Reverse Engineering, in general, is the process of determining the technological details of a device or system by analyzing its structure, function and operation. Usually an intensive effort, it often involves taking the device or system apart and analyzing its workings in detail to be used in maintenance or generating a new device that performs similarly without using any physical part of the original. The need for reverse engineering sometimes is a result of missing or incomplete documentation or engineering measurements needed to perform maintenance and/or design updates. Reverse Engineering allows design decisions on end products with little or no additional knowledge of procedures involved in the original production.
Reasons For Reverse Engineering
A very common use of reverse engineering is caused by lost, incomplete, or never generated documentation. Sometimes the manufacturer or personnel initially involved in the production of the device or system is no longer available and part replacements are required for maintenance in legacy equipment or devices.
This involves examining how a product works, identify components, estimate production costs and investigate potential patent infringement.
Digital Updates & Corrections
This involves using reverse engineering to update CAD models of an object to match the “as-built” status. This may reflect production limitations as well as process modifications done to facilitate production of the object.
Certain tools of reverse engineering can be used to measure accuracy and quality of finished production components.
Reverse engineering is an invaluable tool in analyzing competitive products and gaining intelligence on competitor’s manufacturing processes and capabilities. This can often lead to improvements in a company’s own products and processes. Reverse engineering can also result in new concepts and advances that leap frog the competition as well as avoid problems or shortcomings found in competitive products.
Reverse Engineering Of Machines
As computer-aided design (CAD) has become more popular, reverse engineering has become a viable method to create a 3D virtual model of an existing physical part for use in 3D CAD, CAM, CAE or other software. The reverse-engineering process involves measuring an object and then reconstructing it as a 3D model. The physical object can be measured using 3D scanning technologies like CMMs, laser scanners, structured light digitizers or computed tomography. The measured data alone, usually represented as a point cloud, lacks topological information and is therefore often processed and modeled into a more usable format such as a triangular-faced mesh, a set of NURBS surfaces or a CAD model. Reverse engineering is also used by businesses to bring existing physical geometry into digital product development environments, to make a digital 3D record of their own products or to assess competitors’ products. It is used to analyse, for instance, how a product works, what it does, and what components it consists of, estimate costs, and identify potential patent infringement, etc.
Value engineering is a related activity also used by businesses. It involves de-constructing and analysing products, but the objective is to find opportunities for cost cutting.