Tooling Article



Moving Forward with Reverse Engineering

Friday, February 1, 2013

Industrial Experimental Technologies (IET), Auburn Hills, MI, thrives on bringing old parts back into service, even when design documentation or drawings are lacking. Customers often come to the company with urgent problems that require the delivery of immediate solutions in a very short timeframe.

Industrial Experimental Technologies thrives on bringing old parts back into service, even when design documentation or drawings are lacking. Shown is the company’s fabrication department, which, among other processes, performs three- and five-axis laser cutting and direct metal laser sintering.
“We often work with a customer through an iterative process of developing the product, while in parallel trying to come up with the die design,” says IET program manager Chris Knighton. “Our software (from Cimatron) enables us to quickly modify a part model and have the die-design changes flow right through, allowing us to save a tremendous amount of time.”

Among its production capabilities: CNC machining, milling and turning; stamping and forming; three- and five-axis laser cutting; direct metal laser sintering; casting and forging; hydroforming; and tool and fixture design and production.

A Call from the Army

For a recent U.S. Army project, IET received shipments of vehicle parts that had been blown up in Iraq and Afghanistan. The need: Reverse-engineer and manufacture replacement parts.

“If the right side of the vehicle was destroyed, they’d send us the left-side components so that we could reverse-engineer and create fenders, doors, axle components and other parts,” says Knighton. “They didn’t have the drawings or 3D data, so we performed reverse engineering and then cast and machined the parts to provide a complete solution.”

Similarly, the firm has worked with Rolls Royce to create replacement parts for old jet engines that are still in service, some of them 50 years old. And yet another challenging project involved redesign of a GM S10 pickup truck. Here, IET converted the vehicle from a two-door to four-door cab, including the redesign of 122 unique parts.

Timing is of the Essence

The ability to quickly create and modify a solid model is crucial for the reverse-engineering process. “We’ll take the part, model it in Cimatron and machine it,” says Knighton. “We’ll go back to the solid model for any necessary changes until we get the part perfectly right. If we didn’t have software that is easy and quick to use, we would be spending a lot of time making these changes.”

An operator removes a lower deck-lid stamping from an 800-ton hydraulic press, one of several presses operating in the IET pressroom.
Many of the projects IET is tasked with are on a tight schedule. Customers of such projects don’t look for a supplier to do just part of the job, they want one supplier to develop a complete solution and help them move from the development stage all the through production.

“This is a highly iterative process,” says Knighton. “In one recent stamping project, we went through 30 different product iterations. By the end of the brief two-month process, we produced 87,000 pieces on a manually operated progressive die designed in Cimatron.”

IET uses Cimatron die-design and development software for product design, die design and all machine-tool path programming. Knighton explains: “We’ll make a model and the customer will suggest changes, or will want us to try something different. All the while, in parallel we are trying to engineer the die design. Cimatron enables us to quickly modify the part model and have the die-design changes flow right through, allowing us to save a tremendous amount of time.”

Quoting also can pose a challenge for such projects. “These are not straightforward jobs,” adds Knighton, “often requiring us to move from prototype all the to production. With our software, I can quickly envision in just a few minutes what the solid model should look like if I turn it into a production die. Once we get the job, I then can direct somebody how to make the die that I envisioned in just an hour or two.” MF

Article provided by Cimatron Technologies, Inc., Novi, MI: 248/596-9700;


See also: 3D Systems/Cimatron Software

Related Enterprise Zones: Software

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