What to Know About Reverse Engineering

Today, manufacturers all over the world churn out thousands of new equipment and machinery components. Despite advancements in technology, several machine parts and components have remained quite relevant despite being used in outdated technology. Reverse engineering is the process of deconstructing such equipment to extract the design information from the parts. As the name suggests, Reverse engineering involves tearing down machinery, software, aircraft equipment, or architectural structures. Often, the process involves tearing down an individual component of a more complex product. Through reverse engineering, engineers can determine how manufacturers designed the part to recreate a replica of it.


Unlike forward engineering, where products are designed from a pool of knowledge and research, back-engineering is often based on limited knowledge about how the product was made. Engineers then have to work backward by disassembling the original design layer by layer or piece by piece. Today, there are scanners used to capture accurate dimensions and data of the existing geometry. The scanned data is more accurate than that acquired by manual measurements. The acquired data can then be manipulated or used to recreate the exact design.


Importance of Reverse Engineering


Espionage- The concept of reverse engineering was heavily employed by military engineers tasked with creating or improving military equipment often designed by their enemies. To gain military advantage, reverse engineering was used to analyze foreign military equipment and technology seized during the war. The engineers had to understand the working principles of equipment that they had no clue how it was manufactured.


Legacy Parts Replacement- Today, the manufacturing industry has put the concept of reverse engineering into use. Many of the machine parts used in the production of products are outdated and do not have design drawings or specifications. This why manufacturing companies often find it necessary to reverse engineer such parts when they have to be repaired, replaced, or modernized. This is usually a costly and lengthy process since the engineers are working with minimal or no knowledge.


Parts Repair or Service


More than often, parts that the OEM does not support will require to be serviced or repaired. It is advisable first to understand how the product before attempting any repair or service. If there are no design documents available for the worn-out parts, reverse engineering can create such documents. Data acquired through reverse engineering can be used to inform the repair and service of complex parts. Working backward on a piece of equipment can help map out a better route to access and service some specific equipment components. Technicians can also use the data from reverse engineering to know which part to remove, replace or repair for a given malfunction.


Failure Analysis


During the development of new machinery and equipment, it is often hard to establish which parts are bound to fail until the whole system is assembled. That’s when the malfunctions set in. reverse engineering is vital in developing digital design files that reveal design flaws. While the system is being taken apart, it is easier to establish design flaws through damaged parts.


Improvement of Parts


After engineers have conducted a failure analysis, they may find it necessary to alter some components’ design. The data extracted from scanning the original faulty design can be manipulated to improve the part’s design. Suppose manufacturers of such replacement parts have gone out of business or have stopped manufacturing the parts. In that case, it is easier for engineers to recreate the parts by scanning the original worn-out or faulty parts.


With today’s 3D CAD and 3D scanning technologies, reverse engineering has become a cheaper option than replacing the whole system just because of a single failing component. Manufacturers have also widely used the concept to improve existing machinery and software, minimize the time to market, and save tons of cash on repairs and replacements. Reverse engineering has also played a key role in flagging out potential patent infringements.