Engineering is the process of designing, manufacturing, assembling, and maintaining products and systems.
There are two types of engineering, forward engineering and reverse engineering. Forward engineering is the traditional process of moving from high-level abstractions and logical designs to the physical implementation of a system.
In some situations, there may be a physical part/product without any technical details, such as drawings, bills-of-material, or without engineering data.
The process of duplicating an existing part, subassembly, or product, without drawings, documentation, or a computer model is known as reverse engineering.
Reverse engineering is also defined as the process of obtaining a geometric CAD model from 3-D points acquired by scanning/digitizing existing parts/products. The process of digitally capturing the physical entities of a component, referred to as reverse engineering (RE), is often defined by researchers with respect to their specific task.
Reverse engineering is now widely used in numerous applications, such as Manufacturing, industrial design, and jewelry design and reproduction For example, when a new car is launched on the market, competing manufacturers may buy one and disassemble it to learn how it was built and how it works. In software engineering, good source code is often a variation of other good source code. In some situations, such as automotive styling, designers give shape to their ideas by using clay, plaster, wood, or foam rubber, but a CAD model is needed to manufacture the part. As products become more organic in shape, designing in CAD becomes more challenging and there is no guarantee that the CAD representation will replicate the sculpted model exactly.
Reverse engineering provides a solution to this problem because the physical model is the source of information for the CAD model. This is also referred to as the physical-to-digital process depicted in Figure. Another reason for reverse engineering is to compress product development cycle times. In the intensely competitive global market, manufacturers are constantly seeking new ways to shorten lead times to market a new product.
Rapid product development (RPD) refers to recently developed technologies and techniques that assist manufacturers and designers in meeting the demands of shortened product development time. For example, injection-molding companies need to shorten tool and die development time drastically. By using reverse engineering, a three dimensional physical product or clay mock-up can be quickly captured in the digital form, remodeled, and exported for rapid prototyping/tooling or rapid manufacturing using multi-axis CNC machining techniques.