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What is Design Intent?

Design intent refers to a designer’s specifications of how a part should appear and function. Ideally, when manufactured, the resulting part will match this design exactly. The concept of design intent plays a primary role in reverse engineering, which is a process that works backwards to take measurements from an as-built part and create a usable CAD model for record keeping, design modification, and more. 

In this article, we’ll explain how design intent is important to the reverse engineering process, including client to engineer understanding and programming CAD modelling software. Specifically, we will only cover this topic in relation to 3D scanning a part to create CAD.  

As-Built vs. Design Intent

When a part is given to an engineer to 3D scan and reverse engineer, the part arrives as-built. This means that any manufacturing defects, such as sink, warp, flash, ejector pin indention, and more, may be present in the part. Wear, such as scratches, twisting, bending, or breakage, may also be apparent. Neither manufacturing defects nor wear are ever part of the intended design, but they cannot be avoided. Manufacturing defects will always occur in a part. Even if the part is only fractions of a millimeter different from the design model, it does not match the design intent. 

Reverse engineering is most often used to create a digital CAD file that restores the as-built part to its intended design specifications. However, when 3D scanning the part, the data gathered will reflect the part as-is, and the engineer must adjust the design as needed. If a CAD model were made from the sc