3D Reverse Engineering – How Laser Scanning Helps
Despite its recent introduction in 1998, 3D laser scanning has had a dramatic impact on the 3D engineering and 3D reverse engineering process. In addition to making product design and product machining more precise sciences, laser scanning has also made deconstructing product design more precise. Simply put, the 3D reverse engineering process is the traditional engineering process in reverse, although the processes often serve the same purpose: the production of an improved product. Nevertheless, whereas traditional engineering is generally associated with the production of original products, reverse engineering is usually associated with the reproduction of heritage parts and the production of products that are altered as a result of quality control inspection-a process that also now relies on the power of laser scanning.
As in other scanning applications, reverse engineering has the opportunity to observe and manipulate a product’s data based on three basic data model types: polygon mesh models, which are relatively non-editable and are typically used for visualization purposes; surface models, which are editable at their surface and are ideal for modeling organic shapes and artistic objects; and solid CAD models, which are fully editable and can incorporate design intent. As with scanning models used in other applications, reverse engineering firms typically use precise versions of the models mentioned above, such as parametric CAD models, which convert realistic data from scanned data and can incorporate manufacturing defects; hybrid surface models, which are used when objects require re-trimming or class-A surfacing, and can also convert realistic data from scanned data and incorporate manufacturing defects; and hybrid surface models, which share the same qualities as parametric and surface models, and are used when products require re-trimming or class-A surfacing, especially when 2D drawings are needed.
Regardless of its applications, the ultimate value of laser scanning to reverse engineering is the same as its value to other disciplines that use laser scanning: it costs less than traditional surveying methods; it offers more accurate results; and it reduces the involvement of the surveyor (i.e. scanning professional) in the surveying process by producing results that can be manipulated by computer, thus eliminating the need for further assistance. Concerning surveyor assistance, some companies prefer to buy their own scanning equipment. However, considering that a single, tripod mounted commercial grade scanner can cost six figures, the best approach for companies with occasional scanning needs is usually to outsource their scanning. For companies that outsource, finding a scanning provider near the desired scanning location can occasionally prove difficult. However, due to the portability of most scanning equipment, many scanning providers travel worldwide to complete a variety of scanning projects.