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ResourcesMachining Design3 Ways to Create a CAD File for a Legacy Part

3 Ways to Create a CAD File for a Legacy Part

Aaron Lichtig
Written by
 2 min read
Published October 8, 2020

Legacy parts have been, by nature, extremely difficult to replace, but on-demand manufacturing is changing that. Learn more about how you can recreate legacy parts using various 3D file creation methods.

Autodesk Inventor CAD Add-in screenshot

A legacy part can be any component that has outlived its glory days, and consequently, is no longer manufactured new. For years, these parts have been difficult to replace, and have pressured owners into preemptively spending thousands of dollars on new machinery.

Thankfully, due to advancing 3D manufacturing technology, recreating these parts is becoming more and more accessible; here are a few methods to creating manufacturable CAD files of your legacy parts:

Hi-Resolution 3D Scanning:

Hi-resolution 3D scanning is the easiest way to create a digital 3D CAD file of a physical, real-world object. 3D scans produce a highly detailed, accurate 3D mesh at a comparably economical price, making it ideal for product applications that require precise fit and function.

In some cases, the mesh can print as-is; otherwise, a 3D Designer can optimize the file to make it 3D print-ready. Optimization can range from touching up the model (closing small gaps, rounding corners, hollowing out cavities that the scanner may miss, etc.) to reverse engineering the mesh into a solid parametric CAD file. The degree of file healing needed depends on the complexity of the part, as well as the intended function.

Although 3D scanning is not a match for every project, it’s ideal for projects that require exact replicas, as well as items that may be too difficult to tackle with manual reverse engineering.

Reverse Engineering:

See a part, recreate that part. Reverse engineering refers to when a trained designer or engineer creates a technical drawing of a part, which will then be used to produce a 3D CAD file.

This method of CAD file creation requires an intact, existing part that can be measured with available tools. Dimension by dimension, a designer will recreate the part within the necessary tolerances. The end result is a manufacturable 3D CAD file and dimensional drawings of the part.

Reverse engineering is best for smaller, mechanical parts like gears, brackets and enclosures. All reverse engineering will require physical access to the part; whether it be shipping the part to be measured or measured on-site.

Drawing Conversions

Creating CAD files from dimensional drawings is as straightforward as it gets. It is a lot like reverse engineering, but all of the measurements are already documented.

If a customer needs 3D CAD files and already has dimensional drawings or DWG files, a designer will simply draft a 3D CAD version of the drawings based on those dimensions.

Aaron Lichtig
Aaron Lichtig
SVP at Xometry, who loves learning about engineering and writing about cool things he learns. Aaron has extensive experience in the manufacturing industry including roles at Procter & Gamble and Xometry and was a one day champion on Jeopardy! in 2019.

Read more articles by Aaron Lichtig

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