### Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing for Reverse Engineering

Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) is a key part of the reverse-engineering process. It gives manufacturers and engineers a common language to communicate the function-relevant qualities of a part, from its basic dimensions to feature sizes. But, it can be an arcane concept for some. What’s more, it’s easy to overdo the analytical process and drive up manufacturing costs if a manufacturer doesn’t show restraint and wisdom.

This article will open by giving a detailed introduction to Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing and its relation to engineering tolerances. From there, it will explain the importance of allowable variances before going into further detail about the technicalities of GD&T. Afterwards, we will discuss the use of GD&T in the process of reverse engineering, outline how these measurements are made, then explore the conflict between saving customers money and producing a functional part.

## Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (or, GD&T)

Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (hereafter referred to as “GD&T”), is a system used in a variety of engineering-based industries to define and communicate engineering tolerances in engineering drawings and models. As such, to understand it properly, you need to understand the concept of engineering tolerances.

### Engineering Tolerances

An Engineering Tolerance is a permissible limit/limit of variation in a quality of a part or a machine. The qualities measured include: physical dimensions, feature sizes a value of a physical property of a material, things like temperature and humidity, and others. For our purposes, we’ll mostly be focusing on dimensions and physical properties, as they’re the most important in the field of manufacturing.

### Now, why is it important to quantify all of these qualities?

Well, the fact of the matter is that it’s impossible to craft something “perfectly” or produce a “flawless” replica of a part. While these days most parts are originally designed in a CAD (computer-aided design) program like Solidworks with theoretically exact measurements, you can’t carry that perfection over to the real-world part. Everything will have some degree of variance away from is theoretically perfect measurements. An engineering tolerance is an objective value used to measure how much variance a part can have while still maintaining proper or ideal function.

Allow us to make a quick interruption: The primary concern when outlining engineering tolerances is figuring out how wide a tolerance can be without affecting other factors or the part’s intended process. Keep this in mind as we move forward, as it’s crucial to understanding how cost-cutting considerations factor into the use of GD&T.

### GD&T

As we said before, GD&T is a system used to define and communicate these engineering tolerances. It functions as its own contained language used to describe the allowable variation from the nominal geometry shown in CAD models. It can be also be used to describe the theoretically perfect geometry of these parts, but for our purposes, we’ll focus on its use to outline allowable variations.

Before we go into the system itself, it’s necessary to note that there are myriad standards used to describe the symbols and rules used in GD&T. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) standard.

The ASME outlines some fundamental rules that must be applied when using GD&T. It would be pointless to list them all in detail, here, but we will give a brief description of those relevant to this article.

1. All dimensions must have a tolerance given

2. These tolerances define the requirements of finished parts.

3. Dimensions should be applied to features in a way that represents their function, and not be subject to more than one interpretation.

4. Dimensions and tolerances are valid at 20 C unless explicitly stated otherwise. Likewise, the dimensions and tolerances are only considered valid when the item is in a free state.

Just a brief glance at those rules reveals that this system is designed to be thorough, repeatable, and function-focused.

When used properly, GD&T will ensure that a part in question has the desired form and fit, and will function within the largest possible tolerances. Again, take note that we are looking for the largest possible tolerances, meaning as far off the nominal mark as the part can get while still functioning properly. We are not looking to get the part as close to “perfect” as possible. We’ll discuss this further later in the article.

Now, GD&T measures fourteen geometric characteristics (called part features, each with their own feature symbol) grouped into five tolerance types.

Form types denote the “shape” of surfaces. Qualities measured are:

–        Flatness
–        Straightness
–        Cylindricity
–        Circularity

Orientation types denote the orientation (tilt) of surfaces. Qualities measured are:

–        Perpendicularity
–        Parallelism
–        Angularity

Location denotes center points, axes, and median planes, and locates surfaces. It also controls orientation, size, and form in some circumstances. Qualities measured are:

–        Position
–        Profile of a Surface
–        Profile of a Line

Runout controls surface coaxiality (the sharing of a common axis). Qualities measured are:

–        Total Runout
–        Circular Runout

Profile controls location derived median points. Qualities measured are:

–        Concentricity
–        Symmetry

Used properly, GD&T will determine the part features most important for a part’s function and give a number that defines their maximum allowable variation from their theoretically exact model. Which brings us to an important question: How, exactly, is GD&T done?

## The Process of GD&T and Its Use in Reverse-Engineering

While complicated at first glance, the theory of GD&T is simple and almost intuitive once you take the time to think about it. But, like any methodology, it becomes far more complicated when you get to applying the process. This is doubly true when applying it to something like reverse engineering, a task faced by any aftermarket parts manufacturer.

What makes it so complicated?

The answer is the struggle to find the maximum allowable variation in a tolerance or part feature. Allow us to explain.

Any time an aftermarket manufacturer is asked to make a part, they are faced with the need to reverse engineer it. They don’t have the original design specifications, so they have to start with what they have. What’s more, they often have very little to work with.

The best-case scenario is that a part is sent to an aftermarket manufacturer with details on how it fits into other parts (or maybe shipped along with the other parts in the assembly), notes about the part’s function (which, as you’ve noticed, is the key concern with GD&T), and even a parts book to help the manufacturer with the reverse engineering process. Unfortunately, aftermarket manufacturers are rarely this lucky. More often, they’re shipped apart without context and are lucky to have a parts book to look at.

While it would be easy to make a rough copy of the part, the aftermarket manufacturer needs to ensure that the part functions properly. As a matter of fact, many aftermarket manufacturers pride themselves on producing a part that exceeds the quality of the original. How do they do that?

Well, GD&T, of course!

When a manufacturer receives a part, their first goal is to use everything at their disposal to determine its function. They want to know the purpose of the part, and everything relevant to that purpose, and they’ll look at parts books or mating parts to determine how it’s used. But, determining the part’s function is not the end goal. Rather, they want to determine which tolerances and part features have the greatest impact on the part functioning properly.

To do that, manufacturers use a variety of tools at their disposal. They’ll look at how the part was made, look at the milling marks, the turning marks, wear and tear on familiar points of contact (determined by checking it with mating parts). Alongside that, they’ll take the kind of basic measurements used in GD&T—checking angles, shapes, measuring surface roughness, smoothness, and hardness— all while keeping its intended function in mind. For instance, they can take note of a “mirror-smooth” surface finish and extrapolate that the part needs to move as smoothly as possible.

From there, they can even use 3D modeling to “craft” the part in a program like Solidworks, then run it in a simulation as a part of the entire assembly. By doing so, they can ensure that the part will work the way it’s supposed to and that all the tolerances are accurate, and get a better idea of the part’s most important features and their maximum allowable variance. At times, this process can result in the production of aftermarket parts that are head-and-shoulders above the quality of the part created by the OEM.

It’s here that things get complicated, and we see the importance of figuring out a part’s maximum allowable tolerance. You see, the manufacturer needs to hit a balance between accuracy and cost. The more accurate and fine-tuned they try to make their engineering drawings and modeling and the lower they make their tolerances, the greater the cost of reverse-engineering (and making) the part. These measurement processes take a lot of time, labor, effort, and money, and ensuring that the created part matches them doubles up on all four.

### In other words—the more “perfect” you try to make a part, the more expensive the part becomes. And this growth is exponential.

Remember that aftermarket manufacturers exist for the purpose of saving potential buyers money without sacrificing quality. As such, they need to be capable of reverse engineering parts and creating a copy that exceeds the quality of the OEM, while still saving the customer time and money.

So, to accomplish this, an aftermarket manufacturer needs to determine which part features (tolerances) are most important to the part’s function, and figure out the maximum allowable variation in these tolerances. They make sure the parts work while being sure to save you money. And the best way to do this is to create a good drawing/design using GD&T principles wisely, rather than becoming obsessed with needless accuracy. This is often a matter of experience, as well-versed and well-equipped manufacturers will be more capable of figuring out which tolerances are most important to the function of a part and knowing where to draw the proverbial line between accuracy and cost.

Remember, a part never needs to be “perfect.” It just needs to function.

Obviously, this affects the savings and bottom-line of any company buying a part from an aftermarket manufacturer. They need to be certain that they are purchasing a part that will be cheap, received quickly, and function properly. Otherwise, they’ll lose money.

## Conclusion

GD&T is a cornerstone of modern engineering and manufacturing processes, as it works to communicate and define the engineering tolerances that guide the proper functioning of the parts used in industry. It’s especially important in the process of reverse engineering, as it gives aftermarket manufacturers a toolkit to ensure that they can reproduce the part accurately and quickly, without overdimensioning and wasting money. But, it’s important to remember that GD&T is just a tool. Without proper workers, overseers, and a solid dose of wisdom about when to apply these principles and when to draw the line, it’s easy to over-do it and waste money.

### 3D Printing for Sand Casting Patterns

Sand casting is a very common metal casting process. It’s used in all kind of manufacturing, and it has a long history; in fact, it goes as far back as 1600 B.C. in China. Problem is, it hasn’t changed too much over the thousands of years it’s been around. While this is partly because it’s a very solid system, this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

The fact of the matter is that with modern advancements in technology, many companies have found ways to undermine some of the most common issues with this metal casting method.

In this article, we plan on first outlining the process of sand-casting (while many of you may know the process already, it is relevant to the latter sections of this article). After, we’ll explain the benefits and downsides of the method, so that you can understand why a manufacturer might decide upon sand-casting as the most cost-effective way to make a part you’ve ordered. Then, we’ll talk about the introduction of 3D printing and 3D systems into the manufacturing world, and describe how 3D printing is being used to negate the downsides of traditional sand-casting.

## The Sand Casting Process

We figure many of you know this already, but it doesn’t hurt to go over the process of sand casting. Sand casting is a metal casting process that uses (unsurprisingly) sand as the molding material. It’s among the most popular forms of metal casting, accounting for over 70% of metal castings. While not suitable for overly complex parts and materials, sand casting molds are sufficiently refractory for most purposes.

As for the process itself, sand casting is done in several steps. There are individual variances according to the parts being made and any quirks of the foundry making the part, but the general steps are the same: You take a positive image of the pattern you want to make in metal (often made of something like wood) and either pack a special sand around it or press the pattern into a system of molding halves or frames (called “flasks”). This sand is often moistened and mixed with a binding agent, such as clay or resin. Then, the pattern is removed, the mold halves are pieced together, molten metal is poured into the cavity, and once the metal solidifies, the sand mold is broken away, giving you a solid casting.

Like any casting process, sand casting has its pros and cons. If you make your own parts, it’s important to know these qualities so that you can be as informed as possible when choosing casting methods. Most of our readers, however, likely order their parts from other companies, which will use their own expertise to decide what casting method would be the most cost-effective way of crafting the ordered part. Sometimes, they will even choose to use sand-casting to make a part that was originally made with a different method. Generally, the main concern will be how much money they can save by using sand-casting.

Now, before we go over the pros and cons of sand casting, let’s make one thing clear; these cons pertain specifically to traditional sand-casting methods. The implementation of 3D printing has solved these problems, as you’ll read in the section after.

### Pros and Cons of Sand-Casting

Let’s start with the benefits of sand-casting. There is, of course, a reason that it’s such a popular method.

For starters, sand-casting has its imperfections but, as we already noted, the parts made via the process are sufficient for all but the most complex purposes. While no manufacturer should skimp on a complex part and move to sand casting, many will still use sand-casting for a wide variety of parts.

Second, and most importantly, sand casting molds are extremely cheap. Any factory manager understands that replacement costs can really damage your bottom-line, so sand-casting allows manufacturers to keep costs down without reducing quality. If you make the parts yourself via sand-casting, the savings are obvious but remember that if any manufacturer who uses it will pass their savings onto their customers.

Unfortunately, sand-casting isn’t perfect. After all, if it were, it’s all anyone would be using! Sand casting has two major downsides…

The first is tooling costs. The final tooling costs for sand-casted materials can be absurdly high (as much as \$10,000), which runs the risk of negating the money saved by choosing sand casting in the first place.

Second, and of greater concern to managers: it often takes a very long time to receive parts made through sand casting. Why? Because most of the positive patterns around which the sand-casting mold is made are crafted out of wood, and it can take weeks or even months for them to be made, especially if you order them through the OEM. As any manager knows, one of the biggest threats to your income is factory downtime, and you can’t afford to have your machines out of order for that long. On top of that, those patterns aren’t cheap.

But, it’s not all doom and four-to-six-weeks-of-gloom. With access to modern technology (particularly 3D Printing), the sand casting process doesn’t always have to have these downsides…

## How 3D Printing Changes Sand Casting

3D printing is very rapidly growing in popularity. For a long time, however, most people’s knowledge and exposure to the process was via the nifty toys and gadgets that could be made with 3D Printers, and the ever-increasing efforts to craft complex machinery through 3D printing. After all, it’s a process that promises quick, easily-made and high-detail parts and objects—the potential there is mind-boggling.

What many people don’t know is that 3D printing has advanced quicker than anyone expected, and is now being used for legitimate manufacturing purposes. It’s true—there are companies using 3D printing to make metal devices and machine parts, and as a result, it’s found its way into sand-casting.

You’re about to be very happy that we outlined sand-casting the way we did above, as it’ll allow you to understand exactly how 3D printing has solved the problems inherent in traditional sand-casting. Remember how we talked about the major problem with sand-casting being the time and money necessary to get those wooden patterns? Well these days, many companies are pioneering the process of replacing those old wooden patterns with 3D printed ones. There are even companies like Voxeliet that have gone a step further and begun to 3D print the sand mold by itself. But, they’re a story for another day.

Regardless, as a result of 3D printing these sand patterns, you drastically shorten the process while cutting costs.

By how much, you might ask?

Well, if you were to order these patterns from a normal foundry using the traditional process, you would pay as much as \$1,300. That’s on top of the money you’re burning by having to wait six weeks to receive it. That’s a lot of factory down-time and money wasted. On the other hand, ordering one of these through a factory using 3D printing will cost you around \$50, including labor and material, and you’ll likely receive what you need in under a week. Do the math, figure out how much money you’re saving, and you’ll quickly realize how game-changing this process is.

You’re probably thinking that there must be some sort of catch to this apparently revolutionary improvement. It seems too good to be true.

In a sense, you’re right—there is a catch. And that catch is the amount of time and effort that went into researching, developing, and perfecting the implementation of 3D printing into the process of sand casting. For example, plastic has a shrinkage problem when heat is introduced… which has been counteracted by making parts exactly the right size to be shrunk down to their proper size when heated.

In other words: yes, there is a catch, but someone already took care of it for you.

## Conclusion

Sand casting is a very useful process with some notable flaws. While cheap, the patterns necessary to use it are expensive and take a long time to make. What’s more, tooling costs will run you a pretty penny.

3D printing sand casting patterns solves all of these problems. If a manufacturer utilizes it properly, you’ll receive your part or pattern in a fraction of the time you normally would, at a spare percentage of the cost, saving you money up-front and on down-time—especially compared to ordering these parts from an OEM.

American Holt is paving the way for the introduction of such modern manufacturing methods, putting themselves ahead of their aftermarket part competition and much farther ahead of their OEM competition. By using sand-casting appropriately and implementing 3D printing, they save their customers quite a bit of money. After all, we aren’t quite as set in our ways—we look forward to changing technologies, as they benefit everyone in the long run.

### 3 Cost Saving Projects in Maintenance and Reliability

Those in managerial positions have to do a lot of thinking about cost-saving initiatives in the workplace, and nowhere is that more important than in manufacturing. And, some of the best (and most difficult) places to cut costs in manufacturing are in maintenance and equipment reliability. Each improvement you make to your maintenance strategy reduces factory downtime and makes you more money in the long term.

To that end, we’ve come up with three of the best cost-saving projects your company can undertake in maintenance and reliability;

1. Utilize improved materials
2.  Purchase full assemblies
3. Reduce Lead Time

Here’s the best way to do all three.

## Use Improved Materials

Technology has changed a lot over the last forty years. And, it’s changed even more over the past decade. After all, according to the Law of Accelerating Returns, technological advancement is an exponential process; the better our technology becomes, the faster it will improve. This means that any given science will have improved more from 2000-2010 than it did from 1990-2000.

Why is this important to know?

Well, because using modern, improved materials can help you cut costs, improve efficiency, and reduce overall downtime.

The fact of the matter is that many manufacturers are using materials and machinery that are up to sixty years old, and those old materials have huge downsides, ranging from shorter life-spans to more complicated care processes and higher repair costs.

Modern material science (especially in the field of reliability engineering) has allowed us to find solutions to many of these problems. For instance, modern materials last longer, plain and simple. An example of this is PEEK (Polyether ketone) plastic. Don’t be fooled by the “plastic” part. PEEK is a colorless organic thermoplastic polymer gaining wide acceptance in engineering. Why? Because PEEK is superbly mechanically and chemically resistant, even under very high temperature. Some grades can function fine under temperatures as high as 250 C. What’s more, PEEK’s processing conditions can be used to influence its structure and change its mechanical properties, making it an extremely versatile material. Finally, it’s very resistant to thermal degradation and can withstand both organic and aquatic environments. And that’s just one modern material.

On top of that, many materials have dramatically reduced in price. A prime example of this is stainless steel. In the past, one of your best options for affordable, corrosion-resistant materials was bronze, which was still expensive and more fragile than stainless steel. These days, you can get stainless steel parts for far less than bronze, cutting costs and improving equipment longevity.

Now, the benefits of using these improved materials are numerous; they function better, they’re easier to maintain and repair, and they’re often cheaper. But, one of the biggest benefits is that, due to their strength and longevity, you’ll save a ton of money in the long term by reducing eventual factory downtime.

## Taking Advantage of Full Assemblies and the SMED system

Here’s another spot where factories often needlessly waste money, time, and effort in their extant maintenance activities.

When machine parts or whole assemblies break, most factories go to the effort of tracking down and replacing each specific part. They hunt them down piece-meal, buy them individually, and put them in their proper place. While such strategies do have their place, you miss out on an amazing cost-saving opportunity by refusing to buy full assemblies.

Remember: when you buy replacement parts piecemeal, you’re losing a lot of money… even if it’s not in up-front costs. You’ll spend hours searching for these parts. Then, you’ll spend more time individually cataloging and inventorying them. This is downtime that could have been spent making money, rather than doing repairs.

That’s where buying full assemblies comes in. Buying full assembly kits allows you to quickly get your machines up and running again, without the need to hunt down, catalog, and inventory each individual part. What’s more, most full assemblies and assembly kits are designed to emphasize speed, further cutting down on factory downtime. They can turn two or three days of downtime into mere hours.

Many assembly kits do this by following the SMED system. SMED stands for “Single-Minute Exchange of Dies,” and is a process invented by the Japanese industrial engineer Shigeo Shingo. It is easily one of the most revolutionary maintenance activities conceived in recent history. Put simply, the SMED system is designed to allow people to make as many equipment changeovers as possible while the machines are still in-use. The results of utilizing Shigeo Shingo’s SMED process are well documented, but almost hard to believe—factories saw a 94% reduction in downtime (from 90 minutes to only 5 minutes). Anyone in a position where they’re counting each second of downtime as a dollar lost will understand the importance of such a system.

Luckily, companies like American Holt give you some great options to allow you to take advantage of full assemblies and assembly kits. For starters, American Holt’s labor costs are extremely cheap, immediately undercutting the competition. More importantly, American Holt will make and ship you a complete assembly in record time. Why? Because we have more than twenty years of industry experience and an excellent quality control department, so we get every assembly right the first time, meaning you don’t need to absorb the costs of any failures or complex assemblies.

You can also take advantage of our exchange program, which allows you to send your old assemblies for a discount in exchange for a discount on new ones. Finally, for any assembly we sell, you can find labeled exploded views of them on our website to see exactly how to properly install our components.

## Save on Downtime via Better Shipping

Shipping time is the bane of any purchasing manager. Nothing is more demoralizing than going to all the effort of placing your order only to find that the parts your factory needs won’t arrive for weeks. Of course, this is more than a nuisance. When you reach managerial positions, you realize that time really is money, and each moment wasted is a dollar (and usually more) out of your company’s pocket and income. In fact, factory downtime due to broken machinery is one of the biggest drains on your potential income you can face. And, while it’s easy to try to be prepared, you can’t anticipate broken machinery, so you can’t plan ahead to have a replacement part shipped to you on time.

So, with that in mind, one of the best ways to save on costs would be to ensure that you have a replacement parts supplier that ships quickly and reliably, without the need for a “rapid shipping” surcharge.

## Conclusion

Factory downtime is the mortal enemy of anyone interested in making a profit. We’ve given you three ways to ensure cost savings in maintenance and reliability, especially in terms of factory downtime;

1. Utilize Improved Materials, such as PEEK plastic
2. Purchase Full Assemblies
3. Reduce Lead Time

If you work to implement all three of these tips, you’ll find yourself saving a noticeable amount of money in the short term, and a lot of it in the long term. What’s more, American Holt can help you tackle each of these points; we utilize the best materials we can find, sell full assemblies, and pride ourselves on our lead time.

### 3D Printing for Investment Casting Patterns

Investment casting is, without a doubt, one of the most cost-effective manufacturing processes for casting complex metal parts with a detailed surface finish. It has a long, interesting history behind it, and the manufacturing process itself demands some attention. But, more importantly, the advent of 3D printing technologies has resulted in some improvements to this time-tested method that anyone with an interest in manufacturing should be aware of.

This article will open with a detailed history of “lost-wax casting” and “investment casting” (as well as an explanation of the difference between the two terms). Then, we’ll detail the process of investment casting before going into the benefits and disadvantages of its use in modern manufacturing. Finally, we’ll talk about how 3D printing was integrated into investment casting and explain how it negates the downsides of traditional investment casting.

## Investment Casting or “Lost Wax” Casting

Investment casting is a modern industrial process based on an ancient metal-crafting technique called “lost-wax casting.” While the two terms are mostly synonymous these days (modern manufacturers still call investment casting “lost-wax casting”), this article will use “investment casting” to refer to the modern industrial version of the process and “lost-wax casting” to refer to the ancient or artistic versions. On that note, it couldn’t hurt to go into a bit of detail about the history of lost-wax casting.

Lost-wax casting is an extremely old metal casting technique. In fact, artifacts discovered in the Cave of the Treasure hoard in southern Israel, which date as far back as 3700 B.C., were made using this method. That means that lost-wax casting goes back almost 6000 years. The process was originally designed for artistic use, to make metal duplicates of original sculptures. The technique allows for great intricacy and complexity, permitting artists to cast sculptures in high detail. This version of it is still used (mostly in its original form, under the name “lost-wax casting”) by sculptors and artists, today.

This method has been used in a number of different forms in the thousands of years since its inception. No matter the form, the technique has been prized for its versatility, usefulness with a variety of metals and high-performance alloys, and its accuracy. Obviously, those qualities are what make it so valuable to manufacturers, and it is their version of investment casting that we’ll focus on from here-on out.

Modern investment casting of a part is generally a nine-step process:

1. A master pattern of the part is made using clay, wood, or plastic.

2. A mold called the “master die” is made to fit the master pattern. These can be made with a variety of materials, as long as they have a lower melting point than the master pattern. At times, the first step can be skipped and a master die can be made independently

3. A “wax pattern” (which can include things other than wax, like plastic or mercury) are made by pouring wax into the master die, spinning it until an even coating is formed. The process is repeated, stacking thin layers onto each other one after the other until the desired thickness is reached. Tooling/machining costs for these molds can be extremely expensive.

4. If necessary, multiple wax patterns are assembled.

5. Here’s where the process gets its name; a ceramic mold known as an “investment” is produced by coating the wax patterns in a ceramic slurry that can include silica, zircon, aluminum silicates, or alumina, all of which are known for their fine refractory qualities. Special care is taken to ensure that the investment is as perfect a copy of the pattern as possible, as that is investment casting’s greatest strength.

6. The ceramic mold is placed in a furnace to melt out the wax, which is generally recovered and reused. There are a variety of furnaces used to melt the wax (such as electron beam furnaces), each with their own strengths

7. The mold is subjected to a burnout to remove any moisture or residual wax.

8. The mold is filled with a molten metal to craft the final part. Various techniques are used to ensure that the mold is completely filled, including tilt casting and centrifugal casting.

9. The shell is then removed via anything from hammering to a chemical dissolution, leaving you with a high-quality final part.

Like any process, of course, investment casting has its pros and cons. But, we want to emphasize that most of these disadvantages pertain to traditional investment casting. The advent and implementation of 3D printing into the investment casting process has rendered many of these irrelevant.

### Pros and Cons

Investment casting is renowned in the manufacturing industry for several reasons.

The first is that nearly any metal can be cast, from stainless steel to anything you can think of. The second is that even the most intricate parts can be cast without worry, as the process handles complex and detailed parts very well. The third (and one of the most cost-saving) is that investment casting results in an excellent surface finish that can sometimes obviate the need for further tooling.

The main downside of investment casting comes down to one word— cost, for both the manufacturer of the part and the entity purchasing it. Investment casting can be very expensive (without the assistance of 3D printing, that is), due to three factors: The first is that the tooling costs to get those wax patterns can be very, very high, well into the thousands of dollars. The second is that a new investment needs to be made for each additional item, which obviously costs more time and money. The third is that the specialized equipment and materials used in the process are all extremely expensive in their own right, and a lot of labor is required to make the part. All these costs are (predictably) passed onto the customer.

And this doesn’t even account for the money those buying these parts lose in factory downtime due to the high lead times. The fact of the matter is that the tooling of the wax patterns can be very time consuming, resulting in a lead time of months for anyone purchasing a part that must be made with that method.

Finally, due to both the prohibitive costs and the time investment, investment casting is not useful for making high quantities of a part.

But, despite these downsides, investment casting is still the most cost-effective way to make complex, detailed parts. Gun manufacturers, for instance, have begun to use it to cut back on costs for pistol production.

Besides—3D printing has solved most of these problems, as we’re about to show you.

## 3D Printing and Investment Casting

3D printing has gone from an admittedly intriguing fad to a huge part of modern life. It’s being used in everything from medical science to the arts, but it has shown itself to be especially useful in manufacturing. In fact, investment casting isn’t the only place you’ll see it used.

It might be wise to take a brief glance back at our outline of the investment casting process so that you can fully appreciate exactly how useful 3D printing is for it. You see, 3D printing has been integrated into investment casting in a major way.

How?

Well, with 3D printing and a digital model of the part (which is easy to obtain), a manufacturer can skip the first four steps of the process by printing a wax pattern directly, usually out of either PLA (polylactic acid) or a custom-made ‘casting wax’ filament. That’s right— 3D printing allows manufacturers to easily skip nearly half the process and jump right to step five.

This undercuts all of the problems of traditional investment casting. Because the wax mold is 3D printed, thousands of dollars are saved on machining and tooling costs. What’s more, the cost of the materials can be reduced by 90%. Ten traditional patterns may cost you as much as \$1500, while ten 3D printed ones are as cheap as \$150. Finally, that several-month-long lead time can be cut to as short as a week, as the molds can be printed in days.

And there’s more; because the mold is printed straight from a digital model and is cheap to produce, it makes this process perfect for prototyping complex parts that would be impossible or too difficult to craft from a hand-made pattern.

## Conclusion

Investment casting, despite its restrictive costs, is unparalleled when it comes to creating highly detailed, complex parts with a flawless surface finish. Despite its costs, it’s still the most cost-effective option for producing these kinds of parts.

3D printing, however, serves to make investment casting much more affordable and rapid. Some cutting-edge companies have taken notice of this and, in the interest of procuring their customers more savings, integrate these modern methods into their manufacturing process, putting them far ahead of their competitors and OEM manufacturers.

### New Product: Filler Drives for the Angelus 120L

We continue to provide cost-savings by providing Filler Drive options. We now offer rebuild kits, individual components, and even new units for the Angelus 120L.

All are in stock and ready for shipment.

Due to our highly trained technicians and support staff, we guarantee our parts 100%.

Reach out to us if you have any questions about this — our goal here is to help you keep your machine up and running at all times.

### 3 Ways 3D Printing is Perfect for Reverse Engineering

The 3D printing industry is quickly revolutionizing manufacturing. Many companies have begun to use it as an integral, irreplaceable part of their manufacturing process—Airbus, for instance, uses 3D printed parts in much of its aircraft, and 98% of hearing aids are made with 3D printers. Even toymakers are beginning to pick up on the trend, creating objects tailored to what individual children want.

At the moment, however, 3D printing is not a replacement for traditional manufacturing. In fact, only 0.01% of final manufacturing output is 3D printed. What’s more, many manufacturers are resisting this new technology.

But, that doesn’t mean 3D printing technology doesn’t have a place in the industry.

Fact is, 3D printing still occupies a very important position in manufacturing—prototyping and reverse engineering.

3D printing has four major benefits—it’s cheap, it’s versatile, it’s fast, and it’s precise. As such, 3D printing can be used to make low-cost “drafts” of parts or to cheaply craft unusual parts or modified parts that sit outside of general standards. As useful as standardization is, too much rigidity can restrict innovation and parts improvement, and most companies are not willing to take the risk to reverse engineer or improve a part, or prototype one with traditional manufacturing methods.

3D printing allows you to take risks and make improvements without really harming costs, and to do so fast. And those qualities come into play with three major ways 3D printing is used in reverse engineering.

## 1. Saving Time and Money by Testing Changes to a Part

When reverse engineering a product in order to improve it or repair a flaw, manufacturers run into one crucial problem: it’s costly to modify a part.

For the most part, these costs are rooted in the high price of the reverse engineering process, itself. Normally, a customer interested in modifying a part would be required to communicate with a manufacturer and describe the changes they want to be made to the part. Often, this would entail sending costly manufacturing drawings and as much supplementary information as humanly possible. This is time-consuming, which is an expense in and of itself.

Beyond that, the modified part must eventually be physically made and tested… and this is expensive to do traditionally. Especially given that you rarely get the part right the first time, meaning that you will likely have to manufacture several failed attempts on the part just to get it right. Remember, you have a host of processes involved in making that part, ranging from simple parts like machining and casting to more expensive and detailed processes like tooling and setup. And these must be done every time you test an iteration of the modified part.

Which, of course, is where 3D printing comes in. First off, the digital nature of 3D printing simplifies communication and design of the modification, saving the manufacturer a ton of time in making the modifications the customer wants. 3D scanning can also help with this.

Secondly, 3D printing is cheap and versatile. A 3D printer doesn’t need to be modified in any way to make drastically different parts back to back. This means that you could make 15 different iterations of a modified part back-to-back if you wanted to. This, of course, would be a waste of time as it wouldn’t give you an opportunity to test any of these iterations, but it does illustrate the point that 3D printing allows a manufacturer to quickly and cheaply create iterations of a modified part, allowing said manufacturer to test these parts and ensure they work properly, all without going to the trouble and expense of repeatedly prototyping this modification through traditional manufacturing methods.

In a sense, this is related to a concept becoming more and more popular in the manufacturing industry: “Rapid Prototyping.” It is exactly what it sounds like; using 3D printing (sometimes alongside metal printing) to quickly and cheaply make iterations of a part or device. While this term is generally reserved for true prototyping, the idea is the same when referring to reverse engineering and modifying a part. And, with that in mind, take note that Rapid Prototyping is becoming extremely useful.

## 2. Simplifying by Making Fixtures for Assemblies

Much of a manufacturer’s work is creating parts for assemblies, and when they’re reverse engineering these parts, the manufacturer may not have everything necessary to craft the whole assembly. After all, the manufacturer is rarely lucky enough to have any of the original tooling or markings to indicate design intent, meaning that it’s very difficult to know how to put the assembly together. And, even when they figure it out, they may still lack the tools, jigs, support structures, and other fixtures necessary for the assembly.

Which means there will be a lot of a lot of trial and error. Much like testing a modified part, it’s rare that a manufacturer will get the proper assembly right on the first try. As such, you have to make several iterations of these fixtures and tools and test various ways of handling the assembly. But, there’s an added wrinkle, here—when handling assemblies, there are many more parts involved, and they’re often far more complex, which drastically increases the difficulty, time, and cost of this whole operation.

As such, this would normally be the job of a machine shop. But, there are two problems with that; the first is that it can take machine shops weeks or even months to get all these fixtures made. That is a lot of money in downtime costs. On top of that, the machining costs for these fixtures, given their complex nature, is extremely high.

What’s worse, even after all that time and money spent, there’s no guarantee the machine shop will have done the job right.

You may be able to guess where this is headed.

3D printing solves all of these problems. As mentioned when discussing modified parts, 3D printing allows a manufacturer to cheaply test several iterations of a part. What’s more, 3D printing is quick in comparison to the time it would take a manufacturer or a machine shop to craft these assembly fixtures and tools. Where it would take a machine shop weeks or months to get the job done, 3D printing allows a manufacturer to finish it two or three days, at a fraction of the cost.

Part of this is due to a quality of 3D printing unmentioned until now: 3D printing is precise.

Because 3D printing is based on a digital model, it’s just as easy for a 3D printer to craft complex shapes as it is as simple ones, whereas traditional manufacturing methods require all sorts of knick-knacks and strategies to make complex machinery. Whether it’s a Mobius strip or a simple square—a 3D printer sees no difference, and that’s reflected in a reduction in both cost and time. And, as there’s no need for machining, the cost is reduced even further.

To illustrate this point, look at GE’s recent implementation of 3D printing technology. GE recently utilized 3D printing’s precision and versatility to its fullest. A special team within the company started by redesigning one of their jet engine nozzles; a very complex piece of machinery originally made up of over 20 individual parts. Well, with a little bit of work and the glory of 3D printing hardware and software, GE’s team brought this nozzle down to one part. That’s right; they reduced a 20-part piece of machinery to one. You’ll now find that nozzle in GE’s LEAP engine. And they didn’t stop there: they went on to reduce a 900-part machine to only 16 parts… one of which had originally been 300 by itself.

As amazing as this sounds, the real kicker is that this new model was 60% cheaper.

And it’s not just jet engines. Volkswagon Autoeuropa recently implemented 3D printing into their factories, cutting tool development costs by 91% and reducing development time by 95%. In two months, the money they saved paid back the initial investment on the new 3D printing machines, and they saved a total of \$180,000 in 2016… a number expected to increase with each year.

GE was handling complex, high level, state-of-the-art machinery, and Volkswagon is a massive company… so think for a moment about what 3D printing could do for everyday manufacturing processes like reverse engineering assemblies.

## 3. Improving Precision by Printing Inspection Tools

A manufacturer will always run into situations where the “standard” parts, models, and tools are not adequate or simply not suited for a particular job. And while this article has already covered what this means for parts modification, there’s one aspect you may not have considered.

Inspection.

Every part must be inspected and analyzed. So what happens when you have a part that is a little outside the norm? Or you need to perform a different kind of inspection, or a member of your team has an idea to improve inspection? Or you run into some other kind of oddity that renders your original inspection tools inadequate or sub-optimal?

Or, hey, what if the old inspection tool just breaks?

And these don’t need to be complex instruments—sometimes, just having the right stand for a part or a clean room is an important part of inspection.

Well, as has been mentioned, 3D printing is precise and cheap. This means that a manufacturer can design and craft an inspection tool to fit a precise, unique situation at a cost that still leaves the manufacturer at a net gain. No more having to jury-rig improvise with your old inspection tools. 3D printing allows a manufacturer to handle odd situations on an individual basis.

In the long run, this leads to more precise, fine-grained inspection, which leads to better-made parts, which leads to longer product life and more money saved.

## Conclusion

3D printing has been and will continue to be a brilliant tool for prototyping and reverse engineering. It’s precise, versatile, fast, and– more than anything—it’s cheap, without sacrificing quality.

As a result, 3D printing allows you to work faster, prototype more, take risks and build complex assemblies without a problem and with reduced costs. And this is crucial for reverse engineering, as reverse engineering, by its very nature, has an element of trial and error. You will fail a few times before you get a part right, and with traditional manufacturing methods, these failures cost manufacturers a lot of time and money.

With 3D printing? Not so much.

### Local Machine Shops vs Aftermarket Parts Manufacturers

Every factory and manufacturer will eventually be presented with a question; should they source their replacement parts from an aftermarket manufacturer or a local machine shop? Both options have their strengths, but they aren’t always equally suited to perform the same tasks or fill the same kinds of orders. That means that factory managers should make sure that they know as much as possible about the differences between local machine shops and aftermarket manufacturers.

For anyone in need of spare parts, there will be four points of concern in regards to the capabilities of whomever they use to source those parts: the volume of the order, the time it takes to get that order, the cost, and the quality of the resulting parts. When comparing different purchasing options, a factory manager needs to consider how their options fare in each of those categories. These factors are not completely divided from one another, of course—low quality work and extended downtime can drive up overall costs, for instance, so it’s important to keep that in mind.

If you’re interested in considering buying your parts from a local machine shop, the first step is finding a good one.

## Finding a (Good) Local Machine Shop

There’s a variety of ways to find local machine shops, but unfortunately, many are smaller operations that lack a web presence. Because of that, some local machine shops can only be found via word of mouth, so when building a list, it’s important that you reach out to other local businesses that would need spare parts so that you have a wide range of options. Once you have a list together, there are four things you need to figure out.

### How Long They’ve Been in Business

Usually, this is the easiest question to answer, though the significance of that answer may vary. Newer machine shops may be more open to utilizing more modern technology and trying more creative approaches to a problem, while older shops have proven themselves capable of keeping in business, even if they might be a bit set in their ways. In general, however, you’ll want to find someone with more experience, as they’re more likely to have the know-how necessary to get the job done right, on time, and within budget.

### Industry Reputation

This can be done in three easy steps. First, you should ask other manufacturers and customers of the local machine shop you’re considering, and see what they say about their work. Second, you should look at their online ratings on services like Yelp, Google+, and reviews on other websites, assuming any of these are available. If there are local online communities in your industry, it’s worthwhile to ask them, as well. Finally, you should check news articles to ensure that the machine shop in question hasn’t been involved in any suits or recalls.

### Potential Professional Relationship

This can only be done by getting some face-to-face time with the people who run the shop, and it’ll be fairly easy to make your decision. But, it’s an important decision to make; one of the biggest strengths of working with a local machine shop is the ability to build a personal relationship with them that can turn into a strong local professional community. On the other hand, if they’re terrible to work with, they can make your job a nightmare.

### The Shop Itself

This can be done with a simple walk-in. Take a look around the shop and ensure it’s clean and well-organized, as those are signs of people who are thorough with their work, and more likely to get a job done on time. Likewise, look at the equipment they use. You want a good mix of “tried and true” machinery and cutting-edge equipment. If it has too much of the former, that’s a sign they may be unwilling to adopt new technologies and methodologies, whereas too much of the latter is a sign that they go for sparkle over substance and proven effectiveness.

Once you’ve answered all four of these questions and, hopefully, found a couple of good local machine shops, you’re ready to figure out whether they’re a better fit for you than the aftermarket manufacturers.

## Key Comparison Factors: Local Machine Shops vs. Aftermarket Manufacturers

As mentioned before, when a factory is trying to decide who to buy parts from, their four primary concerns and points-of-comparison should be Volume capacity, turnover time, cost, and quality. That said, there are two more factors that should be considered before making a final decision: unexpected costs and personal relationships. Finally, there is one last factor in favor of aftermarket manufacturers that must be considered: The strength of modern technologies.

### Volume

Local machine shops are not equipped to handle high-volume jobs for the same part, plain and simple. They don’t have the equipment, resources, or manpower necessary to handle those sorts of jobs. Unfortunately, what constitutes a “high-volume” job may be different for different machine shops. While most aren’t equipped to handle 10,000-piece runs, some can handle jobs into the thousands without a problem. The only way to know their capacity for sure is to look at their history and see how they’ve handled jobs with similar demands to yours, and if they got them done on time and on budget.

What’s more, most local machine shops will prefer making more of the same part to making a bunch of different parts. Set-up time for machining different parts creates extra costs that will be passed on to the customer, so if you plan on requesting a variety of parts in very small volume, they may not be your best choice.

### Turnover Time

Local machine shops aren’t as quick as aftermarket manufacturers. Again, they lack the resources and manpower necessary to hammer out a bunch of parts in short order. They often have a long queue, and where you’re placed in that queue will greatly affect how quick they’ll be able to get your parts to you. Finally, many aftermarket manufacturers may already have the necessary parts in stock, meaning they can be shipped in short order.

### Cost

In general, local machine shops will be less expensive than most aftermarket manufacturers. But, there are some indirect costs involved with shopping from local machine shops, as well as some recent technological developments utilized by aftermarket manufacturers that can shift this dynamic, such as 3D printing. We’ll be discussing this and some others in more detail, shortly.

### Quality

This is a bit more complicated, as local machine shops vary greatly in their quality. Some are terrible, while others will greatly outdo an aftermarket manufacturer for a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is to either try both or get some reviews from people in your industry. On the other hand, aftermarket manufacturers will always deliver a high-quality part, even if your local machine shop is capable of crafting a better one. Besides that, many aftermarket manufacturers may have guarantees and return policies, so be sure to investigate any aftermarket manufacturer you’re considering and confirm that they do.

### Hidden Costs

In manufacturing, time really is money. Every hour your factory doesn’t spend in production is thousands of dollars wasted. As such, the extra time necessary to research local machine shops needs to be considered, as does the downtime costs resulting from the longer turnover time that comes with buying from local machine shops.

Finally, because local machine shops are less equipped to handle the volume, they can occasionally incur extra costs in setting up their equipment to make your part.

### Personal Relationships

Every business should make it their goal to establish a rapport with other local businesses, especially ones whose services are intertwined with their own. This allows them to create powerful local professional networks capable of deeds greater than the sum of their parts. Unfortunately, this will never be possible with an aftermarket manufacturer.

As important as these six factors are, there’s one more thing that must be considered when deciding between aftermarket manufacturers and local machine shops.

## Modern Technology in Aftermarket Parts Manufacturing

Some aftermarket manufacturers pride themselves on something that sets them apart from their competition: the combination of cutting-edge technology and a workforce skilled in using it. The proper use of these modern technologies saves on costs, time, and energy, and all of these savings get passed on to the customer.

The greatest example of this is the variety of technologies and methodologies used in modern reverse engineering… none of which you’re likely to find in local machine shops. This article will briefly cover three stand-out examples: the FARO Scan Arm, 3D Printing, and Rapid Prototyping.

### The FARO Scan Arm

The FARO Scan Arm is among the most modern geometric analysis tools that can be found in a manufacturers proverbial tool-belt, and it’s designed to map parts whose complexity renders them too difficult or time-consuming to measure with traditional means.

It functions as a combination of a touch probe and a laser scanner, utilizing both tools simultaneously to create a digital image of the part’s geometry, like a hyper-accurate, three-dimensional picture that maps every nook and cranny of the piece down to its last centimeter. The digital image is created as a 3D model, which allows it to undergo point-cloud comparison in programs like CAD, and be used with 3D Printing.

In all, this device saves a lot of time, while also reducing the margins of error inherent in trying to reverse engineer a part.

### 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping

3D printing has been revolutionizing the manufacturing industry for some time, and there is so much that can be said about it. For now, we’ll focus on how 3D Printing enables the process of Rapid Prototyping.

Reverse engineering and manufacturing will always be wrought with some degree of trial and error. Thus, when trying to reverse engineer a part, manufacturers had to take into account the costs of crafting several iterations of a part, which might not work. Aside from being expensive, it was also time-consuming to prototype these parts, which constitutes a monetary cost in and of itself.

3D Printing alleviates that, entirely. With 3D printing, a manufacturer can make a prototype of a part in a fraction of the time, and less than a fraction of the original cost. Where it might have originally taken a week and thousands of dollars to prototype it, it can now be done in under 24 hours, and with less than you probably have in your wallet.

This led to the concept of “rapid prototyping,” which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s making use of modern technologies (like simulations) in tandem with 3D printing to cut down on the time-consuming prototyping process that was originally necessary.

Don’t, however, be under the impression that his overtakes the strengths of local machine shops. Sometimes, these technologies are unnecessary, and won’t provide any noticeable benefit to the job you want to be done. Of course, if you’d like to learn more about modern reverse engineering, please read on to the end of the article.

## Conclusion

By now, you should know how to find a good local machine shop, and how to compare them with the aftermarket manufacturers available to you. Hopefully, this article gives factory managers the knowledge necessary to know whether local machine shops or aftermarket manufacturers are the right fit for the job they have in mind.

### 3 SMED Examples for the Canning Industry

Anyone who works in fields related to manufacturing have probably heard of Single-Minute Exchange of Dies (hereafter referred to as SMED). SMED is a lean production method created and perfected by the Japanese industrial engineer Shigeo Shingo between the late 1960’s and early 1980’s. The SMED approach is centered on drastically reducing downtime by allowing manufacturers to rapidly transition from running the current product to running the next product, often by changing dies or other mechanical parts during operation instead of shutting the entire assembly down to accomplish the changeover process. Sometimes, they opt to replace entire assemblies as opposed to individual components. Shigeo Shingo, during his time with Toyota, managed to use his SMED methodology to cut their set-up time down to 2.5% of what it had originally been.

SMED is a standard in the manufacturing industry, these days, and a large part of its worth comes from utilizing its principles as a lens to analyze and systematically judge your operations.  As such, you can sometimes find examples of SMED in unexpected places. Likewise, it can also be easy to overlook stellar examples of classic SMED processes in everyday manufacturing.

This article will give a brief overview of three examples of SMED assemblies used in the canning industry and produced here at American Holt, as well as a couple examples of SMED principles used in other places.

## SMED Examples in Canning

### 1.The Filler Drive

This is something American Holt takes great pride in. We’re one of the only manufacturers that keep this part in stock and ready to ship as new, as opposed to buying it used or exchanging the original casing. The filler drive is a crucial part of a canning assembly, as it times and scans the filling during the canning process. The filler drive is a very complex gearbox with myriad close-fitting components, all of which need to function properly to keep a manufacturer’s canning assembly running smoothly. Without SMED, you would need to handle each of these components individually, resulting in massive amounts of downtime. But, with the ability to buy the filler drive and replace it as a single unit (along-side a wisely designed maintenance schedule) a manufacturer can cut that downtime to minutes.

### 2. Lifters

Lifters do exactly what their name implies—they lift the cans up to get seen. But, don’t underestimate the importance of this machine. It, like the filler drive, contains a variety of parts that will consistently undergo wear and tear, including the wear plate, spring, shims, and rollers. Again, without SMED, manufacturers would be required to take the whole assembly apart and replace each part one at a time. Instead, they can save a lot of money in downtime by replacing the whole assembly at once. And, in the interest of quality control, American Holt tests all of their lifters before sending them out to a buyer, to ensure they work once put in your machine.

### 3. The Feed Chain

This is the chain that drives the conveyor belt which brings the cans from the lifter to the seamer. Again, don’t be tricked by the apparent simplicity of this device—rebuilding a feed chain is an extremely long process, and the part is very complex. What’s more, it can change depending upon how far apart the filler and seamer are. Due to this, it’s difficult to replace parts of this chain individually. American Holt will make custom chains according to a manufacturer’s specifications and assemble them in-house before shipping them to be installed on their machines.

## SMED Examples In Unusual Places

### 4. Firefighting

SMED is, as has already been mentioned, a form of “lean” methodology, the focus of which is to reduce waste. This can mean reducing wasted materials, reducing wasted energy or, as is usually the case with SMED, reducing wasted time.

And, when it comes to reducing time, there’s no better example than firefighting. For firefighters, a single second can make the difference between life and death, or between a small grease-fire and an apartment building burning down. As such, these professionals are always working to reduce the time it takes for them to respond to an emergency. Every station is likely to have specific procedures and standards governing everything from how they store equipment to how they get out the door. The most popular example of this is the classic “fire pole” used to slide down to the fire engines.

But, some other procedures sound a lot like classic SMED. Usually by combining several steps into one. For instance, firefighters will often keep their pants already tucked into their boots so that, during an emergency, they can just slip into their pants, donning two pieces of the heavy, fire-proof clothing in one go.

### 5. F1 Racer Pit Stops

Here’s something unexpected. Formula-1 Racers are known for their insanely rapid pit stops, exchanging any necessary parts on the car in seconds. The thing is, it wasn’t always like that. Formula-1 Pit stops have evolved over the years… due largely to the principles of SMED.

Back in the 1950’s, a pit stop just over a minute was something to be proud of. Racers would have only four crew members (including the driver) working on the car at once, and the situation would be absolutely wrought with tension.

Fast forward to modern times. There will be dozens of crew members working on the car all at once, and they get the job done so fast you have to slow things down to understand what everyone is doing. But, it’s not just speed and numbers— this accurate, rapid changeover comes from knowing exactly what needs to be done, what can be cut, and how to go about the process with the absolute minimum of wasted time and effort… and these are all qualities ascertained by utilizing SMED effectively.

After all, these racers are moving at speeds nearly inconceivable. There’s absolutely no room for error during a pit stop.

Oh, and for an example of the drastic difference in speed during these changeovers, check out this video.

## Conclusion

SMED is widely used inside and out of manufacturing, with its principles appearing in everything from auto manufacturing to Formula-1 Racing, and even things like bartending. Hopefully, these examples have given our readers some appreciation for the importance of SMED methodology.

### Reverse Engineering Machine Parts [Infographic]

Any time an aftermarket manufacturer is tasked with making a part for their customers, they have to start by reverse engineering that part. Reverse engineering, more than almost any other part of manufacturing, has reaped the benefits of technological advancement, and companies willing to use these new technologies are able to complete the reverse engineering process more quickly, accurately, and cheaply than their competitors.

Most modern-minded aftermarket manufacturers have a tried-and-true process that they use when they need to reverse engineer a part. Some, like the one displayed in the following infographic, first try to figure out what they might be able to do to save the customer money during the process. Then, they analyze the part’s chemical composition, then its geometry before coming up with a 3D model that they test thoroughly. After that, they’re inventoried and shipped to a consumer. For this infographic, we’ll detail the process American Holt uses.

For a more detailed explanation, download the free whitepaper on reverse engineering OEM parts.