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Reverse engineering – the missing link in 3d printing

Like many with an interest in new technology, I have kept up to date with the latest the 3d printing industry has to offer. A key area of which is 3d scanning, with equipment now available which can produce a resolution/precision of up to 0.1% of scan size, down to 0.06mm.

This technology has had a great impact in the world of engineering design, as more and more businesses are starting to invest in quicker and more affordable ways of producing prototype parts. A lot of R&D projects use an existing product as a starting point, so having the ability to accurately scan the item to use as a reference is clearly beneficial. This does however raise some interesting questions regarding copyright; how much does a design have to be changed for it to be considered not to have infringed the original? One notable example of this would be when LandWind unveiled their latest X7 model at Guangzhou motor show in 2014, which bared a striking resemblance to the Land Rover Evoque.

Outside of engineering design, 3d scanning is being looked at by companies and individuals in both the Art & Design and Casting industries.

For casting companies, having the ability to accurately 3d scan expensive, sometimes hand-made patterns is very appealing. They could create a digital archive which would enable them to either replicate patterns at a significantly faster rate, using 3d printing or CNC processes, or to replace the one off patterns if they are damaged in the event of a fire or a water leak.

The interest from artists has been sparked by being able to scan their 3d art, which often has complex curved or irregular surfaces. Once scanned the data can be used in a number of different ways including, 3d printing small replica/cast-able models, using the data as part of a 3d digital portfolio and to act as insurance in case of damage to the original artwork.

If any of the above has sparked your interest please feel free to contact me

Matthew Todd – 11th May 2015

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