What Is 3D Reverse Engineering?

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  • Written By: Alex Newth
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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The process of 3D reverse engineering takes a physical device or structure, digitizes it and imports all of its parts and measurements into a computer-aided design (CAD) software or similar building software. To digitize a part, a photo is taken or a 3D scanner is used and the image is then imported into the program. If a photo is taken, then a designer will have to recreate the part in the program, but a 3D scanner will do this automatically. By using 3D reverse engineering, parts can be improved, the device can be remade with smaller parts, and the user can store the design for later use.

To start the process, the device must be scanned or photographed. Limitations in photography mean 3D scanning technology is most often used to do this. These scanners, which often use a laser, scan the device and record the measurements, colors, texture and shape of the piece. From this information, the CAD or similar software can import the shape into its interface.

Sometimes only the shell of the device is scanned, but more often — for proper 3D reverse engineering — the device is opened and the parts are removed. The individual parts are then scanned in the same way the entire device was, and the parts are then imported. This allows for a complete and comprehensive 3D model of the entire device and all of its internal components.


One of the most basic advantages to 3D reverse engineering is the digitizing aspect. Keeping a digital replica of a physical piece is much easier and, outside of a hard-drive crash or someone accidentally erasing the design, the design will not be lost. A digital model is also easier to work with and ends up being much cheaper. Engineers will be able to swap and change parts and can test the model within the program without the expense of purchasing parts that may not work.

With the digital information from 3D reverse engineering, engineers can attempt to improve the device or lower its market cost. For improvements, engineers can add new parts or take out inferior parts to make the device more useful or powerful. For cost-cutting purposes, businesses can place inferior parts or remove more expensive features to make a similar product that costs consumers less. Both of these depend on a program that can test the device to ensure it will work before building the device from real parts.


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