By Jason Vander Griendt

July 9, 2016 at 8:14 am

If you need a replica of an item, no matter what it is, just send us a drawing like this and we can reverse engineer it

Reverse engineering is the process by which an existing product or component is duplicated with the assistance of computer modelling software and 3d printers or other manufacturing processes. In reverse engineering, a product is analysed to identify its components and their interconnected relationships, develop designs of the product in a 3d rendering program and then build a physical replica following the original design. While this sounds fairly complicated it doesn’t have to be. For instance many of our clients need one off parts recreated – for instance a furniture restorer contacted us to recreate pieces of a barbers chair that could no longer be sourced. To recreate something like this all we need are drawings like those to the right. Either draw or photograph the part that needs replicating, write down some measurements for us and we’ll get to work. You’ll have your product or part in no time!

Reverse engineering is a common practice in various fields. For example in the automotive industries, consumer products, mechanical designs, electronics, chemical and microchip industries see a lot of reverse engineering action. It’s quite common to see rival manufacturers purchase one new product in the market and try to learn all about how it operates and how it’s designed by disassembling it. While this is not necessarily ethical, it’s common knowledge for instance that within a few days or even a few hours of a new shoe being produced by a large company, there will already be factories in China producing replicas that are almost identical.

Here are some examples of reverse engineering.

How Products Are Reverse Engineered

Reverse engineering facilitates the duplication of an actual product by reproducing its physical features, dimensions and tangible properties. Before trying reverse engineering, a planned life-cycle review and cost/benefit study should be performed to support the reverse engineering schemes. Reverse engineering can be cost-effective provided that the products to be reverse-engineered indicate a high potential for investment or can be duplicated in large amounts. Of course it is not ethical to simply copy someone else’s work and then sell it, so if it will be used it should be as a base to work from and make significant changes or improvements to so that you are not plagiarising the original creator. Reverse engineering of a component may be done even if it is not cost-effective if the component is unquestionably needed and is based on a critical need.

Reverse engineering can also get very sophisticated. In some cases it can involve obtaining three-dimensional location data in the point cloud by using laser scanners or computed tomography. A geometrical map is then created based on the surface data obtained.

A polymesh is made from the surface data, utilising CAD design software. The polymesh is then refined by sending the Non-uniform Levelheaded B-spline Bends Surfaces (NURBS) through a purification process before rendering the cutter apparatus pathways for computer aided manufacturing (CAM). At last, the CAM process creates the physical part. That was a lot of big words! If that sounds very complicated don’t worry too much, we know what we’re doing. If you have a part that needs to be reverse engineered let us know and we’ll explain the best process to allow you to do it.

Computer aided design in the past has been fairly blocky and unnatural. Technology has progressed a long way in the last few years, however, allowing us to create organic forms, that previously might have been challenging or even impossible to manufacture. This process is further helped by using the physical model as the source of data for the CAD model. This is called the part-to-CAD process and is used to reverse engineer a variety of products.

Reverse engineering begins with an item, part or product and works backwards through the manufacturing process in order to create as perfect a duplicate as possible. If you have something that needs to be recreated, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today!


Jason Vander Griendt

Jason Vander Griendt is a Mechanical Engineering Technician with years of experience working at major companies such as SNC Lavalin Inc, Hatch Ltd. Siemens and Gerdau Ameristeel. He is the CEO of JCAD – Inc., a company he started in 2006 after seeing a gap in the market for businesses who could assist clients through the entire product design and manufacturing process.

Jason has been featured in Forbes, has had his businesses analyzed and discussed in multiple start-up books, was a previous winner of the Notable8 Digital Innovator of the year award, and is a regular guest on business panels and podcasts. Email Jason at or follow him on LinkedIn.

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