The fast-changing nature of digital design solutions presents many opportunities to revisit old strategies and find new ways of approaching them. Engineers, architects, and designers today have at their disposal advanced and powerful technologies rooted in building their capabilities and working efficiently. Two among them are Autodesk Powershape and FeatureCAM. It should not come as any surprise that there have been many innovations in Autodesk over the last year, but the recent “Reverse Engineering with Autodesk Manufacturing Technology” webinar hosted by KETIV Technologies showcased some of the most useful solutions for reverse engineering.
So, what is reverse engineering? It is the ability to look at a finished product and deduce how it operates through various means. There are many reasons to do this; repairing an unfamiliar product or understanding how something operates. Whereas the process has previously been potentially dangerous to the product, advanced digital design solutions like those created by Autodesk can help mitigate risks. And there is good reason to work to mitigate those risks. With older technology that may not have any sort of surviving technical design, being able to create new parts is a very real issue.
“This is a very common workflow, especially for those who are working with R&D or for clients with older machines.” – Alex Alvarez, KETIV
Today, most reverse engineering attempts start with a scan. “You take your scan data, mesh data, typically from some kind of handheld scanning device, and upload it into Powershape,” Ted Ward, Technical Specialist for Autodesk shared. “Typically scan data has some noise; holes in the model, or peculiar edges that can really interfere with what we want to do down the road.” However, recent innovations allow for programs like Powershape to “fix” the models.
From smoothing out rough edges to determining which holes are purposeful and which are not, the automatic mesh tools offer even the newest member of a design team the ability to reverse engineer a working part. Beyond simple square angles, Ward also highlights that Powershape can model irregular shapes as well. “Powershape is really tolerant of gaps, holes, and curves.”
The result, and what is the most relevant to a designer looking to reverse engineer a part, is that they have a solid model that can be used to rebuild, replace, or rework an older part without the noise of a scan. “The in-built tolerance detection program lets us see how accurate the new model is to the original scan…. You get a deviation score and if it’s acceptable by you or the client, you’re good to go.”
“This is a very common workflow,” added Alex Alvarez, Application Engineer for KETIV, “especially for those who are working with R&D or for clients with older machines.” Ward notes, however, that there is far more work to be done beyond just the model.
Alvarez described the next steps in the context of FeatureCAM, which is a feature recognition Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software. “You don’t need any sort of 2D geometry to drive that tool path… you don’t need any extrusions, islands, or really any sort of feature in order to generate some kind of tool path for the software.” Like Powershape, there is also significant time-saving automation that can help design teams be more efficient.
After the image is uploaded, design professionals can create and customize their mills to best use the data in the creation of the machine, and Alvarez adds that FeatureCAM supports 5 Axis-Milling. Some of the customizable tool path options that Alvarez specifically noted include the ability to set custom staging, selecting the hardness of the material being milled, and the speed that the mill itself operates.
The result of these collaborative Autodesk solutions are two, highly customizable design softwares that work in tandem to create the most accurate model and product possible. When dealing with the problems inherent to reverse engineering a product or a piece of a machine, it is this level of customization that can make the difference between a useless part and the perfect fit.
As Autodesk solutions continue to evolve and embrace the power of more advanced technologies, it is not unreasonable to expect more powerful tools and innovations like Powershape and FeatureCAM to arrive and help make design a little bit easier.
To learn more about what KETIV and Autodesk can do for you, click here.