Reverse Engineering Options

I am currently working on a startup company that focuses on creating plastic and carbon fiber body parts for motorcycles. I would like to be able to take the exact dimensions of the OEM parts and translate them to Rhino so that I can use their mounting points, size constraints, etc. as a baseline to begin designing my parts. I have looked into 3D scanning which seems like a good option, but I have very limited knowledge in this area and I am not sure what requirements I should be looking for with my intended purposes in mind. A quick look at the rhino resources page and I found one ( ) that seems to fit the bill, but once again I am not sure exactly what I should be looking for. I am trying to keep my costs on this low so $3k is really the most I can put into a scanner right now. As far as volume, I would probably be doing a handful of scans per month and increasing frequency as the company grows. Bearing this in mind, does my 3D scanning plan sound feasible or would I be better off using a 3D scanning service? Or is there another technology that would be a better fit? Sorry for a long post and lack of specifics, I’m just trying to wrap my head around this. Any input is appreciated!


hi @jgjgates19 before you reach deeper into the pocket, you can start with something small and see if it already would help you out, maybe filling in exactly what you need? it seems to be pretty precise also rolling it along curved surfaces, i cant speak out of experience but would love to try it.

Some years ago somebody contacted me for a reverse engineering project where they would scan horse saddles with xbox kinect…Dont’t know if this would work for you, but might be another low cost entry solution.

Google 3d scanner rental. There are many amazing scanners out on market now that can be rented and shipped for affordable rates, by the day/week/month etc. Your budget of $3000 is too low to purchase a nice modern laser scanner, which for me is required to guarantee dimensioning and fitment tolerance. Yes you can get a cheap structured light scanner for next to nothing, but in my opinion they will only provide a base mesh reference and at that point you are almost better off saving your money and working from 2d picture references. But what do I know, maybe you just want to make super basic fairings or blinker housings?

Look into Geomagic Design X for both capture and RE of high density mesh data. It’s what many scanning services are using. We use it where I work and it is powerful but pricey. Something to invest in down the road perhaps.

Business idea advice: Many moto riders and fab startups have had this exact business idea, and there are many competitors out there. Think about how you can set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. When I had this same idea years ago (and have yet to follow through with, sadly…) my upsell was going to be that we would scan actual motorcycles and frames, hard points and bolt hole locations to get exact fitment, so as not to rely on some OEM’s shoddy manufacturing to confirm dims and fit.

Good luck, looking forward to see what you come up with!

I agree with the first part, renting a good scanner may make more sense than buying a cheap one, except you can get what you need with some ultracheap solution. Most scandata I get today was made with the best and most expensive scanners availible. As far as I know Geomagic is also used to prepare the pointclouds, but not to produce high quality free form surfaces. So don’t waste too much energy and money on that. For RE I use Rhino in conjunction with some other solutions. There are also some Rhino plugins on food4rhino that might be useful, for my workflow they don’t make much sense.

Ok thanks, I’ll look into it!

I’ve never heard if that one but it is definitely interesting… Any chance you remember what software they were using to get the Kinect to work as a scanner?

Hi, I see that you are at the beginning of getting the scans only, but you may come to the need to actually make reverse engineering on the scanned parts. Take a look at our plug-in for Rhino called Mesh2Surface ( it will save you a lot of time for building geometries from scanned data

For a tight budget you could consider a photogrammetry solution. Metashape (formerly Photoscan) is under $200 and works with common digital cameras (don’t need a DSLR)

A concern with photogrammetry would be scaling and its affect on accuracy. The results from the photogrammetry software will be an arbitrary size, not in any real world units.

Its possible to include a reference in the picture taking. (Don’t use a thin object like ruler or tape measure) A solid bar with precisely known dimensions would be ideal. Size will impact accuracy, so for a large object like a car, a reference that is several feet long would be needed.

No idea, the´ve just send me some data.

Google a bit, I just found this, but there are surely more solutions:

Thanks for the input, it looks like I will be working from 2d drawings for the time being, but I will also look into scanner rental. I am planning to develop fairings, rear seat cowls, protective guards for stator covers, crankcase covers, etc. So having the mounting points for the bike itself like you were saying is a good foundation to design the parts.
As far as the direction I would like to take the business, I don’t want to just make aftermarket plastics with different paint schemes like all the other companies, I want to change the overall look of the bike. For example , if you look at sport bikes on the grid of a moto GP race, to the untrained eye all the brand look virtually identical vs the starting grid from an IMSA auto race where each brand (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, etc.) has a very distinct, unique look to it. Most production sport bikes look very similar and IMO have not produced many original designs over the last 10 years or so (with the exception of Ducati’s bikes, also the new R6, R1, H2R, and some of the other less known brands), but the point is that I feel like there is a lot of untapped potential as far as creative designs for sport bike parts go.

Ok thanks, I’ll look into it

That’s good to know, I’ll have to look into Rhino plugins. If cheaper scanner options have a reasonably good level of accuracy, why spend thousands more for a high end scanner? Is it just that the higher end scanners are extremely precise and pick up fine details that the cheaper ones cannot? And is there an accuracy measurement that allows you to compare scanner accuracy? Eg. +/- 0.2in vs +/-0.05in?

Thanks I’ll have to look into it, a reference object shouldn’t be a problem for me.

I don´t know exactly. The kinect data was naturally not high precision, still usable to machine some soft material from that data. Of course I have no idea about the accuracy of the scan vs real horse. There are high precision scanners today, that can offer accuracies of +/- 0,5 mm. You will still get pointclouds which have some kind of noise or “thickness” so working with them is not like you are used to with CAD Data, but it it might be quite simple to find the centers of round objects like mounting points. As you want to create your own design, accuracy of the freeform surfaces is not really important for you, just have it as reference to avoid collisions might be enough, so you don´t need high precision for that. This pen might be really interesting if it delivers some accuracy, since often all you want to have is some curves to rebuild surfaces. With big point clouds you first have to convert to curves, so maybe you can skip this step.

That’s a good point about working with a few curves instead of a point cloud to figure out the mounting points. As of right now I’m pretty sure I’ll at least get one and try it out , but I’ll do a little more research and see what else I come up with


Have you considered something like a secondhand Faro arm you might get one within your budget and it can interface directly in Rhino.

I went from a David Laserscanner with a Logitec webcam and a simple line laser to first generation Kinect with Quokka. Used Kinect once with Artec Studio after I purchased an Artec Leo. Since they had issues in the development of the Leo, I received an Eva to play around. I hate the cables!

Scanning is less than half of the job, really! For rendering 3D objects, something mainly visual I’d say a Kinect definitely works but as soon as you want your scan to coincide with a part and its fixture, only a real scanner provides reliable results. You should also keep in mind that processing the scans into a watertight mesh is a crucial part. You can spend a fortune for reverse engineering tools or use Rhino.

Good luck!

Interesting… I definitely wasn’t aware that it was so difficult to get an accurate watertight mesh from a scan. Good to know though, it will keep me from wasting money on a cheapish scanner that isn’t suited for my purposes. Thanks!

You can try Alice vision free open source photogrammetry software. Not so good with shiny surfaces tho. You need to spray paint them to lose the reflections.

Not bad for $0.

Otherwise agisoft photo scan which can get you precise measurements quickly and accurately.