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What is Reverse Engineering? (Converting a 3D-Scan to CAD)

What is Reverse Engineering? (3D Scan to CAD conversion) 03:00
Reverse engineering is required whenever a 3D scan (STL format) needs to be converted into a CAD model (STEP format). We will give you a brief overview of three different reverse engineering techniques.
Table of Contents
Split view of a 3D scan and NURBs surface model of a sportscar
Swann Rack / Holocreators Reverse engineering to surface model: 3D scan (left) and NURBS surface model (right)

What Reverse Engineering Methods Are Available?

We distinguish between three different reverse engineering methods. Depending on the shape of the object, the desired accuracy and the project’s intent, we choose one. We have created a video and written a detailed article for every reverse engineering method:

  1. Reverse engineering to surface model
  2. Reverse engineering to solid model
  3. Reverse engineering to parametric model with a history tree

We use reverse engineering to surface model to create a NURBS surface model from a 3D scan. We use reverse engineering to solid model to create a solid model from a 3D scan. We use reverse engineering to parametric model and a history tree if the customer requires access to the entire history tree of a parametric CAD model.

Split view of a 3D scan and a solid model of the Holocreators demo part
Swann Rack / Holocreators Reverse engineering to solid model: 3D scan (left) and solid model (right)

What Software Do You Need for Reverse Engineering?

For converting a 3D scan (STL format) into a CAD model (STEP format), reverse engineering software is needed. Below is a list of reverse engineering programs that are available:

How Does Reverse Engineering Work?

The original 3D scan (STL format) is loaded into the reverse engineering software. A CAD model (STEP format) is generated by designing it on top of the underlying geometry of the 3D scan.
Depending on the complexity of the shape of the 3D scan, reverse engineering can be performed automatically or manually.

Split view of a 3D scan and a parametric model of the Holocreators demo part
Swann Rack / Holocreators Reverse engineering to parametric model with a history tree: 3D scan (left) and parametric model

Download the Reverse Engineering sample files

For all three reverse engineering methods we have prepared sample files for you to download.

Reverse Engineering to surface model:

Reverse Engineering to solid model:

Reverse Engineering to parametric model with history tree:


Using these three different reverse engineering techniques, we can convert any 3D scan data into a CAD model. Clean CAD data is often essential for CAD design and manufacturing

Do you need help with your reverse engineering project?

Holocreators offers professional 3D-scanning and reverse engineering services. If you have any questions about reverse engineering or 3D scanning, don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to help you with your project. Please call us at +49 40 481133 or send an email

Swann has been enthusiastic about everything 3D for many years. His roots lie in analog holography, which brought him to digital 3D-modeling in 2011.

The rapid progress of various 3D-scanning techniques fascinated himso much thathe founded Holocreators together with his brother Miro Rack in 2015.

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