The Black Art of Reverse Engineering with SOLIDWORKS

  • Category:
    • Computer Aided Design (CAD)

When NT CADCAM customer Redesign Sport Ltd (RSL) told us they had used a scanner to reverse engineer some parts for a 1952 Ferrari and then remodelled the components in SOLIDWORKS - our ears were well and truly pricked.

As a small bespoke car restoration outfit based near St Albans, RSL is breathing life back into historic and classic vehicles that would otherwise have been left in collections or museums, unused. 

RSL Ferrari In Action

RSL founder and self-confessed car addict Dafyd Richards tells SOLIDWORKS reseller NT CADCAM how he’s turning dreams into reality:

What do you do at RSL?

Since 2006, we have been restoring historic vehicles, but as the parts get harder and harder to source (and the cars rarer and rarer), we’ve realised that we need to take matters into our own hands. The vehicles we had coming through were highly significant or historically one of a kind.

People wanted to go racing or do long distance tours but the problem was, that irrespective of how much the customer was willing to spend, these £1million or even £20million cars couldn’t go anywhere because finding old parts or getting them remade was horrendously difficult. In the last 3-5 years, there has been a revolution and evolution in the scanning technology available. I remember when I first saw a FaroArm in action, then a Faro Focus 3D scanner. It blew my mind. 

Suddenly we could scan old, broken parts and put the data into the 3D space for CAD modelling. Scanning massively improves accuracy and time in reverse engineering these beautiful cars and their associated parts. And it also reduces the mental fatigue of the engineer, who in the past would have relied on traditional methods or worse, tried to model a component that they’d seen from memory!

What scanners do you use?

At RSL we did a lot of market research before we opted for a Creaform HandySCAN 700. I had a demo of the HandySCAN and the salesman was able to scan half the car in 15 minutes. That was a game changer for me. It comes with lightweight scanning software VX Elements, which scans to mesh directly rather than other scanners which scan as a point cloud and then convert to a mesh.

It means you can see in real time how much information you have got and if need be, change things like the resolution or laser intensity on the fly. If I’m scanning across two different materials eg, from a highly polished red paint to rubber, I can change the shutter setting and change the intensity of the laser halfway through.

We have also used Romer Arms which are much like The FaroArm. It came with a piece of software called Geomagic Design X, which was a revolution. Geomagic Design X is a powerful bit of kit that lets me convert the 3D scan data into high quality CAD models that I can use in SOLIDWORKS.

What’s the secret to scanning?

For a long time, 3D scanning was a black art. Everyone thinks you need the most amount of data and information to reverse engineer, but sometimes its not just relevant because you can’t do anything with it. A lot of our business is scanning items and helping them get that scan data into a SOLIDWORKS file.

Whether it is scanned data from a laser, geo satellite MMR or a photogrammetry scanner, we can process it, trim out the erroneous data they isn’t needed and then discuss with the customer what they are trying to achieve. From there, we can help them get the relevant data into their SOLIDWORKS environment.

Tell us about the 1952 Ferrari?

A customer in the States asked us to look after his 1952 Ferrari 225 for Goodwood Revival. The car has just been given a fresh engine build and a check over in the U.S, but when we fired it up a day before the race event, a conrod came out of the side of the engine. The conrod moves the pistons up and down so the prognosis was terminal. Unfortunately, upon stripping the fresh engine we found that every nut and bolt inside the engine had been left loose during the original rebuild.  

RSL Ferrari broken piston

Needless to say, we missed the event, but the customer asked if we could get the car race-ready for the Monaco Historic Grand Prix. We had eight weeks to turn things around.

What happened next?

This is where the real power of what we can do came into its own. I scanned the piston on a Thursday morning using the HandySCAN, modelled the scan data in Geomagic Design X then LIVE transferred into SOLIDWORKS. Our chosen manufacturer uses SOLIDWORKS for modelling where, if needed, they could tweak the design. eDrawings and part files flew back and forth. By Monday morning the 12 pistons went into production and we had the new pistons three weeks later. 

Left-RSL Chasis Scan Right-Ferrari CAD Capture

We also used SOLIDWORKS to remodel two distributors on the Ferrari, which were causing problems with the ignition system. We remodelled every single component in the same way and sent all the parts out to different manufacturers.

Left- Ferrari Piston Model  Right- Ferrari Piston SOLIDWORKS Model

The parts had only ever been together on the screen in SOLIDWORKS, but when they all arrived they all fitted together right first time. I knew they would but it was still an amazing feeling when they did. The car drove magnificently in Monaco and after a quick check-up back in the UK, it was delivered to Heathrow for its flight back to the USA.

How is SOLIDWORKS helping you?

I use other pieces of software, but I always come back to SOLIDWORKS because I couldn’t do what I do without it. When I worked for a Porsche Supercup racing team, I’d seen the guys next door use CATIA on their LeMans LMP project and thought it would be painfully difficult for a CAD newbie like me to come in and use it.

RSL New Ferrari Pistons

Then I discovered SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD. It was very easy and quick for me to learn. I have been using Geomagic Design X in real world projects for the past couple of years and between the two products, as a company, we have achieved a huge amount of success. I could not find a more complete package in the current marketplace, especially the 2D drawing facility.

See more from RSL on Instagram @REDESIGNSPORT.

For more information email Dafyd at redesignsport@hotmail.com

RSL is a customer of SOLIDWORKS reseller NT CADCAM. For more information about SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD, reverse engineering and Geomagic Design X contact us today on 0800 018 6957.



Chris Horn View profile

Chris is a graduate mechanical engineer by training who started life as a Finite Element Analyst. As Managing Director and co-owner, Chris is heavily involved within all departments of NT CADCAM and the day to day running of the company.