Useful articles and use cases of 3D scanning

SolidWorks: Reverse Engineering of Organic Forms

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Reverse engineering is a process of making an exact copy of a real object. The process is widely used in various industries, including the aerospace sector, shipbuilding, and mechanical engineering. Re-engineering has lately been growing more popular in medicine and biotech as well: this method is  now used to create artificial bones for cancer patients, just to give one example.

Reverse engineering starts with 3D scanning an object. A 3D scanner makes scans automatically; you just have to make sure every surface gets captured. RangeVision 3D scanners often participate in re-engineering projects. Getting a 3D scan is just the beginning though — you still need to turn it into a working model somehow.

We’re dedicating our new Reverse engineering for beginners series of guides exactly to this stage of the process. In the first tutorial of the series, we’re going to learn just how to use SolidWorks to turn raw scans into working 3D models. SolidWorks is one of the most popular CAD solutions on the market, a definite industry standard for the entire engineering sector. It is often used for backwards engineering problems.

In this article we show you:

  • How to import 3D scan data into SolidWorks for re-engineering?

  • How to perform reverse engineering in SolidWorks?

In the guide you will learn:

  • the ScanTo3D add-in;

  • automatic and guided surface creation;

  • how to use the Mesh Prep Wizard;

  • how to use the Surface Wizard;

  • creating a surface;

  • creating a solid body;

  • how to turn a mesh into a solid body.

Every step is illustrated with screenshots, and the entire re-engineering process is shown on the video you can find under the article.

Choosing an object for reverse engineering

In order to show the capabilities of SolidWorks for re-engineering organic shapes, we have chosen a human tooth as an object. Reverse engineering has been particularly widely used in dentistry: doctors use precise plaster copies of their patients’ teeth or entire oral cavities for diagnostics and treatment. Some 3D scans of teeth get turned into 3D-printed dentures that fit perfectly.

Modern 3D scanners instantly make very accurate scans. Dentists store histories of scanning results on their computers and use them to monitor treatment. The 3D scan that is used in this article has been achieved with a RangeVision 3D scanner. Let us learn how to turn a raw scan file into a solid body in SolidWorks.

Automatic surface creation

First let’s learn how to create a surface automatically. We need the ScanTo3D add-in to import our 3D scan file to SolidWorks.

1. Let us make sure that the Add-In ScanTo3D was installed and is ready to work

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2. And then import 3D scan data (STL)

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3. Next we need to launch the Mesh Prep Wizard and follow its steps

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4. We can align the mesh and delete needless parts if necessary

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5. Let's reduce the number of mesh faces to cut the time of a surface creation

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6. And leave the Launch Surface Wizard checkbox checked

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7. We choose the Automatic creation option and move the Surface Detail slider to the left to reduce the surface generation time

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8. The red areas are the surfaces with errors. We fix them by adding, deleting or moving the control curves

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9. When all the errors are fixed, we finish the wizard

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10. We've got the solid body

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Guided surface creation

The result of automated surface creation may prove inconvenient for further use. You may want to use another method called guided surface creation. This method utilizes a couple of controllable functions with changeable parameters which you can adjust to your needs.

1. Now let's launch the Surface Wizard and choose the Guided creation option

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2. After automatic partition to sub-meshes we use the brush to redefine some areas

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3. The top of the tooth can be reconstructed with a spline surface

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4. Let's change the number of the control lines

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5. And move some of them to take into account a local curvature of the mesh

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6. Now we can finish the wizard

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7. Let's create the side surface of the tooth with the Curve Wizard

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8. We choose the Section Method and define section planes

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9. We've got a 3D sketch that contains the intersection curves. Let's use these curves to create a loft surface

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10. We need to extend the surface to intersect the existing one and trim needless parts

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11. Next we create a new sketch to trim the other side of the loft surface (the XY plane could be used as a trimming tool either)

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12. And close the hole with a patch

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13. To get a solid body we need to knit all these surfaces with 'Create solid' flagged

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14. We can inspect the absence of a hollow inside the body

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  The resulting model is less precise than the automatic one, because this time we’ve used a more flexible method. However, it should be more suitable for further use and editing.

The results of re-engineering

The reverse engineering process is over: we have received a detailed 3D model of a real organic object. We’ve learned to create solid bodies using two different methods, and that provides us with a variety of new possibilities. Treating our model as a solid body allows us to construct a section, turn it into an actual object using a 3D printer, or export the model to another CAD software for further editing.

Watch the full video manual



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