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Reverse engineering

Measurement News from Q-Tech

Understanding products with reverse engineering

Anyone who wants to know how devices or machines work can get the answer to their questions with reverse engineering. This method is the exact opposite of conventional engineering.

What is engineering? Engineering includes all the higher-level activities of engineers that are used to develop, design and manufacture products . Likewise, it includes all operations required to put new equipment into service.

But by breaking it down backwards, developers gain insight into the different elements and modes of operation. In this way, for example, already existing products can be improved. In general, the economy today offers enough starting points for reverse engineering. You can find out what these are in this article. 

What is reverse engineering?

Reverse engineering is a special technique for rebuilding components using computer-aided design (CAD) when the original blueprint is no longer available. 

This involves creating 3D images of the parts so that they can be replicated. 

A 3D measuring device measures the workpiece, using CAD software to create a three-dimensional grid model that is displayed on a monitor. After the measurement is complete, the grid model is dimensioned. 

With these methods, any part can be reverse engineered. 

How does reverse engineering work?

One company that specializes in reverse engineering is Q-Tech. 

Q-Tech uses various techniques to precisely and accurately measure the various workpieces and record a three-dimensional grid model.

In the following paragraphs you will find an overview of all Q-Tech measurement techniques and services:

Computed tomography

With the aid of computed tomography, complex components can be measured precisely and non-destructively. Thanks to the modern computed tomography installed in the METROTOM devices from ZEISS, it is even possible to look inside the components. To do this, the respective component is placed in the measuring booth and the scan is started. Within a very short time, Q-Tech is provided with meaningful 3D data for further quality analysis.

3D coordinate measuring technology

Thanks to 3D coordinate measuring technology, the reverse engineering company obtains an accurate and meaningful measurement result. Q-Tech's measurement services are always based on the latest state of the art. This not only gives you significantly faster results, but also allows you to reduce measurement costs, increase the quality of your products and create a clear competitive advantage.

Optical 3D Digitizing

With the help of optical 3D digitizing, Q-Tech can digitize three-dimensional geometries of components. There are virtually no limits to the size of the component. The reverse engineering company even offers to set up the measuring equipment on your premises to save time and transport costs.

Optical metrology

Even with optical measuring techniques, we achieve very high measuring accuracy. With the measuring microscopes from Q-Tech, for example, the company can make a quick statement about the component geometries and thus guarantee exact and precise results. 

The lighting can be variably adjusted and adapted to the component properties. 

In addition, the individual programming of the measuring microscopes also enables automated measuring sequences.

Contour measurement

Q-Tech also relies on state-of-the-art technology for contour and geometry measurement of components with the ZEISS Surfcom NEX 031 SD-14 N. 

For example, edges and radii are also often among the function-critical features on a component. 

Q-Tech also records these geometries precisely and reproducibly, even over longer measuring distances. 

They provide you with the meaningful results in the form of graphical representations with dimensional evaluation.

Roughness measurement

Q-Tech takes the roughness measurement with the ZEISS Surfcom NEX 031 SD-14 N, just like the contour measurement. 

In doing so, it is possible for the reverse engineering company to make precise statements about the quality of surfaces at any time in CNC mode.

Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing

As part of additive manufacturing, Q-Tech offers 3D printing for a wide variety of applications. Whether you need jigs and fixtures, gauging components, prototypes, replicas or even entire assemblies, we are here to help.

Reverse Engineering Software

The basis for reverse engineering is the data from the computer tomograph or an optical 3D scan that Q-Tech generates from your components. With the help of professional software and many years of experience, the company can create error-free, precise CAD models in common formats from this data.

Reverse engineering for software solutions

Reverse engineering software solutions are used primarily for analysis purposes and to gain knowledge primarily about the functionality of existing objects. However, this method can also be used to rebuild objects or products and improve them at the same time. This is possible, for example, for:

  • Software solutions
  • Machines
  • Military technology 
  • Biological modes of gene function.

Reverse engineering of software products in particular has been practiced for a long time. Here, an attempt is made to convert the machine codes of a program, often also referred to as binary code, back into the original source code. 

Depending on the technique used, the knowledge gained from reverse engineering can be used to reengineer obsolete products, perform a reliability analysis, gain a competitive advantage, or simply to explain something to someone about how a product works. Regardless of how the knowledge is used or what it relates to, reverse engineering is an attempt to gain knowledge about an existing item or software solution.

What are the reasons of reverse engineering?

The purpose of reverse engineering is clear: one wants to understand how existing systems or objects work. But what are the reasons for this? 

In most cases, reverse engineering of software or hardware products is used to find a way to produce an existing solution more cost-effectively. Or a product has been taken off the market and is now to be replaced by a similar product. Reverse engineering is also used in IT to solve compatibility issues and make the hardware or software usable with other hardware, software or operating systems that were not actually suitable for it.

How does the reverse engineering process work?

The reverse engineering process depends on the particular object for which it is performed. Regardless, however, there are three general practices that are common to all reverse engineering approaches. They include:

  • Replication: The collected information is transferred into a conceptual model in which the individual parts of the model perform their respective functions within the overall structure. The purpose of this step is to abstract specific information about the original into a general model that can serve as a guide for designing new objects or systems. In software reverse engineering, this may take the form of a data flow diagram or a structure diagram.
  • Correction: The model is evaluated and tested in various scenarios to ensure that it is a realistic representation of the original object or system. In software development, this is done as part of software testing. Once the model is tested, it can be used to re-engineer the original object.

3 Examples of reverse engineering

The basis for reverse engineering is the data from the computer tomograph or an optical 3D scan. With the help of professional software and many years of experience, the data can be created error-free and in precise CAD models in common formats.

  1. Non-destructively measure components in 3D.
    Do you have a component for which you have lost or lost the construction plan? Then the non-destructive 3D component measurement is exactly the right thing for you!
    The components can be measured completely, without restriction or destruction. In this measurement, the equipment works without contact, so there are no clamping and/or probing forces acting on the component.
    Every single part and all geometries can be measured without time-consuming steps. Of course, this also applies to undercuts, narrow contours in low-lying areas and much more.
  1. Inclusion of foreign materials
    Are there foreign materials, void or inclusions in your components? Then these can be detected in the shortest possible time with the help of computed tomography, without damaging or even destroying the component.
    Q-Tech prepares the results in different variants. Common are sectional views, transparent 3D representations or a classic report. Q-Tech precisely lists the number, size and position of the void, inclusions or foreign materials.
  1. Quality control
    Your workpiece is already completely assembled? But you still want to check whether everything is in the right place?
    With the help of computer tomography, you can reliably check the correct assembly of even complex components that consist of many individual parts. For example, nuts, seals, ball heads and the like can be checked for exact placement even if they are hidden under another component. This modern type of quality control sets completely new standards.

Is reverse engineering legal? 

Reverse engineering of hardware, machinery, or other physical products does not infringe patent or proprietary rights.

Among the various laws that relate to reverse engineering are:

  • The patent law
  • The copyright
  • The Act on the Protection of Business Secrets (GeschGehG)

If reverse engineering is challenged in court, the original owner of a product, system or software code must prove that he is the intellectual inventor of the original product. Or, alternatively, that he or she owns the patent or copyright. In addition, the companies or individuals who obtained their information through reverse engineering must prove that it was a legal method.

In general, reverse engineering is a very complex area as far as the legal situation is concerned. 

Reverse engineering - A double-edged sword

There are many legitimate use cases for reverse engineering on the market. Many problems can be solved and security gaps can be closed reliably. 

In general, reverse engineering is a very complex subject area. The steps involved in reverse engineering a product require a lot of know-how.

At the same time, however, reverse engineering harbors a great danger. Depending on the product and the analysis effort, this can involve considerable costs. 

We would be happy to check whether reverse engineering is worthwhile for you. Just get in touch with our contact persons in a simple and uncomplicated way.

Moreover, this method also has its limits. It is not possible to find an answer or solution to all questions. Therefore, the cost-benefit ratio should always be checked first. Only then will it become clear whether reverse engineering is really worthwhile.