Reverse engineering is the process of gathering data about an existing item. This information can then be used for various applications like making tools to produce a sea shell or wooden carving, replace tooling from a die or mold that has no CAD file, or make an item that will be attached to an existing item, such as a gauge cluster mounting to the interior of a car.
The process consists of three phases that can be compared to baking a cake. In phase one, all of the ingredients for the cake are gathered. With reverse engineering, phase one focuses on gathering all pertinent information about the data so the tool or product can be reproduced. During phase two, all of the cake’s ingredients are mixed together. In this scenario, the data is manipulated to create surfaces. In the last phase, the cake is baked or in layman’s terms, a model is created.
While the process for reverse engineering is the same, shops typically specialize in just one area. For example, they may focus on parts like engines for lawn mowers, tools like die punches or die form blocks, or parts for products ranging from cars to helicopters.
So Before Selecting a Shop for Reverse Engineering, It’s Important to Ask Four Questions:
- Do you employ at least one worker with the skills, background and experience to reverse engineer your tool, part or product? If the employee does not have an understanding of how to deal with your plastic part, for example, the quality of reverse engineering might be inferior and also more expensive.
- How is the data formatted? Can you receive the software and data in the format you want? You may need information that includes a surface or defined geometry.
- Do you have a system of verifying the accuracy of the data? If the data turns out to be wrong, you’ll be in no better shape than when you started. A system needs to be in place to verify the accuracy of the data.
- Do you have the appropriate equipment needed to reverse engineer this tool or product? Take a shop that reverse engineers tools. Chances are, they may use a CMM and a laser or contact probe like a Renishaw Cyclone Scanner or a Roamer arm with a Perceptron laser. But this equipment is not appropriate for reverse engineering a lawn mower or car. There are different pieces of equipment needed to properly reverse engineer these products. A simple analogy would be like trying to use a kitchen knife as a screwdriver. It may work, it may get the job done, but not as well, quickly or efficiently. The process would take longer, may not be as accurate and cost more money.
Sometimes companies wait too long to gather details. The tool, part or product can actually be broken or no longer function properly. It’s much more complicated to reproduce anything after it’s broken.
Consider gathering the data before anything breaks or wears out. Accidents happen. So do failures with tools. Plan ahead by managing the total cost of the tool or product. Gather the data and store the details for later use. Don’t wait until that die or form matrix becomes so old that it’s already broken. If you do, the reverse engineering process could yield inaccurate results. By gathering the detail in advance, not only will the data be accurate, but the overall process will require less time, less labor and less expense in the future.
Some customers develop situations where they break a block but don’t have any detail for the block. Now everything has to happen immediately. This emergency requires a shop to stop everything they’re doing, putting this job ahead of others they are currently working on. That will definitely add to the cost of reverse engineering.
Emergencies can be avoided. Keep in mind that this first phase - gathering the detail - is the least expensive of the reverse engineering process, and it’s the only step that can prevent unnecessary costs down the road. The real expenses are in phase two and three where the data is manipulated and solids are created.
Another way to save money is to share pertinent information about your part, tool or product. The more information you convey to the person doing the reverse engineering about how it is used, the more time and money can be saved.
Take a die form block with several holes and cutouts. If individuals handling the reverse engineering aren’t familiar with what each cut or hole is for, they will try to reach the closest tolerance for each hole and cutout on that block. But if they are told the holes really don’t matter, they are simply clearance holes, it won’t take them as long to reverse engineer the block because the measurement of the holes don’t have to be exact. Identify what’s critical and what’s not about the tool, part or product you want reversed engineered.
The best roadmap for reverse engineering really boils down to several key steps: Make sure you have a fair understanding of the process, what equipment is needed and how the tool or product works; gather the detail before a tool or product ages or breaks; convey your knowledge to the person doing the reverse engineering; and ask plenty of questions. By following this path, you’ll never be disappointed.
Tony Nehrt is the owner of Brownstown Quality Tool & Design in Brownstown, Ind. The company, which employs 12 people, specializes in several areas: designing and building special tools like dies, jigs, fixtures, and special machines; reverse engineering of tools, that include die punches, die matrixes, die form blocks and special tooling blocks; and custom machining for CNC wire EDM, 2 to 4 axis CNC milling, CNC grinding, CNC turning and small hole drilling.
Contact Nehrt at email@example.com or at 812-358-4593.
All comment postings require your name and email address for user verification only. Your email address will not be used or distributed for any other purpose.
No advertising is permitted and will result in the post being deleted and/or banning. Please click "REPORT" to report any inappropriate posts. blog comments powered by Disqus
Permission to Reproduce:
Unless otherwise stated, the copyright and similar rights to all material published on this website are owned by The Manufacturers Group Inc. DBA Manufacturing & Technology eJournal( mfrtech.com ). Reproduction of any article in print, electronic or any other form must acknowledge mfrtech.com as the Source and include a link to http://www.mfrtech.com