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  • Writer's pictureArkify Team

Case Study — Replacing a Difficult To Find Plastic Component With 3D Scanning

A look into 3D scanning small parts for reverse engineering, 3D printing, and retrofitting

Over the summer, we were approached by a customer who wanted to replace a broken plastic component on their headphones. Since the part was from an older model and was difficult to locate on the market, the customer wanted to render it into a 3D printable CAD model. Upon our initial examination of the part, we noted that it was quite small and freeform in shape. This would make it difficult to accurately measure by hand for modeling from scratch— a perfect candidate for 3D scanning!

Prepping The Scan

Since the small part was very dark in color and fairly shiny, we applied a light self-evaporating scanning spray to the object to ensure the scanner would be able to capture all the component's features. Before scanning, we also used special clips to hold the component in a position that would let us capture all sides of it at once— an action that would give us a better quality of alignment in the final mesh.

Processing The Scan Data

Since the original part was so small, it was important for us to process the scan data at a high resolution of 0.2mm to make sure hole locations and ribbings were visible on the model. Processing the data at a higher resolution ensures the final mesh shows all the details of the original part, but leaves as little noise as possible, resulting in a highly detailed, clean mesh.

Pictured below is our final 3D model for the customer.

Hole Fill Vs No Hole Fill

Our software has the ability to fill holes to create a watertight mesh while processing the scan data. While our customer preferred a watertight mesh for this project, there are some cases in which a non-hole-filled mesh can also be used to help with reverse engineering (hole-filled vs non-hole-filled meshes pictured above). A non-hole-filled mesh will have smaller pockets that will make it easier to identify walls.

It is important to note that a watertight model is required for 3D printing. Our studio offers both hole-filled and non-hole-filled options when exporting meshes.

Possible Additional Steps

While it wasn't needed for this project, we have the ability to clean up the mesh further using construct and mesh editing tools to create a 3D printable part (pictured above).

Additionally, if the customer would like to model further off of the 3D scan, we can take real-world photos of the part to provide additional references to aid in the modeling process.

3D scanning for reverse engineering and 3D printing is one of our most commonly requested, non-apparel-related projects. It is very common for customers to use their 3D scans as exact replicas to retrofit existing parts. A 3D scan provides all the measurements needed for modeling—especially for legacy, broken, or small components that would be difficult to find or measure by hand.

Are you interested in starting a 3D scanning project with us, but not sure where to start? Reach out to us via or on our contact page! We're always happy to answer any questions you have on the process.

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