Home3D Printing3D Printing and Reverse Engineering

3D Printing and Reverse Engineering

Hello Machine Bros!
Today you will learn about the relationship between 3D Printing and Reverse Engineering.

We have shown in previous opportunities that we are passionate about developing, innovating, teaching and solving problems using technology, therefore, what we do at The Machine Bros addresses areas related to engineering and maker culture.

To develop something there are many techniques, methods and processes, but this time we want to talk to you about a particular process, reverse engineering and its relationship with 3D printing. So let’s start by explaining what reverse engineering is.

Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering has been known since the Second World War when it was possible to seize war material from the enemy and it was subjected to studies to obtain information from it, and thus improve it.

What reverse engineering seeks is to obtain information and even develop a design based on a finished product.

Through this, it is possible to verify which are the parts of a product and how they interact with each other, in such a way that it is able to determine what was the manufacturing process of said product.

This method is called “inverse” because the steps to follow are usually executed in the opposite way to usual engineering, where technical data is first obtained to later develop the product.

In general, individuals have many doubts regarding the legality of reverse engineering.

Wikipedia states in a paragraph that, “if the product or other material that was reverse engineered was obtained in an appropriate manner, then the process is legitimate and legal. In the same way, generic products created from information obtained from reverse engineering can be legally manufactured and distributed, as is the case of some widely known free software projects”.

In short, reverse engineering is necessary and will continue to exist, since it is possible to create new products or improve existing ones.

Reverse Engineering and 3D Printing
Reverse Engineering

Reverse Engineering and its Relation to 3D Printing

3D printing makes prototyping easier reducing timing and costs, therefore, reverse engineering and 3D printing are two tools that work very well together.

We are talking about the possibility of obtaining the data of a design through a finished product, to later manufacture a new one or test possible improvements by prototyping in a cheaper and faster way with 3D printing.

It is more profitable to produce prototypes with 3D printing compared to plastic injection because we save the huge costs involved in injection molds, and we also lower prices by not having to buy a plastic injection machine.

Imagine that every time the prototype needs to be improved, a new mold has to be manufactured, this greatly increases the costs of prototyping in plastic injection.

All this without counting the enormous technological advantages that some CAD software offers us, with which we are able to simulate the behavior of products under development to mechanical stress, thermal changes, among other things.

Reverse engineering and 3D printing
Creation of carabiners using reverse engineering and 3D printing

3D Scanner

3D scanners are very useful tools, they allow to obtain a 3D digital model of a physical object.

There are various techniques and technologies for 3D scanning, the accuracy and price of 3D scanners are very varied.

Although this technology has started to become more accessible to common users, for now, it is not as accessible as FDM printers and some SLAs are. Good scanners have high prices.

A method to scan in 3D more economically is photogrammetry, which is a technique that consists of “the science and technology of obtaining reliable information about physical objects and the environment through the process of recording, measuring and interpreting photographic images and patterns of electromagnetic radiant imagery and other phenomena.”

Many people use this 3D scanning technique with their own smartphones, but it has its limitations.

In another article, we will talk in more detail about photogrammetry and 3D scanners.

Reverse engineering 3D Scanner
3D Scanner

Let’s Reverse Engineer!

To give you an example of how to do reverse engineering, we will reverse engineer a carabiner

Note: Remember to turn on the subtitles for the videos with the button CC. You can also change the language in settings.

Step 1: Carabiner Design

Data collection, measurements, analysis and creation of the carabiner

Step 2: Lock Design

Creating the lock

Step 3: Analysis of the Carabiner V1

We analyze the movements and mechanical forces, to later print a first version

Step 4: Improving the Carabiner

The necessary improvements are made, thus creating a new version of the product

Step 5: Analysis of the Carabiner V2

We carry out a new analysis of movement and mechanical stress in the new version of the product

Step 6: Configuration and 3D Print

We configure the STL of the new version of the product in the slicer, to later print it in 3D.

Step 7 (optional): Annealing

In our case, we decided to anneal the printed piece to improve its mechanical and thermal properties.

If you want to know more about how to apply this heat treatment to your 3D printed parts, we advise you to visit our article “How to Apply Annealing to 3D Prints“.

Step 8: Mechanical Stress Testing

We run tests of mechanical resistance to the 3D printed part, to later obtain the respective conclusions

3D Print Your Own Carabiner

If you want to 3D print your own carabiner, you can download the STL at the following link Carabiner STL V2.

Remember that if you want to know how to configure the printing you must see the “video of Step 6“.

Conclusions about Reverse Engineering & 3D Printing

Reverse engineering is a very useful design tool, and we show that great things can be accomplished in conjunction with 3D printing.

Another technology that is of great help is 3D scanners, but for now this technology is not as accessible to common users, except for photogrammetry, which is not really a “3D scanner” but is used to create 3D models of physical objects.

As 3D scanners become more accessible and accurate, the combination of these three tools (reverse engineering + 3D printers + 3D scanners) will provide more users with exciting new design possibilities.


See you soon Machine Bros!



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