3D Scanning and reverse engineering have historically been linked with the practise of stealing competative designs and fabricating cheap “Knock-Off” parts. And, although this practise certainly occurs, it is not the only, nor is it the primary application for this technology.
Whereas most manufactured goods that appear in our economy today were designed in a 3D CAD system, that has not always been the case. When I started my career in the early 1990’s, I was assigned to a drafting board. Shortly thereafter, the engineers on my team were supplied with 386 computers running AutoCAD version 10 for 2D CAD design. Although the big aerospace and automotive companies had adopted 3D CAD, most everyone else was still in 2D. 3D CAD did not really become prevalent in small to mid-sized companies until the late 1990’s with the release of mid-range priced systems like Solidworks.
So, any products manufactured prior to the year 2000 very likely does not have an associated 3D CAD model. This situation alone presents a huge opportunity for 3D Scanning, which allows us to rapidly capture complex shapes, then using software like Rapidform XOR, create a fully parametric 3D model.
Possession of a 3D CAD file facilitates 3D printing of prototype parts, CNC machining of production parts, or molds and tooling. CAD data is easily shared with suppliers for quoting, as well as for sharing with other designers to facilitate collaboration. Parametric solid models offer the additional advantage of being easily edited, or modified to offer variations of size or design.