What is one of the first and most common challenges new automotive part design is likely to encounter?   

Our answer is data. 

While creating new designs from an existing part, the part's geometry or 3D CAD data is either outdated or unavailable. Historical math data can get lost or outdated—meaning not all the changes in the production tooling are captured in the existing CAD model. Thanks to high-precision 3D digitizing, comprehensive 3D data can be accurately acquired through reverse engineering the physical part. 

The Challenge

Our customer, an automotive supplier, purchased some suspension components. They needed to optimize the existing design and conduct cost reduction analyses for a potential new customer. The existing suspension parts included control arms and ball joints with curved, complex geometries.

The traditional approach to capturing the parts was to use a conventional CMM, but in this case, the curves on the parts can be difficult and slow to capture this way. Thanks to 3D metrology solutions, it is possible to obtain these critical features through high-precision structured light 3D scanning and reverse engineering the parts into the digital environment.

Control arms and ball joints used in this project.

How did the reverse engineering process solve the problem?

Reverse engineering enables the re-creation of 3D CAD data from existing physical parts. In this project, the process of reverse engineering the automotive parts included high-precision 3D scanning, data processing, and 3D modeling to provide the ‘as-built’ models.

Precision 3D measurement is the starting point of reverse engineering. In this step, our experts used a Zeiss structured-light 3D scanner to capture the "as-built" condition of the part. The part was set on an integrated turn table while the blue-light scanner emitted a visible light source, and the camera system recorded the observed pattern and its changes on the object. The patterns were recorded as “point clouds"— a collection of millions of precise X, Y, and Z coordinates, as 3D data points.

Automotive Part 3D scanning

3D scanning the control arm

Then the scans were processed into complete 3D models. Based on the high-quality 3D ‘point cloud’ data, each scan was aligned together to form the contour of the object, as a mesh or STL. The mesh was then cleaned, repaired, and refined. The updated mesh was imported into CAD software to construct a complete 3D model by adding or extracting elements, refining and smoothing out the surface on the control arms and ball joints.

As a result, the critical engineering information and level of detail provided from reverse engineering ensured our customer could successfully assess weight optimization and complete cost benchmarking analysis for a potential supplier.

3D digitization captures the complex, organic shapes on automotive parts

Benefits of reverse engineering for automotive:

Capturing complex, organic geometry for critical automotive components

Most automotive parts have complex, organic shapes and holes associated with the A and B side geometry. Although traditional 3D measurement, such as a CMM, is very accurate, this only provides a limited level of detail. Fortunately, structured light scanners project light on the part and quickly collect millions of precision 3D points within seconds. The tiniest details on complex surfaces can be captured almost immediately with an accuracy of up to 10 microns.

Fast and accurate model creation 

Reverse engineering offers automotive designers, engineers and quality professionals the capability to re-create 3D models based on physical parts or tooling. When you need to refine your early product designs or existing parts, our experts can make quick iterative changes to the 3D CAD data in our highly specialized 3D software, including shaping, surfacing, and creating high-quality symmetric 3D models.

Enable tests & simulations in the digital environment

After 3D reverse engineering, precisely captured automotive parts and assemblies can be analyzed, modified, and used for other optimization processes. With the 3D data, automotive engineers can conduct FEA (Finite Element Analysis), CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics), and other analytical simulations in a digital environment.

Ready to Take Designing Excellence to the Next Level?

Let's get started with 3D metrology and reverse engineering.