3 Affordable Scan to CAD Tools Not Just For CAD Specialist [With Video Demos]

Published on May 9, 2022. Written by: Paul Motley

Originally published on: March 29, 2019.

Reverse engineering a scan to CAD model

Our team found an interesting Reddit post related to reverse engineering from 3D scanner data to CAD:

Reddit discussion screenshot
Affordable Scan to CAD Software (Geomagic Alternative)

Are there any other options for turning scans to usable 3D files? I have a Geomagic trial right now and it works great but it’s about $8k to purchase. I’m hoping there is a more affordable option. Thanks!

Geomagic is known as the gold standard for converting scan data from professional 3D scanners to CAD models. We have customers who love Geomagic for SOLIDWORKS (plugin for SOLIDWORKS) and Geomagic Design X (standalone scan to CAD software) because they have extensive features for reverse engineering. They also have automated features like the Autosurfacing tool that makes it much easier to reverse engineer complicated and even organic designs.

However, if you need to do reverse engineering based off of 3D scan data and you just don’t have the budget to purchase a professional high-end package, are there any affordable alternatives to Geomagic out there?

Yes! There are more affordable options out there. Here, we’ll present you with three alternative Scan to CAD solutions that are accessible in terms of:
  • Affordability

    We know that ‘affordable’ is a subjective term but we’ll offer a range of solutions from $500 to just under $5,000 USD.

  • Ease of Use

    Scan to CAD is viewed as a complicated skill that requires hours of specialized training. With these solutions, you can learn as you go.

  • Work With Scan Data

    These options have the ability to transform 3D scan meshes (like STL or OBJ) from any 3D scanner into usable CAD.


Mesh2Surface

Reverse Engineering Plugin for SOLIDWORKS or Rhino 3D

Plugin options that work natively inside your CAD software tend to be less expensive compared to standalone Scan to CAD software. If you are already a SOLIDWORKS or a Rhino user, Mesh2Surface is made for you. As a bonus, it empowers you to work in a CAD environment you are already familiar with, so it’s easy to pick up and learn as you go. It’s essentially an extension of the CAD software you are already using with dedicated reverse engineering toolsets.

Mesh2Surface For Rhino Mesh2Surface For SOLIDWORKS
Software Type Plugin
(Rhino 3D sold separately)
Plugin
(SOLIDWORKS sold separately)
Software Compatibility Rhino 5, 6, or 7 SOLIDWORKS version 2017 or higher
Price for Single Commercial License of Plugin (in USD)

Mechanical version: $940.50
Premium version: $1,400

What is the difference between Mechanical and Premium version?

Rhino + Mesh2Surface bundle starts at just under $1,800: Learn More

Price: $3,000

Learn More Learn More

Mesh2Surface’s Approach to Reverse Engineering

Mesh2Surface is created for anyone who wants the accessibility of using 3D scanner data for CAD modeling but doesn’t have the time to learn traditional CAD systems that are often complex and challenging to use. It even excels at reverse engineering freeform and complicated surfaces.

3d scanning motorcyle frame

From 3D Scanning To CAD: The workflow from capturing 3D scans using the Artec Space Spider (Top photo). The scanned data was imported into SOLIDWORKS. Then, we used Mesh2Surface for SOLIDWORKS to access the comprehensive scan to CAD toolsets inside SOLIDWORKS to design this bike frame. (Please see the photos below comparing the original scan data to the created CAD model.) Using scan data as a guide for design is much easier and faster than designing from a blank slate.

3D Scan Data CAD Model

Every reverse engineering project is unique and the process can be time-consuming in order to achieve the right and accurate results. This inspired Mesh2Surface developers to create a universal tool that can be applied to different reverse engineering challenges while simplifying the process.

Mesh2Surface focuses on finding the fastest, most accurate, and easiest way to convert 3D scan meshes into professional CAD models. It is straightforward to use and delivers similar performance to high-end reverse engineering software.

What we love graphic

What We Love About Mesh2Surface

  • Works seamlessly with SOLIDWORKS or Rhino
  • Affordable Scan to CAD plugin option
  • Speed up the time for manufacturing
  • Reduce costs for design
  • Edit and repair CAD data for broken tools and molds
  • Use existing assets to reverse engineer new parts
  • Design custom products
  • Export remodeled data for 3D printing
  • Create complementary products or new parts to fit with existing parts

How It Works

3D Scan Data CAD Model

Mesh2Surface is an affordable yet sophisticated Scan to CAD tool that extends beyond basic arcs and curves. You can take works STL, OBJ, or PLY mesh as well as PTX point cloud to create professional CAD/CAM models.

What’s special about Mesh2Surface:

  • You can use simple and powerful tools to create 2D sketches, extruded 3D sketches, and revolved surfaces.
  • Tolerance surfacing shows instant color map deviation from scan data and gives you full control to fix it to get the best accuracy out of your CAD model.
  • It can create complex hybrid 3D models (prismatic and organic).
  • Redesign your object with the best accuracy and design intent.
  • Extract shapes by selecting what type of features need to be fit.

Since each CAD software works differently, here are some of the main features for Mesh2Surface for Rhino and SOLIDWORKS with video demonstrations:

  Mesh2Surface for Rhino Mesh2Surface for SOLIDWORKS
Create 2D line sketches that can revolve or extrude surfaces
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3D sketching on scan data
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Freeform reverse engineering
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Automatic surfacing for converting freeform organic shapes just with a click of a button.
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Deviation Analysis (comparing scan data to CAD)
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Video Demonstrations

Our team created videos to show what Mesh2Surface can do.

Mesh2Surface For Rhino: Reverse Engineering Basics
Mesh2Surface For Rhino: Reverse Engineer Complex Organic Surfaces
Mesh2Surface For SOLIDWORKS: Reverse Engineering An Oil Pump Series

Mesh2Surface Review

Trustpilot logo
Rating

Mesh2Surface has been reviewed by its users on Trustpilot. You can read all the reviews here.

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Quicksurface

QUICKSURFACE

Standalone Scan to CAD Software

QUICKSURFACE guides you through every step of the way to help you make the best decisions in creating accurate CAD models—with user control accuracy you can trust. Intuitive to use, QUICKSURFACE helps you create designs faster and more effectively in an often labor-intensive process.

QUICKSURFACE Overview
Type Standalone software
Price for Single Commerical License (in USD)

Freeform: $2,195
Full: $4,395

What is the difference between QuickSurface Freeform versus Full version?

Learn More

QUICKSURFACE’S Approach To Reverse Engineering

QuickSurface screenshot of turbine

The STL scan data of this mechanical part (left) was imported into QUICKSURFACE and then reconstructed into a fully parametric CAD model (right). View the 20 minute video tutorial.

While 3D scanners are coming down in price making the technology more accessible than ever before, 3D reverse engineering software can be expensive relative to its hardware counterpart—until now.

With plenty of scan to CAD tools at your disposal, QUICKSURFACE helps spread the use of the technology at a more affordable price point so more people can benefit from using scan data from a 3D scanner as a basis for design. QUICKSURFACE simplifies the path of converting 3D scans into usable CAD while giving users access to powerful tools.

It’s great for anyone looking for an affordable and well-rounded scan to CAD software. QUICKSURFACE has the power to work with prismatic or freeform shapes (and even hybrid), making it a very versatile reverse engineering software.

What we love graphic

What We Love About QUICKSURFACE

  • QUICKSURFACE is an affordable Scan to CAD plugin option.
  • It works similar to other CAD software so the learning curve is not steep.
  • You don’t have to be a CAD specialist to use it.
  • It’s simple yet powerful.
  • Even if you haven’t used QUICKSURFACE in a while, you just pick up where you left off.
  • It offers standard CAD operations like trim, revolve, booleans, loft, sweep, extend, mirrors and patterns. Finish your work by adding fillets and chamfers.

How QUICKSURFACE Works

QUICKSURFACE helps you make the best decision in creating accurate CAD models using its proprietary best-fit algorithms. It gets the accuracy and design intent you need when building CAD models.

QuickSurface software interactive deviation control

Similar to Mesh2Surface, QUICKSURFACE provides interactive real-time deviation maps. As you build your CAD model, you can see exactly how close or how far you are deviating from the scan data. This empowers you to correct problems immediately instead of leaving them at the end of the reverse engineering process.

This Scan to CAD software has various tool kits to take on a wide range of reverse engineering projects to perform the job. You can create parametric models, hybrid parametric modeling for both organic and prismatic shapes. Export as industry-standard STEP or IGES file format to other CAD/ CAM packages or use your results for manufacturing (3D printing, CNC machining, etc.). QUICKSURFACE offers a full parametric tree into SOLIDWORKS.

Workflow at a Glance

  • Import 3D Scan Files
    Import 3D Scan Files

    Compatible with any 3D scanners that export to STL, OBJ, or PTX file formats.

  • QuickSurface
    Scan to CAD

    Use 3D scan data as a guide to create parametric, surface, or hybrid 3D models.

  • CAD models
    Useable CAD Model

    Parametric model with history tree or export as IGES or STEP file into your CAD program.

Here are some of the main features of QUICKSURFACE with video demonstrations:
  • play icon Parametric Modeling
    Parametric Modeling

    It’s a key feature of QUICKSURFACE. Parametric modeling makes it easy to modify and make changes to the parameters from solid bodies even at a later date.

  • play icon Freeform Modeling
    Freeform Modeling

    With Quad Surface tool, reconstruct freeform surfaces for organic 3D mesh data not normally possible with the standard surfacing methods. Snap-to-mesh technology and real-time deviation analyzer empower you to create shapes accurately representing the scan data in no time.

  • play icon Automatic Surfacing
    Automatic Surfacing

    Load the mesh, press a button, and get desired results. Independent of the size and complexity of the object, the surface follows the natural shape of the object. You still have the ability to modify the automatic surface, if the design intent requires it.

  • play icon Hybrid Modeling
    Hybrid Modeling

    Reconstruct parts with both organic and prismatic shapes. Starting with freeform and basic primitives, you can build a complex CAD model by trimming them and can later change the surfaces based on the design intent.

Video Demonstration

QUICKSURFACE: How To Reverse Engineer Less Than Desirable Scan Data
Reverse Engineering from Scan Data to CAD with Artec Space Spider

QUICKSURFACE Review

Develop3D Review

“…QUICKSURFACE is about taking your mesh-based data out of your scanning process and achieving the geometry you want. Whether that’s a complete part, skinned and surfaced up, or a select set of reference surfaces from which you will begin to design another part, QUICKSURFACE handles these tasks in a very efficient, clearly defined and well-executed manner.”

Al Dean Co-founder, Develop3D

QUICKSURFACE landed on Develop3D Top 30 New Technologies that give product development work a major boost. There is also an extensive QUICKSURFACE review from Al Dean, Co-founder of Develop3D you can read it here: Read the full review.

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Autodesk Fusion 360

Autodesk Fusion 360

Cloud-based 3D modeling with scan to CAD capabilities

Fusion 360 is not just a CAD/CAM software. You can also use 3D scanner data as a visual reference for sketching CAD models at an unbelievably low price.

Autodesk Fusion 360 Overview
Type Cloud-based 3D modeling, CAD, CAM, CAE, and PCB software platform for product design and manufacturing with the capabilities of using 3D scans for CAD creation.
Price (in USD) $495 per year

Fusion 360’s Approach To Reverse Engineering

There is a growing popularity for designers, engineers, and machinists to use real-world data as the starting point for design. Fusion 360 is a powerful software at a price of just under $500 per year. With it being at the forefront and center as a CAD, CAM, CAE, and PCB software platform for product design and manufacturing, you can also edit and repair imported scans or mesh models files (STL, OBJ, and now 3MF) as well as using them for creating CAD models.

With Fusion 360, you can create custom products like eyewear, apparel, or prosthetics based on a person’s unique curvatures and measurements using 3D scan data.

Fusion 360 imported 3d scan data

Here, we have 3D scan data of a person’s leg (top photo) which can be referenced to create fitted prosthetics (bottom photo).

Fusion 360 Designing prosthetics

Source: Screenshots from Fusion 360 video.

While this article focuses on using 3D scanner data as a basis for design, it is worth noting that many users (especially hobbyists, home users, students, and educators as there is a free version of Fusion 360 available) are using the software to add their own customization for downloaded STL mesh files from websites like Thingiverse and converting them into CAD models before 3D printing them.

What we love graphic

What We Love About Autodesk Fusion 360

  • Great value for the price.
  • It’s at a good price point for people who are using a low-cost 3D scanner and need complementary software for converting scan data to CAD.
  • Fusion 360 is great for a full manufacturing process. It’s not just offering reverse engineering capabilities but also CAM which covers the design of a product as well as manufacturing.

How it Works

If you want to test the waters and see if CAD modeling with basic scan to CAD features is for you, give Fusion 360 a try. Fusion 360 is better at handling less complicated scan data, typically mechanical parts (as opposed to organic freeform surfaces).

Here are some videos to give you a better idea of how Fusion 360 handles the scan to CAD process.

Reverse Engineering A Scanned Part in Autodesk Fusion 360 (STL to CAD)
QUICK TIP: Mesh to Solid Reboot

Fusion 360 Review

While it’s difficult to find reviews dedicated to Fusion 360’s scan to CAD capabilities, it has favorable reviews on G2 from users as a CAD/CAM software.

Fusion 360 review rating

Which Scan to CAD Software is Right for Me?

A quick way to determine the most suitable for your needs

If price is a major factor…

Plugins are typically the best affordable solution with dedicated reverse engineering tools. Therefore, either Mesh2Surface for SOLIDWORKS or Rhino would be great options. If you aren’t using any CAD software and want dedicated reverse engineering tools, the best value we offer is Rhino with Mesh2Surface for Rhino. The combined purchase price of this package is just under $1,800 USD. Learn more >


If you are looking for a well-rounded standalone reverse engineering software…

QUICKSURFACE is a good choice.


If you already have SOLIDWORKS…

Mesh2Surface for SOLIDWORKS is the best option as you don’t need to learn another software.


If you already have Rhino3D…

Mesh2Surface for Rhino is the best option as it’s a plugin for Rhino software.


If you want to try CAD modeling and also want to test out basic reverse engineering tools…

Fusion 360 is a good choice as it’s the cheapest option that you can also do scan to CAD operations.


If budget is not an issue…

Geomagic Design X or Geomagic for SOLIDWORKS would be other options you should consider. They are considered high-end reverse engineering tools with comprehensive feature sets.

Affordable Scan to CAD Software Comparison

Here is a side-by-side comparison chart

  Mesh2Surface for SOLIDWORKS Mesh2Surface for Rhino QUICKSURFACE FUSION 360
Plugin or Standalone Software Plugin Plugin Standalone Software Standalone Software
Required software (Sold Separately) SOLIDWORKS Rhino Not Applicable Not Applicable
Price Single License: $3,000
Mechanical version: $940.50
Premium version: $1,400
Freeform: $2,195
Full: $4,395
$495 per year
Reverse Engineering Tools Dedicated scan to CAD tools that work natively in SOLIDWORKS to perform all types of reverse engineering jobs. Dedicated scan to CAD tools to perform all types of reverse engineering jobs natively inside Rhino. Sophisticated scan to CAD tools for reverse engineering all types of parts from basic to complex, mechanical to freeform, and even hybrid. Good for basic scan to CAD conversion for less complicated parts that are more mechanical in nature.
Easy to Use Yes Yes Yes Yes
Great for Organic Surfaces Yes Yes Yes No

2 Comments
  1. avatar Ali Osman GÜLER says:

    Hello,
    You have prepared a very useful and informative article. However, with these products, Autodesk Fusion 360 software, which has a much more affordable price range and capabilities for reverse engineering, will make it a more objective article!
    I hope to update the article as soon as possible and evaluate not only certain products but also more cost-effective CAD software that offers reverse engineering features.
    Thank you for your attention. I wish you good work.
    Best Regards.

    • avatar Pauline Tang says:

      Dear Ali Osman GÜLER,

      We really appreciate your response and for contributing to our article. We’re looking into adding Autodesk Fusion 360 software into our article, as well as adding a new standalone reverse engineering software called QUICKSURFACE.

      Warmest regards,

      Pauline

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