Designing the printed circuit board (PCB) and then building it based on the specifications is what engineering PCBs is all about. But sometimes, you go in the reverse order. You may start with the PCB and from there develop the design used to build the PCB. This is the reverse engineering process, in very straight and simple terms.
Reverse engineering is carried out most often when some other company or individual has designed the PCB and you want to make a similar one. Keeping aside the complexity of its legality, reverse engineering can be carried out as long as no patents are involved. You make changes to the PCB design and there is no infringement of trademarks involved, reverse engineering can be extremely beneficial. In this post, we are going to throw some light on how Reverse Engineering Services Companies carry out the reverse engineering process to enhance the PCB design.
Why Reverse Engineer the PCBs?
There can be several reasons for this. Some of them are as follows:
- You have a PCB which is quite valuable to you. You want to have more of that. However, the supplier has stopped making it or has gone out of business altogether
- Your competitor has a PCB which you can sell at a more reasonable price. Once you enter the market they may charge less because in the absence of any competition they had raised the price. Reverse engineering helps you to determine the cost basis.
- Your competitors’ PCB may or may not work as efficiently as you think. You may want to determine if there exist certain weaknesses in your or your competitors’ design.
These are the 3 main reasons why reverse engineering PCBs is carried out. Apart from the marketing benefits, it can make PCBs more efficient and effective.
The PCB Reverse Engineering Process
Reverse Engineering is not as simple as it may have been sounding until now. It requires a thorough knowledge and understanding of circuitry. This demands an understanding of engineering sketches and specifications, electronic analysis of the system, obsolescence analysis, material analysis, dimensional analysis, and more.
To begin with, you test the PCB and find its limits with respect to temperature, efficiency, and performance. Two factors play a significant role here. One, what the PCB does, and second, what you might think will be useful for the customers.
The next thing to do is to determine the dimension of the PCB. Size often matters in the electronics industry and sometimes can play a significant role.
When you have deconstructed the PCB, you can estimate the labor and bill of materials. That is going to give you an estimation of the manufacturing cost.
At last but not least, trace out the circuit. You can identify the key functional blocks that will help you to determine the method on which the PCB works. Or else you can trace out the entire circuit which is required to copy the design. In some cases, the firmware is also reverse-engineered.
What to do with the Reverse Engineered PCB?
Two situations can arise at this point. You can make a copy, if it is legal, and lay out your PCB. You are good to go with it. Second, you may want to produce a competitive part with a differentiated design and specifications. In that case, a different team will do the design rather than the team that did reverse engineering. It is important to note that the types of information that can be exchanged are limited.
Whatever may be the reason to reverse engineer the PCB, at the end of the day, you have a PCB with an enhanced and efficient design.