Forward Thinking in Reverse Engineering

What is reverse engineering and why do I need it?

Reverse engineering has been an industry buzzword for some time and it has come to mean several things. The traditional picture it conjures is of several engineers gathered around a physical part, taking various physical measurements in an attempt to fully understand its shape and form. Their end goal is to re-create the part through any one of several manufacturing methods, where the manufactured part is nearly identical to the original.
Hands making a measurement with calipers

While that picture is not far off from the topic today, the world of reverse engineering has grown more sophisticated and complex. As physical part complexity, data collection systems and measurement techniques grow, so too does the need for adequate processes to handle data. For example, while calipers might adequately capture all relevant dimensions of simple parts, high-resolution scanning systems are often required to gather all necessary curvature, dimensions, shapes and contours of more complex parts. And with the advancements in scanning system technology, this necessitates more sophisticated processing and reconstruction software.

Currently engineers want to digitize physical parts for several reasons: vaulting of geometry in a PDM/PLM system; to capture the form and fit of mating and connecting parts; to remanufacture tooling; to understand competitive products; and to use 3-D printing to validate or produce new parts. While there probably are several other reasons to digitize physical parts, these tend to be the most common. At any rate, this 3-D digitizing of physical parts has come to be a loose definition of reverse engineering.

With those questions answered another rises: How do I reverse engineer something?

There are generally two common, related barriers to the reverse engineering process: cost and time. As with most things 3-D and CAD, a steep learning curve often prevents engineers from using reverse engineering tools. Most modeling tasks are then left for a specialist. Additionally, the entry level cost of scanning equipment and accompanying processing software make for a nebulous at best return on investment (ROI).

Cross-Section blending surface reverse engineering

Previous methods of reverse engineering required cross section creation, followed by careful blending of curve elements. This process was not fully reliable and often required much time.

This is where ANSYS SpaceClaim steps in to address these common business challenges. From the inception, a primary goal of SpaceClaim was to make an affordable, multipurpose 3-D modeling tool that was so easy virtually anyone could use it. This is achieved through a streamlined user interface and intuitive modeling commands, among other things.

impeller-reverse-engineering-stl-surface-CAD

By selecting boundaries with the skin surface tool, an accurate surface is automatically created.

And while the usefulness of SpaceClaim extends into design, manufacturing, 3-D printing, simulation, and sheet metal processing, the release of ANSYS SpaceClaim 2016 introduced a revolutionary tool for reverse engineering. This tool, called “Skin Surface,” drastically reduces the time and complexity of the reverse engineering process. Operations that potentially took hours now take minutes. And where there were several tools and methods of reconstructing a model, the skin surface tool does away with all the tedious modeling techniques.

As a result, you save time and end up with highly modifiable surface or solid models that more closely resemble the actual geometry they are trying to reconstruct. While only one tool, Skin Surface is versatile and handles several methods of input and reconstruction techniques.

reverse-engineering-stl-surface-patch-CAD

Boundaries are editable at any time, as is the resolution of surface points. The preview surface automatically refreshes to provide a real-time update of the new surface.

The greatest advantage of this new ANSYS SpaceClaim functionality is the ability to reverse engineer highly organic shapes, often times with just a few mouse clicks. The rapid reconstruction of simple, prismatic shapes was mastered some time ago. But the recreation in ANSYS SpaceClaim of organic shapes, such as living tissue, industrial designed parts, or other lofted, NURBS-based surfaces is changing the business benefits of a process and that was at one time out of reach for many.

reverse-engineering-stl-organic-shape-face-CAD

Reconstruction of highly organic faceted data to accurate surfaces. Resultant surface or solid bodies could be used for molding, CNC cutting, or other related uses.

Think what this capability in ANSYS SpaceClaim could realistically do for your business: gain a competitive edge by understanding capabilities of other products, reduce down time on a shop floor by quickly repairing broken tooling, design parts in a shorter time frame, etc.

ansys webinars this weekAt this point your last question is, how can I learn more and test drive this software? For those answers, we first invite you to attend a webinar on July 21st as we delve into this topic and show you ANSYS SpaceClaim in action.

You can also try ANSYS SpaceClaim right now in the cloud, or request a free downloadable version. On the trial request page you’ll see links to other webinars, videos, and tutorials that show the tool in action as well. We encourage you to watch any and all of these to learn about the time saving benefits of ANSYS SpaceClaim.

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About John Graham

John is an experienced application/mechanical engineer with specialties in sales, marketing, design, 3D modeling, and product development. He received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has been in various roles with ANSYS for over 7 years. Prior to his current role he worked as a design engineer on a variety of products such as electric motors, linear motion guides, and fiber optic transceiver modules. John’s passions include content marketing, technical teaching/training, project/product management, programming, and video production work.