Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering has existed since the days of the first inventions. It’s a way to make an already-made product cheaper, more advanced, or update its design or function. It’s also used to reproduce another manufacturer’s product after detailed examination of its construction and composition.

Before the technology of today existed, reverse engineering used to be based off of 2D designs with lots of trial and error. But now, the integration of CAD 3D software streamlines the reverse engineering process with 3D designs, printing, and modeling. No longer do engineers have to figure out how to transition a 2D design into a 3D product.

With the use of CAD 3D software also comes reverse engineering tools like KEYENCE’s coordinate measurement machines (CMM). These CMMs work with CAD data files to collect dimensional and GD&T data more efficiently. Keep reading to learn more about the integration between CAD files and CMMs as reverse engineering tools.

How Can I Use CAD Files?

Using CAD files is helpful for creating an easy transition from a design to a model because the design is in 3D. CAD 3D software files store 3D wireframes, blueprints, and designs while also being collaborative across engineers and reverse engineering tools. Uploading CAD files into your reverse engineering tools allows for a comparison of your product or prototype directly to the original model.

Types of CAD Files

There are three main types of CAD files: .DXF, .STP, and .IGES CAD files. Each one can be used for reverse engineering, but certain specialties make engineers use one file over another.

DXF File

DXF file is short for Drawing Exchange Format or Drawing Interchange Format.

DXF file is a vector file, meaning that it uses mathematical formulas to alter the model sizing and design. Because of the mathematical integration, using this file allows for sizing up or down without distortions. The .DXF file is known for its ease of collaboration. Engineers share .DXF files across CAD programs and access an open format at all times.

STP File

STP file—also known as STEP, ISO 13030, P21-file, and STEP physical file—stands for Standard for the Exchange of Product Data. This file is a standardized format used for 3D models and designs. It’s also a vector file, and it's best used for 3D modeling and printing because of the ability to save a detailed and complete 3D body.


IGES file is an older type of CAD file that stands for Initial Graphics Exchange Specification. It’s also a vector file, and it’s best for sending information between CAD applications and storing technical drawings like wireframes, circuit diagrams, and models.

How to Use Reverse Engineering Tools with CAD 3D Software

KEYENCE’s CMMs are metrology tools that assist with the reverse engineering process by integrating CAD 3D software.

First, use the CMM to gather dimensions and GD&T features of the product that you are reverse engineering.

Then, use the data collected to build a model in one of the .DXF, .STP and IGES CAD files.

After creating your design, make a prototype. If you’re looking for an efficient method to move back and forth through the modeling and designing process, consider utilizing a 3D printer.

Once you have your prototype, bring the CMM over and touch the probe to the prototype. The CMM has a camera on the probe tip that overlays the 3D CAD image. In seconds, the CMM collects dimensions and GD&T data, and then the reverse engineering software will produce a CAD comparison color map that illustrates how they differ.

KEYENCE’s CMMs are an accessible way to integrate product redesign and reverse engineering into your shop. There’s no heavy lifting involved, just a press of a button. Contact us today to learn more about how our tools can help your engineering needs.

Related Downloads

XM Series Handheld Probe Coordinate Measuring Machine Catalog

Brochure for the XM-5000 Series Handheld CMM. Portable CMM to easily and accurately measure 3D and GD&T features anywhere including the shop floor and in the machine tool.


WM Series Wide Area CMM Catalog

Brochure for the WM Series Wide-Area CMM. A portable setup with a wireless handheld probe that enables users measure large parts and equipment.