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Optimizing the reverse engineering process with X-ray CT

by Adrien on 29 Aug 2021 at 09h57
Reverse engineering is the production of a real part into a digital dataset. As there are various ways to do so, X-ray CT proves to be the fastest technology to generate a 3D model of a real part. Originally X-ray CT was mostly used in the academic sector for research. Since this non-destructive technology has been accessible for industrials in flaw detection, failure analysis and measurement, there are many applications such as reverse engineering that prove competitive advantages necessary for the industrial sector. For many years, reverse engineering was thought to be time consuming, expensive and complex, limiting its application to few isolated cases. However, with the booming of X-ray CT, all the cons of reverse engineering mentioned above disappeared.

X-ray CT offers efficient results for reverse engineering

Reverse engineering is particularly useful to reduce the design life-cycle time of product development, allowing rapid prototyping of your component of competition analysis. That is when X-ray CT comes useful whether it is to replicate a real part, for analysis and inspection purposes or just to transform a physical part to a 3D representation for your CAD software.
With traditional testing technologies, reverse engineering can be quite time-consuming while X-ray CT speeds up the process by producing the data even for the most complex parts. Furthermore, complicated components are segmented accurately in order to obtain complete geometry.

From the real sample to its CAD model

Starting from a real physical sample, a CT scan allows generating a point cloud of every sample’s surface. A CAD file can then be created from this point cloud and easily get a three-dimensional virtual model based on a real part. The extracted surfaces can be exported in different formats (STL, STEP, WRL, TXT ...) and compatible with most CAD software’s.
Step by step process of reverse engineering with X-ray CT:

1) Point clouds of the 3D scan

The scan setup allows capturing what we call “cloud points” that mark out the structural properties in 3D of the real part.

2) Mesh model creation

After generating the point clouds, you can connect the points in order to create a mesh and use it as a guide to analyze dimensions and export as STEP to generate the CAD model.

3) From real part to CAD model

The accurate representation in 3D, thanks to the first two steps (point clouds and mesh model), is then exported to your CAD software to create the model.

Benefits of using X-ray CT for reverse engineering

CT scanning has a number of advantages when it comes to reverse engineering, such as :
-  Faster and improved analysis process
- Generate in a few minutes ready-to-use CAD models from real parts
-  Quantified data from real part to 3D visualization compatible with CAD software’s
-  Non-destructive technology so you won’t lose precious information
- Get the external as well as the internal 3D information

Tomographic results of reverse engineering 

3D rendering of a plastic component 
- 20 minutes scan
- Reconstruction of the sample on a 3D volume
- Point cloud generation 
- Mesh model creation  
X-ray Computed Tomography is becoming a must-have technology in the industrial sector, especially when it comes to product development in R&D, design, prototyping etc. but also control and production process in failure analysis, warranty & reclaim… Getting to see your parts internally as well as externally with X-ray CT, allows you to carry out material analyses (porosity, inclusions, failure analysis…) and geometry & metrology measurements.
The reverse engineering process is optimized with X-ray CT and gives the opportunity to improve the product life cycle all while saving costs and time.