RES.16-002 | January IAP 2024 | Non-Credit

How to CAD Almost Anything

Reverse Engineering as a Design Technique

Below, Andy G. Eskenazi describes why reverse engineering plays such an important part in the workshop “How to CAD Almost Anything.”

The original concept for “How to CAD Almost Anything!” dates back to the summer of 2023, when, on an extremely warm afternoon in Texas, I decided that I would fulfill a prior promise: CADding a trumpet! Back when I was a teaching assistant for the CAD class at the University of Pennsylvania (MEAM 101), I promised my last cohort of students that I would CAD a trumpet for them, despite not actually possessing one! The approach, I told them, would be to only look at pictures, and try to “reverse engineer” the trumpet out of them.

Although it proved to be a challenge (a very fun one!), after 4 days of work, the trumpet was done. This was not the first time I had “reverse-engineered” an object out of a picture; in fact, I have reverse-engineered objects many times before, with devices as complex as bicycles or Chinese violins (erhus)! However, it was in this instance that the idea of teaching a CAD class, via reverse-engineering examples, came to mind.

Learning SolidWorks commands like “extrude boss,” “fillet,” or “sweep” is not difficult. Learning how to use these commands, however, to design the object in one’s imagination is a completely different story. Thus, the main goal of “How to CAD Almost Anything!” soon became clear to me: to demonstrate, through reverse-engineering examples, how to best employ these commands to achieve a particular design feature. Taking the example of the trumpet, this meant showing how “revolve” would be best suited for making the mouthpiece or trumpet cone, while “sweep” would be best for the overall tubing system.

Hence, through the course’s nine sessions, the students and I embarked ourselves in a journey, CADding objects as simple as a pencil (in session 1) or as complicated as a spinning teacups assembly (in session 9). With each project, our goal was to increasingly challenge ourselves by decomposing our object with the help of pictures and seeing how the commands we had learned so far would help us design each subcomponent. Indeed, by breaking up a complex design into smaller components, and thinking critically about these, CADding became a lot easier!

Towards the end of the course, I could clearly notice the fruits of all the students’ work: randomly pointing at objects in our classroom, students were now able to describe the design process and how they would CAD these!

Course Info

As Taught In
January IAP 2024
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Lecture Videos