Ultimate Resource Roundup: Everything You Need To Know About Scan to CAD

Published on June 13, 2022. Written by: Pauline Tang

Scan to CAD

Recently, we created new resources on the topic of reverse engineering. We thought now would be a good time to do a quick roundup of the most recent and most popular Scan to CAD resources available for anyone who is interested in this topic.

Here’s a list of our latest and most popular Scan to CAD resources:

What is Scan to CAD?

Scan to CAD is the process of reverse engineering a physical part into a CAD model using 3D scanner data as reference for design.

The digital 3D model captured from a 3D scanner has all the 3D surface measurements you need to recreate the part into CAD. With this intel at your disposal, there’s no guesswork in the process because all the information is already there.

Using the Scan to CAD method of reverse engineering:

  • Reduces product development costs
  • Gets you more accurate CAD models
  • Speeds up your design time frame

If you don’t have the original CAD drawings for a part or want to design based on a physical object (this also applies to complementary products like a phone case), Scan to CAD is the quickest way to create CAD—especially for a complicated part.

Scan to CAD infographic
Steps to reverse engineering from Scan to CAD.

My thought process

Can a 3D scanner output into a CAD file?

graphic scan data to cad model
This is the one of the frequently asked questions we get regarding Scan to CAD applications.

We often get a variation of this question but basically the answer is no. In this article, we’ll give you a detailed explanation why this is the case, as well as how you go about accomplishing this goal of converting scan data to CAD.

Video and Article
Video Series + Article

A Detailed Guide to Reverse Engineering from Scan to CAD in SOLIDWORKS [With Videos]

Paul wants to prevent you from the pitfalls he encountered through his experience of reverse engineering from Scan to CAD. Read his article to learn the best way to approach any Scan to CAD projects.

Our COO, Paul Motley, did an extensive YouTube video series and a detailed guide to reverse engineering 3D scanner data into parametric CAD inside SOLIDWORKS.

In this 5 part video series, Paul shows you his thought process behind reverse engineering a mechanical part assembly (an oil pump) with multiple components. He explains the step-by-step process of using a 3D scanner, exporting the scanned data of each component into STL file format, and importing it into SOLIDWORKS as a visual reference for design. Paul also shows how to put the CAD components back into an assembly.

Here’s a preview of the video series.

He also wrote an accompanying article further explaining his thought processes and takeaways:

My thought process

3 Affordable Scan to CAD Tools Not Just For CAD Specialists

Reddit discussion screenshot

This article was inspired by a Reddit question in finding alternatives to using Geomagic software if you simply don’t have the budget. This is an extensive article that provides affordable alternatives with video demonstrations. We originally wrote it back in 2019 but we recently updated the article.


Reverse Engineering A Scanned Part in Autodesk Fusion 360 (STL to CAD)

Can you do Scan to CAD inside Fusion 360?

The answer is yes! There’s a lot of interest in Fusion 360 because it’s a low-cost CAD modeling software. As a bonus, you can do reverse engineering inside Fusion 360.

In this video, we’ll show you how to do that using a STL mesh of a mechanical part to guide our new design inside Fusion 360.
Youtube question
We got this question from our YouTube video on whether there is a direct path from object to CAD.

Fusion360 has automated features to convert mesh to CAD. You can see it from these videos:

This workflow works particularly well if you have an STL file downloaded from websites like Thingverse and you want to make your own modifications to the design and then 3D print the model.

This article provides a pretty good explanation here:
Photo source: Lucas Carolo via All3DP

However, if you are converting stl from a 3D scanner to CAD in Fusion360, the best way to do it is to sketch the part using scan data as a reference as we demonstrated in our video.

Video and Article
Webinar + Article

Virtual Happy Hour Workshop: Reverse Engineering from Scan to CAD

3D Scanning
This was a virtual interactive Scan to CAD workshop. You can watch the recorded session.

In our Happy Hour Workshop, Paul demonstrates how he repaired an engine mount on a boat generator using Scan to CAD to reverse engineer the damaged part.

A preview of what he would cover in the session.

In this workshop, attendees also had the chance to ask any questions they had about Scan to CAD.

Questions covered in this workshop:

  • How can I make the process of reverse engineering from Scan to CAD faster and simpler?
  • Do I need dedicated 3D reverse engineering software?
  • How does reverse engineering using Artec Studio 3D scanning software compare to using dedicated Scan to CAD software?
  • How do you do reverse engineering with Fusion 360?
  • What are the major differences between SOLIDWORKS and Rhino?
  • Which 3D scanner is the best for starting out reverse engineering from Scan to CAD?

If you don’t have the time to watch the Happy Hour Workshop in its entirety, we wrote an article on the takeaways from that session.

Contact us

Got Questions About Scan to CAD?

We hope these resources will be helpful to you as you start your own Scan to CAD projects or learn about the best practices. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us. We’re always here to help!