The process of acquiring the geometry and shape of a part and reconstructing its digital model is known as reverse engineering (RE). This approach is usefully employed in fields as diverse as product design, design modification, geometrical inspection, worn or damaged parts repair or
remanufacturing, when physical object drawings, documentation or computer models are not available. The recent scientific and technical developments of RE methods and tools have broadened the possibilities of applications in the field of cultural heritage conservation ranging from reproduction
(e.g. via rapid prototyping), maintenance (e.g. computer-aided repair), multimedia tools for education and dissemination (e.g. virtual museums), to artefact condition monitoring (e.g. computer-aided inspection) and many more. The first stage of the RE procedure is digital data acquisition
that can be carried out by means of several different tools. The selection of the 3D digitising system is crucial as it directly affects the process time and the quality of the point cloud, which determines the final digital model. In this research work, following the EC FP7 open topic on
‘Equipment assessment for laser based applications’ compiled in Horizon 2020, two non-contact laser-based RE systems, respectively, based on a coordinate measuring machine and a portable 3D scanning equipment, are utilised for the digitisation and reconstruction of a free-form
tangible cultural heritage artefact to comparatively assess the RE system's performance in terms of process time, accuracy and ease of use.
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