What is Reverse Engineering?
Reverse engineering means to recreate a part based on available data about it. Keep in mind that the goal of reverse engineering is not so much as to create a part that looks and feels identical to the original part (although it can be), but rather provides the same (or better) performance as the original part. The material might be different. While it will likely fit in the same space envelope, non-critical geometry might not be the same. However, the part achieves the same purpose and performs the same function.
Need some more information? Check out these post on the Advanced EMC Technolgies blog:
- PFA and TFMto PTFE as Excellent Material Choice for Bellows and Diaphragms
- For Dummies: 5 Questions and Answers about Polymer Bellows
- PTFE and Modified PTFE Bellows: Whats the Difference?
When to Reverse Engineer
Reverse engineering becomes an option when there is a lack of documentation about the part, there were issues with the previous vendor, the equipment is being upgraded such that improvements are required that cant be met with off the shelf parts, or an optimized design is being sought. One of the major reasons that parts are reverse engineered is due to dissatisfaction with the customer service of the company that the part was originally purchased from.
Critical Information Required for Reverse Engineering
In general, this is the type of information you would be expected to provide in order to achieve a solid reverse-engineering of a part such as a polymer seal, bearing, or bellows:
- Materials involved, which may include composites
- Critical dimensions
- Application action (e.g., reciprocating, rotary)
- Speed (for bearings and seals)
- Operating pressure
- Service temperature range
- Chemical or environmental exposure
- Expected life
- Required tolerances
There are also certain factors that should be taken into account:
- Low or High Temperature Resistance
- Chemical resistance
- Impact resistance
- High or low speed
- FDA or similar approvals
- Requirements for cleaning/sanitation
Of course, whenever possible the original part should be supplied, even if it is damaged or failed. It can be used for material testing, measurements and dimensions, and possibly testing of material properties. The original part can also be 3D scanned and processed using point-cloud software for reproducing actual dimensions and surfaces, achieving unbelievably close tolerances to the actual part dimensions.
The Excellent Option
In short, if you have a part that you cant find anymore, youve lost the documentation for, or you just cant bear to deal with the manufacturers customer service anymore, keep in mind that reverse engineering can be an excellent option when it comes to polymer bellows, diaphragms, seals, and bearings.
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