitations are present on utilizing reverse engineering for CAD requirements?

With advancements in technologies, there are no limitations present on using reverse engineering for CAD requirements. The limitations can only be with the measurement system used to reproduce the geometrical shape of the object. While traditionally, CMMs (Coordinate Measuring Machines) were utilized which relied on contact technology and were inaccurate to some extent, today these are replaced with advanced non-contact CVMs (Computer Vision Machines), providing accurate measurement. As such, there are no limitations present apparently on utilizing reverse engineering for CAD requirements.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of using reverse engineering for CAD?



Although reverse engineering receives criticism all over, its benefits cannot be neglected. It provides the opportunity for engineers to explore design intent better and come up with new, innovative ideas that can improve further the quality of the product.

Gaurang Trivedi

About Author: is engineering consultant at TrueCADD. Besides, donning multiple hats, as a website manager and marketing in charge, he also oversees the editorial content, coordinating and managing the website, its news sections, blogs and social media promotions as well.

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