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Reverse engineering of free form shell structures -
From point cloud to finite element model

P. Eigenraam, A. Borgart

Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands

Many free form shell structures that have been designed and build in previous decades are fascinating structures. We can learn from these structures by analysing them and studying their structural behaviour. However, in some cases the geometry of these structures is not available; most notably the shapes of shell structures designed and build by Heinz Isler, who has built over 1400 shells. The geometry of many of his scale models and build structures have been obtained by the authors by making use of 3D laser scanners which create point clouds.

This paper presents a method for reverse engineering of free form shell structures from point cloud to finite element model. Since shape and force interact, special attention is given to the geometric accuracy. Every model must be sufficiently accurate. The method has been applied to data obtained by scanning Islerís shells. Important aspects that influence the quality of the resulting finite element model are described.

Key words: Reverse engineering, shell structures, point cloud, finite element analysis, mesh