Reverse engineering, sometimes referred to as back engineering, is the process of extracting design information from anything man-made. Most often the process is to disassemble and analyze the components that make up the unit in great detail.
Is it legal to reverse engineer something? As long as no intellectual property rights are violated, as in the information needed to work out your problem is no longer available to collect and the unit you are reverse engineering was legally obtained, you should be within the proper guidelines. The same is true for software as long as the end goal is interoperability or the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information.
In the manufacturing industry there are many reasons that one might need to reverse engineer a piece of equipment. Here are a few…
In the world of manufacturing equipment obsolescence is usually one of the primary reasons one might need to reverse engineer. Many circuits are designed on a proprietary system and put into industrial electronics that quickly become obsolete after only a few years. Once these units are obsolete they are often no longer supported by the OEM or original equipment manufacturer and parts to repair them are no longer available. If the production line goes down after a unit is rendered obsolete it is typically sent out for repair. The repair facility must have a either a surplus of these obsolete component parts or have the ability to reverse engineer the part in order to create or find a suitable replacement for repairing.
When a system must interface with another system, reverse engineering can be used to see how the systems negotiate with each other. In manufacturing this is often needed when part of a production line requires an upgrade.
Documentation and Software Upgrades
When proper documentation for a system isn’t available but a manufacturing facility is required to carry it, reverse engineering the software of the system can provide its most current state. Reverse engineering can further be used on the software of a system when the current documentation has shortcomings or bugs and needs to be improved or upgraded.
Reverse engineering is often the only way to effectively solve a problem in a manufacturer’s production line. Whether a piece of equipment becomes obsolete, the line requires an upgrade or must interface with a new system or simply the need for documentation that is no longer available.
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