Reverse Engineering with 3D Scanning, SOLIDWORKS and 3D Printing

   By Brian Metzger on November 4, 2022

When you have 3D scanning, CAD and 3D printing added to your operation, it opens up new possibilities. Let’s look at how easy it is to make perfect-fitting 3D-printed fixtures.

Today, I’m going share how I fixed a squeaky ceiling fan. First, I 3D scanned a can of WD-40 and imported the geometry into SOLIDWORKS. Next, I designed a 3D printable bracket to fit the can so that I could place it on the end of a broomstick and fix the problem.

full color 3D scan of WD-40 can

3D scanning the WD-40 can with Artec Studio was easy. The scanner can pick up full-color data, which helps with the very plain cylindrical surface for registration. I used Geomagic for SOLIDWORKS for reverse engineering. The body of the can was easy to make with simple revolves of cross sections of the mesh, but the head was auto-surfaced. It was easier that way. Then it took approximately 15 or 20 minutes to draw up a simple bracket that I could use to put this can on the end of the broomstick.

Most of the magic is in the Boolean operations of features combined. I was able to draw chunks of material through the can and subtract one body from the other. Creating these perfect nesting fits to what is otherwise tricky geometry.

subtracting one body from the other

The bracket was 3D printed overnight on a Stratasys FDM machine. The print was lightweight because of the sparse fill that I used so that it didn’t use very much material. And the next day I was able to fix the problem with my ceiling fan.

I’ve seen companies use this for jigs and fixtures, end-of-arm, robotic grippers, and all sorts of applications. So much so that recently Artec Studio added new features to be able to create basic CAD primitives like the cylinder and perform basic Boolean operations like add, combine, and subtract. 

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Brian Metzger

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