With the popularity of computer-aided design (CAD), reverse engineering technology can build a three-dimensional virtual model of existing physical parts for use in three-dimensional CAD, CAM, CAE or other softwares.
The reverse engineering process can use three-dimensional scanning techniques such as coordinate measuring machines, laser scanners, structured light digitizers or industrial CT scans (computed tomography) to measure physical objects and then reconstruct them into three-dimensional models.
Mere measurement data, usually expressed in the form of point clouds, which lacks of topological information and design intent. The topology information can be restored by converting the point cloud into a triangular mesh. The purpose of reverse engineering is not limited to this. Under appropriate circumstances, the design intent is restored through simple analysis surfaces (planes, cylinders, etc.) and possible NURBS surfaces to generate a boundary CAD model. By creating or restoring such a model, the design can be modified to meet new requirements, and new product manufacturing plans can be made.
Hybrid modeling is a commonly used term when NURBS (non-uniform rational base curve) and parametric modeling are implemented together. Using a combination of geometric surfaces and free-form surfaces can provide a powerful 3D modeling method. Areas of free-form data can be combined with precise geometric surfaces to create a hybrid model. A typical example of this is the reverse engineering of a cylindrical cover, which includes free-form casting features such as water jackets and high tolerance machining areas.
Reverse engineering is also used by companies to bring existing physical geometries into digital product development environments, to perform digital 3D records of their products, or to evaluate competitors' products. For example, it is used to analyze the working principle, function, and components of the product, estimate the cost, and identify potential patent infringement.
Value engineering is related to reverse engineering and is also used by enterprises. It involves the destructuring and analysis of products, and its purpose is to find the possibility of reducing costs.