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Reverse Engineering

Updated: Apr 8, 2021

Improve your designs by tearing down electronics.

I've learned a lot about manufacturing methods by tearing apart devices. 

This is a great teardown of a spinning-disk hard drive.

All of the EngineerGuy videos are very thorough and well done. 

A few years ago, I was designing a roll-feeding dispenser so we tore apart various things that looked/worked similar.

We found old (non-functional) dollar bill collectors on ebay, and free electronics on craigslist. 

These tear downs show simple mechanisms that perform obvious functions, but are designed in the real world. 

Sometimes it's hard to imagine how a cam/follower would be used to index positions. 

Seeing how a carriage/gantry shuttles between two points using only a simple mechanism is fun.

In tearing things apart, I've even stumbled upon little nuggets that unlock that special creative juice in my brain. 

One of my favorites was a small speaker unit with a really clever multi-prong light-pipe design.  It added one clear plastic part to the assembly, but that decision allowed the EE to keep the LEDs on the main PCBA rather than on a daughter board. 

This strategy simplified the assembly and reduced part count. 

Taking things apart makes me a better designer. I ask myself questions while disassembling the devices. Why did they mount the motor to the chassis vs the housing? Was it to reduce vibration, or reduce assembly cost?

Why did they choose a screw here, and not an Ultrasonic Weld? Was it for warranty repairs? 

Sometimes we can't ever know the designer's true intent, but we can still learn a lot. 

If you find yourself ready to throw out an old gadget, take it apart first!


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