Jul
21
2016

Reverse engineering: principles, applications and solutions

What is reverse engineering?

Reverse engineering allows the duplication of an existing product, without having the plans, documents or technical details of the product.

In a classical production procedure, the creator creates a detailed plan, in which the production properties of a product are explained. After that, the product goes into production and is built according to that plan.

Reverse engineering follows a reversed method. First, engineers identify the components of a system, as well as finding out how they all relate to one another in order for the system to work. The object is decomposed to ascertain the inner structure, the function of all parts and the way they operate. The making of a duplicate comprises of discovering the physical dimensions, the functionalities and the material qualities of an object.

After that, the moment has arrived to construct a representation of the system analysis with the aid of a computer. The next final entails the reproduction of the original system with extreme accuracy, following the previously laid out plan.

Why do we need reverse engineering?

This is a classical scenario in which reverse engineering is warranted: A company has a machine, but one of the components has broken down, so it needs to be replaced. However, the manufacturer has ceased production of that machine and all of its parts; they don’t supply spare pieces anymore. The owner of the machine can set up a procedure of reverse engineering of the broken piece, rather than having to buy a new machine.

Reverse engineering allows for shorter delays in product development, because this method can rapidly deliver a replacement for a faulty piece, that can be used in a prototype as equipment or in the production process.

However, reverse engineering has a whole array of uses:

  • To replace an original piece of which the documentation is incomplete or non-existent;
  • To redesign a piece in order to eliminate an error or to enhance some beneficial aspects;
  • To analyse products made by the competition;
  • To support new functions in case the original plans did not allow for that
  • To still make use of older or obsolete technologies that are no longer in production
  • To create plans or documentation of original products when there are no plans to be found, even after these products are already in use;
  • To deliver an essential piece in a short time span, without having to shut down the production process for a long time.

How are objects measured in a reverse engineering procedure?

To recreate an object, you have to ascertain the physical dimensions precisely. If you don’t have extremely accurate object measurements, it is possible that the recreated object won’t work because it is not an exact copy of the original.

It is possible to make these very precise measurements manually, with the help of a marking gauge, a micrometre, or other instruments of that type. In modern reverse engineering however, a tridimensional measuring machine is able to determine the geometrics of an object faster and more accurately than any manual measuring device is capable of.

A tridimensional measuring machine measures on three axels, X, Y and Z, and uses a coordinated system in three dimensions. Every axel has a basis, which determines the position of a point on that axel.

Tridimensional measuring machines use feelers to register a point as soon as the instrument comes in contact with the surface of the object that needs to be measured. Each point is measured individually, until the tridimensional measuring machine has collected enough data to allow the software to determine the length, angles and other geometric information of the object. The machine reads the data that enters through the feelers in function of the instructions that the operator has provided. The XYZ-coordinates of each point are then used to ascertain the size and position. A tridimensional measuring machine can measure the dimensions in two different ways: on the hand through direct contact with the object, on the other hand with the help of a laser scanner. The cloud of gathered points is then converted to recreate the surface of the object. This data print is then sent to a computer programme in order for it to be refined, analysed and expanded.

 

design scanarm 2

 

A solution for the digitalisation of a high resolution Arm for reverse engineering: the Design ScanArm combined with Geomagic software.

In order to answer to the needs of the market while designing a product, FARO has developed the Design ScanArm, a new measuring arm combined with a 3D scanner. This innovation is a digital, portable 3D solution made for 3D modelling in designing and the entire managing process, which lasts for the entire product life span.

The FARO Design ScanArm uses modern blue laser technology with an increased digitalisation speed in order to obtain point clouds with a high resolution and to be able to digitalise existing materials without problems, without having to use sprays and other such materials. The apparatus is very light and easy to move, so it can be placed in a lab or study room with ease. The Design ScanArm has a simplified user interface which allows for an easy use, even for users with limited experience or competence in 3D digitalisation.

Due to the combination of the FARO 3D digitalisation and the possibilities of the modelling software by Geomagic, the Design ScanArm offers a key solution that allows its users to digitalise, recreate and modify existing models or test prototypes quickly and with ease. This solution enables users to quickly transfer digitalised data to computer models, that can still be modified. Once the data is received, you can use the modelling functions in different ways, without having to use any other application.

Conclusion  

Reverse engineering is an important discipline that can contribute immensely to the life span of machines by enabling the proprietor of the machine to manufacture spare parts at will, even when these are not in production anymore. Reverse engineering also allows for new pieces to be added, to add additional functions or to eliminate errors.

The simplest, fastest, and easiest-to-use tool to measure and create products in the context of a recreating procedure, is a light-weight, portable tridimensional measuring machine. This tool allows you to measure objects with or without contact. The combination of these advantages that the FARO Design ScanArm offers, gives operators a fast and efficient solution in the present work environment and gives them a competitive advantage.

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