“What Is Reverse Engineering and How Does It Work?"
-By Pipetech | Published on April 3, 2021
Reverse engineering is the process of replicating a part by extracting surfaces or sketches from a digitized point cloud
or mesh to create a CAD model of the part.
Reverse engineering: definition and methods involve studying an object to determine its inner workings or method of
We also talk about retro design. In computing, this also applies to software. For this, we use analytics tools such as a
disassembler or a de-compiler.
If this amounts to debugging, we understand why, thanks to the tools of Kali Linux, we can use it to simulate a type of
attack allowing us to recover information to which we do not always have direct access.
The reverse engineering process is frequently used for data structures in order to reconstruct a model from
the physical structures of files and tables.
For its part, the purpose of engineering is to design and assemble the various components of a product to make it a
It turns the whole process upside down. The purpose of it is to identify the functioning of the various components of a
system in order to understand the functioning of the whole.
This is the reason why this technique is sometimes applied to the products of its competitors. This gives you the chance
to improve your own product and adapt it to make it more competitive on the market.
A mature technology, digitization is an essential tool for reverse engineering. A set of tools (“3D scans”), software, and
algorithms make it possible, from a physical part such as a mechanical part, to reconstruct a 3D model.
There are many applications: duplicating a part to make a duplicate in 3D printing, measuring the dimensions of a part
after manufacturing, comparing apart with its CAD model… Pipetech has the expertise and means to carry out your
reverse engineering projects whatever the order of magnitude of the measurement: from µm to the meter.
1. The 3 main technologies
This family is based only on one or more image acquisition systems (camera, photographic
apparatus). It does not use additional light to perform the measurements. The sub-families are stereovision,
photogrammetry, and catadioptric vision.
Active triangulation Unlike passive triangulation, structured lighting contributes to the 3D reconstruction of the object.
This is the most popular method in 3D scanning. Known patterns are projected onto the object while a camera collects
Trigonometry allows going back to the depth of the points. The sub-families are the point laser, the line laser, and the
Flight time The sub-families are pulse detection, amplitude modulation, and TC / SPC time-of-flight.
This family, of lower precision, is mainly used for large dimensions (precision of the order of a millimeter over more than
The principle is to send a laser pulse or a wave with amplitude modulation. The measurement of the signal received
(delay or amplitude) makes it possible to determine the distance traveled.
2. The main applications
The digitization of a room or a scene has three common applications: Analysis: geometric inspection (taking
dimensions), recognition of characteristics.
Visualization: 3D plan reconstruction for the bundle, local or web rendering, integration into an augmented reality
Duplication: additive manufacturing, machining, foundry. Depending on the targeted application, the output format will
A cloud of dots triangulated mesh reconstructed surface model (possibly with the addition of texture)
3. The 3 steps to reverse engineer
Choice of means This choice is guided by several parameters among which: the targeted application the required
precision distance to object the size of the object/scene the texture of the object (mat, transparent, shiny, etc.).
In addition to the choice of the scan, that of the positioning system must be made: rotary table, CMM, robotic arm, poly
articulated arm, optical tracking system (two or three cameras), laser tracking system (laser tracker).
It depends on the scan and the result (in particular the precision) desired.
Completion of the acquisition Depending on the equipment selected, the acquisition will be done by moving an arm,
programming a CMM, or choosing the locations of the scan for digitization by the view.
Preparation is required for programming, determining optimal locations for acquisition positions, or defining the scan
path for polyarticular arms.
The challenges here are to reduce the duration of the acquisition, to obtain a maximum acquisition rate of the part (in
particular avoiding self-occlusions) while minimizing redundancies in the acquisitions in order to simplify the postprocessing phase.
Post-treatment This step consists of working with the raw point clouds obtained:
noise filtering (outliers, edge effects, etc.)
Cloud triangulation background removal veneer cleaning association of point clouds plugging holes optionally, adding
texture (especially for visualization applications).
The biggest advantage of the reverse-engineering process the algorithm logic win.
The term reverse engineering encompasses all activities that involve finding out exactly how a product works, especially
in the area of software.
It starts with taking apart cases in order to understand the diagram and continues through to decoding. The name
comes from the fact that the engineering activity is reversed and one wants to reconstruct the structure.
In terms of methodology, the project is being placed under the microscope in order to understand details. In the case of
software, it is about recovering the source code. The program is typically delivered indirectly executable machine
First, you can run the software and use tools like sniffers to understand how communication with other components or
a web service works on the Internet.
The second approach starts directly and begins with translating the machine language into human-readable program
code. From there, an attempt is made, with manual effort, to understand the program as far as it is needed.
WHY DO YOU DO REVERSE ENGINEERING?
The description of the methodology already shows that reverse engineering is very complex. So why
do you take this effort?
The first reason is software auditing. Does the software do what the manufacturer claims? Are my data really
protected or does the product send my personal data to a web service on the Internet?
The information obtained can also be used to recognize software or parts of the software, such as integrated libraries.
This makes sense if you want to identify advertising libraries or if you have to recognize certain virus patterns as a virus
Another benefit of the reverse engineering team is the expansion or modification of functionality.
Especially among technology enthusiastic users, it is often the case that precisely one function is still desired, but the
manufacturer cannot pursue every request.
In that case, the "nerd" simply takes matters into their own hands. A modification that is often made, however, is
bypassing license checks, which is usually referred to as cracking software.
The reverse engineering process describes a method with which a finished product can be successfully reconstructed.
Companies carry out it on objects that are no longer produced and on competing products. Find out here what the
advantages of legal reverse engineering are and when it can be dangerous for your company.
Reverse engineering (RE) is the comparative product analysis or the reconstruction of an existing, mostly industrially
By breaking it down, you get central information about the product or get the opportunity to draw conclusions about
its value-added structure.
With its functions, manufacturing principles, behaviors, patterns of action and states as well as the construction
elements of a product are extracted.
Reverse team of engineers usually adapt it to specific company ideas and often develop them further. Possible reasons
for reverse engineering are, for example, the analysis of competitive advantages or the modeling of differentiation
Reverse engineering can be legal, but it can also be illegal. The objectives of it can therefore be extremely diverse.
Origin and procedure of reverse engineering With itself, starting with the finished product or hardware, you can work
out the initial construction and break down it.
Occasionally, major functional differences can be found between the original product and the replica.
It is relevant here whether a reasonable improvement can be achieved through the additional effort of changes. With
this, you can uncover sources of error, carry out quality checks, retrace production steps or further develop existing
It, therefore, plays a central role, especially in quality and configuration n management.
Reverse engineering of competitive products is about gaining knowledge and using the newly acquired information for
The method originally comes from the mechanical engineering department. Originally, this was used to measure objects
and create CAD models from them.
It is the central prerequisite for reverse engineering. Companies from almost all manufacturing sectors rely on
competitive observation in their product development.
The development of a product is not based on the idea, but on a vision that is linked to an original model or its
Work steps, i.e. design, development, and production, are always included.
If the design idea turns out to be impractical, it is easily possible to change it.
With reverse thinking, competition observers usually ask themselves the current state of technology for a particular
product and to what extent it needs to be further developed.
Reverse thinking is a basic requirement for product research and development; it can be used by different companies to
develop common technologies and strategies.
Open-source thinking If you see third-party products as competing objects and your own developments as competitive
products, the creative generation of ideas is usually very limited.
In this sense, performance thinking is also often not necessarily efficient, because third-party products can almost
always have advantages over your own - sometimes considerable.
The legal combination of the advantages of individual components or components of different products can result in a
new solution that combines the corresponding advantages and eliminates weak points or existing problems. It is
therefore particularly popular in the open-source area.
Reverse engineering of hardware and assemblies The analysis and replication of hardware are particularly popular.
With it, all components of hardware solutions are disassembled and examined in detail.
On the one hand, hardware reverse engineering techniques can aim to make obsolete or unknown electronic systems
that are state-of-the-art, and on the other hand, a configuration audit can be carried out with the help of reverse
A special form of hardware reverse engineering is the analysis and post-production of assemblies and corresponding
With reverse engineering, their structures, components, states, and behavior are extracted, and all available documents
are collected and evaluated.
The individual components or modules are examined separately and together. When analyzing entire assemblies, it may
be useful to create original parts lists. If design files do not exist, a redesign is recommended.
Reverse engineering goals own or third-party products can be modified d or developed. With it, you add interfaces and
take considerable savings measures in the development of new products.
With the help of it, you can obtain information on products that you have purchased yourself or that are no longer
This includes, for example, the manufacturing costs. This will give you information that is no longer available about
certain products and derive additional info.
If errors should occur in a product but the manufacturer no longer exists,, it is also necessary for subsequent changes
The same applies if you want to modify or adapt a product from a manufacturer that no longer exists.
Especially when analyzing software, you can find out its compatibility with certain systems or identify malicious
In addition, RE can be used to find d out whether a third-party company has illegally copied a patented process and thus
committed a patent infringement.
Re-engineering The main goal of reverse engineering is to design your own, usually cheaper and more powerful product;
the so-called re-engineering.
Often, reverse engineering is only the first t step in re-engineering.
All the processes and raw materials used for production, as well as the capacities of the machines used, are based on
the information on the new product that has been obtained through the analysis of all individual components.
This partial process is called forward engineering.
Re-engineering refers to the radical redesign of company processes and changes to the software.
If you need expert help with re-engineering or with the specific c implementation of reverse engineering, please contact
Our partners support you with comprehensive interface management and help you to adapt existing products to the
extensive needs of your company.
In all cases, reverse engineering can affect legal aspects that must be observed.
Another aspect of reverse engineering is a detailed analysis, dynamic analysis, failure analysis using powerful tools,
and creating 3D images of manufactured parts when there are no blueprints or CAD files s left to restore those parts.
Components can be reproduced relatively easily with 3D scans. Using the 3D scans, reverse engineering is possible so
that grid models or CAD files can be created again.
RAPID REVERSE ENGINEERING Description: This type of file is a kind of "patchwork" of surfaces that are placed in
layers on the determined geometry during digitization.
The structure favors very complex and/or biological forms such as sculptures or animal or vegetable forms.
Advantages: Limited costs, quick creation, can be edited with any CAD(computer-aided design) or CAM software.
Disadvantages: Changes can only be made to a very limited extent afterward, not suitable for prismatic geometries.
STANDARD REVERSE ENGINEERING Description: These files correspond to the classic files s generated with CAD.
By integrating the technological parameters and the manufacturing specifications, , all shapes can be optimally
described and perfect geometries can be mapped.
We can also provide parameterized data including their structure-construction chronology.
Advantages Exact and changeable definition of the geometries with optimal adaptation to prismatic geometries.
Disadvantages: implementation costs and time insights, difficulties s in simulating very complex geometries.
Formats: step Parasolid. METHODOLOGY We will introduce you to various approaches and support you in making a
decision for an appropriate and optimized solution.
METHODOLOGY We will introduce you to various approaches and support you in making a decision for an appropriate
and optimized solution.
Thanks to the know-how of our technicians and the efficiency y of our equipment, we deliver high-quality results even
with complex and difficultt-to-understand geometries, which further increases the attractiveness of our range of new
Reverse engineering with addditive manufacturing turns the design process upside down by starting with finished
components or products.
We have summarized the areas of application, how reverse engineering works with 3D printing, and what challenges
exist. The common English term of reverse engineering has found its way into our production world.
Thanks to the new possibilities of the 3D scan and the resulting data, an existing product or construct can be developed
back into a construction plan during reverse engineering. In this way, products and their design properties can be
precisely determined and later reproduced yourself.
We will show you how reverse engineering works in detail, what limits this method has, and what legal consequences
must be observed.
Possible disadvantages summarized: Fewer product innovations With complex products, the effort is often too high
The potential of new construction approaches such as generative design cannot be exploited Current limitatiions of the
process in production.
Of course, it also has its limits. Because not all functions of a product or an object can be analyzed by simply analyzing
the surfaces in their different states.
Among other things, this means that many different processes must be used for complex products and objects in order
to be able to represent a product in its full functionality.
If the technology behind it is innovative and new, it can also happen that it is not possible to take this step off regression
and thus make the product understandable.
For this reason, companies should not only concentrate on one area of reverse engineering of models and products but
should try to increase the possibilities for understanding and analysis on as many levels as possible.
Thanks to the digitally available data, the various developments can then be traced by the relevant technicianns and
engineers within the limited space and then reconstructed in the model by the 3D artists.
These technologies and scanning technologies and processes are used in it using a wide variety of methods with which
the various objects can be recorded and digitized. Various measurement methods are used for this purpose so that the
engineers succeed in capturing not only the optical properties but also the functionality.
This includes tactile measurements, various 3D scanning methods, modern computer tomography, and other methods
such as ultrasound measurement.
Which processes are used in each case depends, among other things, on the type and construction of the various
objects that are to be recorded and simulated using reverse engineering?
Important points in the question include The complexity of the object The number of functions and functionalities The
type and design of the surfaces The material used The industry or the area of application It is therefore not possible to
generalize which procedures are suitable for individual companies or individuals sectors.
The market economy environment and individual needs also play an important role here Reverse engineering and
legality - patent law and its limits The question now arises as to what the legal limits of reverse engineering aree like.
In this case, reverse engineering is usually already explicitly prohibited.
The situation is different for hardware, i.e. for technical and less technical components. Here, patent law regulates that
the production of new products with the technology that has already been patented is prohibited without a
However, reverse engineering is usually used to analyze and improve a particular project and thus create a new and