3 Ways Manufacturers can Benefit from Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering is on the rise. As reverse engineering tools are getting easier and more affordable to use, this technology has become a practical way for design engineers to create a three-dimensional virtual model of an existing physical component.

What is reverse engineering?

Reverse engineering, or sometimes called back engineering, is the process of extracting knowledge or design information from anything man-made and reproducing it. The process requires both hardware and software tools. The hardware (laser trackers or laser scanners) takes the measurements of an object and the software (CAD or CAM systems) reconstructs it as a 3-D model.

Portable scanning technology has enabled design engineers to deliver reverse engineering outcomes at a quicker turnaround time. The Faro Arm, a portable coordinate measuring machine, can easily and accurately meet a variety of dimensional measurement needs including on-machine and in-line inspection and CAD comparison, to ensure proper tolerances and machine alignment.

What does this mean for manufacturers?

Many manufacturers struggle with fast sourcing of accurate and high quality change parts for their machine components. In many cases, machines may be outdated and change parts for it may have been discontinued. In other cases, design documentation for the needed parts may have been lost.

Manufacturers who source original OEM parts may experience long lead times and be subjected to high costs of acquiring these parts. Some manufacturers may simply want to improve their machines and processes, and require precise engineered components to implement innovations or new processes in their facility. These are all common issues that reverse engineering can help address.

Through reverse engineering, design engineers can efficiently create change parts that an original equipment manufacturer can no longer supply. It can also enable them to discover how the efficiency, power, and even lifespan of equipment can be improved. Let’s take a look at 3 ways manufacturers can benefit from reverse engineering.

Reduced downtime

The wear and tear of machine components can have a huge impact on production capacity and output. Replacement of accurate and durable change parts is crucial to ensuring machine alignment and efficiency. Ill-fitting change parts and long lead times, especially when sourcing for OEM parts, can create excessive downtime that translates to significant financial losses for a manufacturer.

Through reverse engineering, a manufacturer can simply recreate the replacement parts they need to keep their machines running smoothly, often with superior materials that allow for quicker processing or longevity of the parts and minimise costly downtime. For example, in a case study published by Sulzer, a steel manufacturing site in Brazil was able to cut downtime due to OEM repair by 66% through reverse engineering.

Identify areas for improvement

Overtime, equipment deteriorates. What may have worked well previously, may not be very efficient today or in the very near future. Proactive maintenance is essential to identify where machines have degraded and plan how to resolve the issue in advance of lost productivity. For example, a pump manufacturer uses an impeller in their pumping systems. The original pump was pumping 20,000 cubic feet per minute, but a year later, the pumps were only producing 19,000 cubic feet per minute significantly reducing output.

The impeller was scanned, measurements taken and compared to the original equipment as a finished part. This enabled design engineers to identify where the deterioration had taken place and redesign an enhanced version of the impeller to avoid future losses in pumping capacity.

Cost savings

Creating an improved version of a machine component not only ensures that equipment is operating at maximum efficiency, but it can also help extend the life of the equipment, as the manufacturer only has to replace one part, instead of replacing the entire machine. What does this mean for a manufacturer? Cost savings.

Reverse engineering encourages manufacturers to work with outsourced engineering companies to design and construct the required change parts, instead of continuing to use OEM change parts. This means both time and cost savings as local, outsourced engineering teams have faster turnaround times and can offer reverse engineered change parts at a more affordable price compared with OEM parts.

It’s no wonder using reverse engineering and the use of non-OEM equipment is on the rise. It provides a viable method to recreate and improve change parts to ensure that machines are running at optimal levels, thereby minimising production downtime at lower cost. When considering replacement parts, it can benefit a manufacturer to work with an outsourced engineering team before first turning to OEM parts.


Alternative Engineering is a leading Melbourne based engineering and manufacturing company that specialises in high-capacity production environments across a wide range of industries.