CMM Reverse Engineering: What is Reverse Engineering & Why Do Businesses Need It?

Published by CMMXYZ on September 27, 2021

Reverse engineering is a critical process for manufacturers, which is often made easier and most effective with the use of a CMM.

When there is limited knowledge on the engineering of a particular part, original documents are missing, or there are no two or three-dimensional renderings of their CAD models, reverse engineering allows metrologists to optimize clients’ production and recreate important products.

CMMs accurately and intricately measure the geometry of parts, which is why manufacturers will typically utilize these machines for reverse engineering efforts. Manufacturers often also use this type of engineering to ensure a product meets safety or industry standards and meets requirements for specific certifications.

CMMXYZ is proud to be a trusted CMM company in North America with over 30 years of industry experience. Our trusted CMM and reverse engineering services are designed to help our clients deconstruct their designs and individual components using a step-by-step process.

We provide reliable and efficient measurement solutions for reverse engineering to help reduce the risk of vulnerable products, reproduce essential replacement parts, and identify any existing flaws. Through our process, we can help accelerate your product innovation, increase its performance, upgrade existing features, and ensure your raw point cloud data is expertly converted.

Our clients trust CMMXYZ for their reverse engineering and metrology needs.

What is Reverse Engineering? 

Reverse engineering is a process designed to identify a three-dimensional object’s properties. This is achieved by creating a clear and comprehensive analysis of the object’s structure, operations, and functions.

Reverse engineering has also been referred to by technicians as back engineering since they work backwards from the initial design process. By reverse engineering a geometric object, they start by identifying the end result, deconstructing the object, and carrying out specific assessments and measurements. This helps technicians obtain the necessary data and design information.

Why Use a CMM for Reverse Engineering? 

Reverse engineering can be done using various materials and tools, but what makes CMM reverse engineering services unique are the accuracy and automated capabilities they provide. When you use CMMs for reverse engineering, the measurement of the object’s complete surface geometry is recorded. The process allows manufacturers to understand the details of how a particular part was designed to either replicate the object or make any modifications or enhancements.

Measuring the physical object involves using three-dimensional scanning technologies which are situated on a coordinate measuring machine, either a stationary or portable CMM.

What is the Purpose of Reverse Engineering?

Reverse engineering can be used for several purposes. It is often used as a valuable learning tool to help manufacturers understand how their manufacturing process performs.

Some manufacturers use the process to make new and compatible products that are cheaper than what is currently on the market. Others use reverse engineering to create more effective software solutions or to effectively bridge data between various operating systems.

Another common purpose of reverse engineering is to verify a product to ensure it meets specific standards any required certifications.

How Does Reverse Engineering Work with CMMs? 

The way reverse engineering works with CMMs is that reverse engineering tools use efficient CMM programming to produce three-dimensional models or two-dimensional drawings from existing production parts.

This complex process is carried out by experienced CMM technicians to investigate potential design improvements, repair outdated equipment, and create reliable mesh models. A coordinate measuring machine that is equipped with a RS6 laser scanner is used to scan the object to analyze its measurements and begin the reconstruction process.

There are 3 steps of reverse engineering required for a complete assessment:

Parts and Deliverables Analysis 

The initial step in reverse engineering is to analyze the details of an object and identify the end goal of the client to ensure their specifications for manufacturing and accuracy are met. Our metrologists review the requirements and deliverables to create a customized solution for your needs.

Gathering Physical Part Data 

Next, technicians will begin by analyzing the object’s dimensions and unique attributes, whether it’s a piece of industrial machinery or a computer component. As the analysis progresses, the object’s measurements are recorded, including the widths, lengths, and heights of the essential components. It’s important to record this data accurately as these dimensions are often connected to the object’s overall performance ability.

Model Creation and Data Processing 

Once the initial data has been collected, the information is then edited and refined and tailored to meet the next step in the process. The data is then adapted for accuracy and efficiency. If there is a specific reverse engineering process in place, the measurement data collected is then guided to create the desired output outlined by the client.

The Final Review 

Once the reverse engineering process is complete, our trained metrologists will verify that the CAD model is exact against the measured data. To ensure this process, a comparison is made between the measured data and the current CAD model using the exact colour map analysis process used during inspection.

Reverse Engineering Tools 

Reverse engineering is a process that involves deconstructing an object to see how it functions. This process allows technicians to analyze and retain knowledge about the way a particular object works on behalf of their client before they begin to reproduce a mesh version of the object.

There are various reverse engineering tools required to implement this process:

Coordinate Measuring Machines 

CMMs are an integral part of reverse engineering processes where manufacturing or production pieces are being deconstructed. These machines measure the physical geometrical characteristics of the object. They obtain point cloud data through CMM scanning and export the data to the modelling software. A CMM helps obtain any unknown details on the component and intricately measure its surfaces which are unmeasurable by any other method.


To successfully reverse engineer an object from your production floor, appropriate software solutions are needed to extract curves, parametric sketches, surfaces, and any additional features from polygonal models. This creates a starting point in the overall CAD modelling process.

Our Polyworks Modeler software is designed to optimize and repair any imperfect digitized geometry by inserting new polygons over the object’s unmeasured areas. Through NURBS surfacing technology, curves are placed on the polygonal model to develop a continuous network of NURB surfaces. This can be directly imported into any CAM/CAD application.

Polyworks software requires an in-depth knowledge of the program to successfully execute a reverse engineering project. At CMMXYZ, we offer a comprehensive Polywords Modeler training course that outlines the complete reverse engineering workflow, first by gathering scan data to generate a three-dimensional CAD model.

Who Uses Reverse Engineering?

Reverse engineering is utilized by various industries with specific end goals in mind. It is often necessary to understand how a specific product works or to develop 3D models of an existing object. Without reverse engineering, many companies would be required to replace their entire machines regularly, leading to an unnecessary increase in costs.

  • Aerospace: Reverse engineering affords aerospace manufacturers the opportunity to replace parts that have longer lead times or do not play a critical role in production. In these cases, engineers must create a CAD model before they can replicate any of their parts.
  • Electronics: Electronic engineers can use the reverse engineering process to work backwards from the final assembly to adjust specific components or improve them.
  • Medical: Medical professionals rely on reverse engineering to improve their software capabilities, overcome significant technical challenges, and potentially boost their security. This process can help bring current issues to the surface and allow technicians and engineers to create appropriate solutions when conducted with precision.

CMM Reverse Engineering Services 

CMM provides full-service reverse engineering and CMM services to help manufacturers understand the details and nuances of their parts. We use CMM laser scanning to scan your object and create a “mesh” followed by a solid CAD, including surface lines and splines that can be efficiently integrated into your current process using our efficient and trusted reverse engineering software. We offer a range of digitizing services designed to optimize your products and production cycle.


The archival process allows any hand-tuned die blocks to be logged before they’re worn out during the production process. Through archiving, your part is digitized at its most functional state, and the data gathered can be used to detect and quantify any wear and tear that may have been caused by the production. Should any damage have occurred, CMM repair and restoration is available.

Vintage Reconstruction 

Vintage reconstruction is essential when dealing with historical artifacts, ranging from dinosaur bones to vintage cars. Our digitizing services are designed to capture your object as it stands. Our experienced technicians work closely with you to meticulously and mathematically reconstruct any features that may have worn off your part.

Volumetric Analysis 

When your CMM CAD software is incompatible with raw scanning data, your FEA or FEW can suffer. We provide practical volumetric analysis and modelling services to help convert your raw point cloud data into your referred CAD file formats.

Program Update and Conversion 

If your existing assembly requires an added subcomponent or a redesign, our professional CMM digitizing services can virtualize your machine with unparalleled accuracy, ensuring superior function and fitment.

The Benefits of Reverse Engineering 

Unlike the misconceptions about reverse engineering, the process is significantly beneficial to manufacturers. Using stationary or portable CMMs, measurements of the object and important data are collected to help manufacturers achieve their desired results.

Through reverse engineering, a variety of dimensional measurement needs can be met with accuracy and efficiency.

Improves CMM Processes 

The reverse engineering process allows manufacturers to improve their machines and processes, implement innovations, or create new processes tailored for their desired use. Through the process, they can document the efficiency, power, and lifespan of their machine and identify potential improvements.

Allows for Proactive Maintenance 

By reverse-engineering important components, before they’re unusable, manufacturers can limit their production downtime and allow for more efficiency going forward. Preventive maintenance allows you to plan your machine’s downtime, creating the ideal moment for the reverse engineering process to begin.

Reduce Lead Times 

Certain parts may have longer lead times and could be subjected to higher costs. By proceeding with reverse engineering, manufacturers have a completed drawing and a 3D model produced in a fraction of the time and costs it would take to ship a brand-new part.

Work with CMMXYZ 

CMMXYZ is proud to be North America’s leading metrology company with over three decades of experience. We provide specialized CMM maintenance, repair, and training services and are the leading independent measurement services provider in the country.

In addition to our reverse engineering processes, we provide specialized on-and-off-site measuring and scanning services ranging from equipment verifications and inspections to laser scanning, software upgrades, and CMM training. We offer an extensive catalogue of services and will gladly walk you through the ins and outs of our contract measurement and repair services.

We enlist a team of trained metrologists to produce quality services in your desired turnaround without compromising accuracy. We understand the complexities of the reverse engineering process and apply only the highest level of precision and attention to our work. We ensure you’re able to resume production as quickly as possible with a more in-depth knowledge of your products and their data.

If you’re looking for experienced reverse engineering services, trust the team at CMMXYZ. Our industry-leading specialists are available to answer your questions and offer customized recommendations. Contact us today to get started.

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