To quote the Ellen Macarthur Foundation “Our way of doing things is reaching its limits. We take resources from the ground to make products, which we use, and, when we no longer want them, throw them away. Take-make-waste. We call this a linear economy. We must transform all the elements of the take-make-waste system: how we manage resources, how we make and use products, and what we do with the materials afterwards. Only then can we create a thriving economy that can benefit everyone within the limits of our planet.”
In an age where environmental consciousness is rapidly converting the ‘purchase, use and discard’ linear economy model of past decades with an attitude of ‘Repurpose, Reuse and Recycle’, Product Lifecyle Extension via Reverse Engineering is the key to maintaining functionality and uptime whilst minimising environmental impact.
Other benefits include an almost guaranteed lower total project cost compared to completely redesigning, engineering, compliance testing and launching a product from scratch, as well as the opportunity to often verify regulatory compliance by equivalent specification.
What is reverse engineering, and how does it work?
Reverse engineering is the process of examining an existing product to understand the detail behind how it works and how its manufactured, this exercise can be done to duplicate or enhance the product. It can be applied to any product (such as computer tech, manufactured products, biological products, chemical products, etc.) to determine how the components are put together and how it works.
There are many reasons clients require reverse engineering, including:
Voids in design documentation – this can be one of the most common reasons, reverse engineering is applied to discover and re-document design and manufacturing information. Accurate documentation of products for manufacturing purposes is critical to getting your product to market, on-time, on-budget and to high quality standards.
Obsolescence Issues – when parts are no longer made but technology or machinery still utilises the components, the only way to keep things running can be to reverse engineer. At the same time engineers may seek to improve legacy products facing obsolescence.
Understanding reasons behind product failure – when products fail, reverse engineering can help you understand the reasons for the failures, and after investigation and improvements, help extend the products functional life cycle period.
Improving manufacturing processes – reverse engineering doesn’t have to only help you understand the design aspect of a product. Assessments can be made around its manufacturing processes, can any improvements be made to make manufacturing easier or faster while keeping the quality standard high? Lean manufacturing styles can be assessed providing the project with cost savings.
Product Lifecycle Extension – analysis of products to make design improvements and extend their functional lifetime. A legacy product could have its functionality improved, increased performance or improved mechanical components. Improving the design and increasing its life cycle. For example digitising an analogue design to embed data manipulation and storage or add IOT functionality to allow unit performance recording or pay-per-use options.
Company Acquisitions – have you recently taken over a company and have found yourself inheriting an array of products you don’t have full manufacturing instruction packages for but need to get them manufactured to continue market support.
Now we know some of the most common reasons for requiring reverse engineering how can it be done?
Analysis of the unit can be undertaken to determine the design and manufacturing process. Parts can be measured, dimensional information gathered, new drawings generated and new suppliers found. Engineers can use computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) to further develop drawings.
Complete systems or just sub-assemblies such as printed circuit boards (PCB) can be reverse engineered. Many clients ask for this service to help when projects have part obsolescence, or if servicing or replacement boards are required when manufacturing data is no longer available. Any information you can acquire up front is extremely useful, what documentation do you have to start with?
Once you have gathered everything on the board to be reverse engineered, it is usually a good start to take a large catalogue of photos prior to deconstruction. These can be invaluable for later reference, making sure there is plenty of detail taken. Investigation into the bill of material (BOM) in its current state, and a comprehensive parts list created and checked. Obsolescence issues and RoHS compliance status can be checked and logged, alternatives sourced and recorded or market stock secured. Build documentation will have to be assessed and any holes filled. Production methods can be evaluated for optimal manufacturing efficiency.
4e Technology has expertise in various industries, including highly regulatory markets such as medical and defence, and along with over 20 years electronics knowledge we offer reverse engineering services. We understand the detailed investigation required when reverse engineering a unit and pride ourselves on sifting through all the detail behind a product to understand how to manufacture it efficiently, on budget and to the highest quality. Our team takes time and care in producing ISO 13485 quality standard build documentation which is crucial in supporting your product through seamless manufacturing.
Whether you’ve lost documentation after a sub-contractor has ceased manufacturing, have a legacy product with manufacturing instruction holes making production impossible, have incomplete build standards, or your data is not in a form that current manufacturing can utilise 4e can help solve the headache. After disassembling and evaluating your product 4e will produce full product build documentation, investigate and assess Bills of Materials (BOM) for issues such as lead-time (allocation), RoHS compliance and obsolescence, evaluate optimum manufacturing processes and return it to seamless manufacturing.
Call us today on 01794 874 227 to discuss how we can help you, or drop us an email firstname.lastname@example.org