In its simplest form, reverse engineering is the act of taking something apart to learn about how it works, putting it back together, and then reproducing it or making it better. By analyzing the components and how they work, they can be duplicated or improved upon.
Reverse engineering is widely used to determine design features, not manufacturing processes. It is an analysis process that gathers product information of man-made objects such as mechanical devices and electronic components. In this way, it is a useful tool for the manufacturing engineer.
Reverse engineering is an acceptable learning tool and a process that reduces costs when designing products. As technology advances, reverse engineering has been made simpler with the development of software programs and computed aided design packages. The advancements in scanning and analysis make reverse engineering a practical tool.
How reverse engineering works in the machine shop
What happens if a certain part needs to be made, but the original specs or plans don’t exist? This happens all the time as OEMs may not be around anymore or don’t have the information needed to reproduce the part. Without modern technologies, this would be a difficult task. But, as long as the part is available, it can be reverse engineered.
Engineers use finite element analysis (FEA) to determine and predict how the part will behave in, and be affected by, real world use. FEA and simulation software programs aid the manufacturer by reducing development costs and validating designs which produce the highest quality parts.
The next step is to make a model of the product. To produce a 3D model, the original part is scanned using tools such as coordinate measuring machines (CMM), laser scanners, or computed tomography. As an example, a CMM with a high resolution camera inspects measures, and digitizes any part into a CAD model. From this CAD model the part can be made through CNC machining and fabrication.
Why reverse engineering promotes cost avoidance
Going through the process of duplicating an item may seem like it isn’t cost effective, but in reality it is the opposite. Scanning and computer technologies simplify the process and experienced engineers have the capabilities to work to produce accurate and precise components.
Once a part is reverse engineered, the specs and design are available for manufacturing or redevelopment. A previously unknown set of specifications is now known and this existing design will continue to be implemented.
Reverse engineering is a way of improving on products or components to prevent future costs from occurring. If this part must be reproduced again, the plans and specs are available. If the part needs to be redesigned in the future, the plans and specs are ready for redevelopment. It is a way of ensuring that the information learned through the process is not lost to the next generation.
At PMI, we have a team of highly trained manufacturing engineers that have in-depth knowledge and experience with all phases of reverse engineering. Our experts are specialists in working with clients on redevelopment strategies and solutions. Utilizing tools such as FEA, CMM, and CAD we can build any part through reverse engineering and then complete the job with full in-house manufacturing capabilities.