Reverse Engineering By Lloyd Meissner, P.E.

Reverse engineering can be defined as the process of obtaining design information from a product or assembly.  This may be one of your company’s legacy products, a product from a company you may have recently acquired or a competitor’s product for benchmarking purposes.  This process begins with data and information gathering using a variety of techniques. This data is then compiled into a detailed component or assembly drawing that was previously unavailable.

CT Scan of casting showing voids in boss areas.

CT Scan of casting showing voids in boss areas.

Reverse engineering can be used for a variety of purposes including defining a computer program, an electronic component, a mechanical device or assembly, or an individual plastic, metal or chemical component.

On January 24, 2018 Crane Engineering will be presenting this topic in greater detail at the Crane Engineering Smart Sessions.  The focus of this presentation will be on mechanical hardware components. Software and/or electronic component reverse engineering is a horse of a different color and won't be discussed.

The reverse engineering process needs hardware and software that work together.  Dimensions may be obtained with conventional CMM, 3-D laser or light scanning techniques, or using computed tomography (X-Ray CT scanning). These dimensions can then be used to create a 3-dimensional model of the part or assembly.

CT scanning is an extremely powerful tool used to obtain both external and internal physical and dimensional information that is impossible to obtain using other non-destructive test methods. In addition to internal and external dimensional information, CT scanning (or conventional x-ray techniques) can illuminate internal material features such as shrink, porosity, and foreign material in metal castings, as well as reinforcement information in injection molded plastic parts.           

A myriad of other destructive techniques may be used to determine material properties. Chemical analysis techniques include (OES, XRF, SEM/EDS, FTIR, DSC, Raman spectroscopy, as well as other surface sensitive methods). Mechanical properties of tensile strength, yield strength, and % elongation can determine by standard tensile testing methods. Hardness testing (sometimes defined as non-destructive) can also be used to estimate mechanical properties. In addition, density can be tested to further determine integrity of castings, injection molded plastic and powdered metal products.  The conditions of surface finish can be determined by contact and non-contact profilometry methods.

Reverse engineering can provide a detailed definition of the product to minimize design iterations.

To learn more, please register for our free continuing education and networking event.