Reverse Engineering

Table of Contents

Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering (also known as reverse technology) is a process of product design technology reproduction, that is, reverse analysis and research on a target product, so as to deduce and obtain the processing flow, organizational structure, functional characteristics and technical specifications of the product. Design elements to produce products that are functionally similar, but not identical. Reverse engineering originated from hardware analysis in the commercial and military fields. Its main purpose is to directly analyze the finished product and deduce the design principle of the product when the necessary production information cannot be easily obtained.

Reverse engineering can be mistaken for a serious infringement of intellectual property, but in practice, it may instead protect the intellectual property owner. For example, in the field of integrated circuits, if a company is suspected of infringing intellectual property rights, reverse engineering techniques can be used to find evidence.

Reverse engineering is also a description of the product design process.

In the general concept of engineers and technicians, the product design process is a process from design to product, that is, the designer first conceives the shape, performance and general technical parameters of the product in the brain, and then completes various data in the detailed design stage. Model, and finally transfer this model into the research and development process to complete the entire design and development cycle of the product. Such a product design process is called a “forward design” process. Reverse engineering product design can be thought of as a process from product to design. Simply put, reverse engineering product design is the process of reversely pushing out product design data (including various design drawings or data models) based on existing products. In this sense, reverse engineering has been used in industrial design for a long time. For example, the hull lofting design commonly used in the early shipbuilding industry is a good example of reverse engineering.

With the wide application of computer technology in various fields, especially the rapid development of software development technology, based on a certain software, inferring its data structure, architecture and programming information by disassembling and reading the source code has become the focus of software reverse engineering technology. the main object. The purpose of software reverse engineering is to research and learn advanced technology, especially when there is no suitable documentation in hand, and you need to realize the function of a certain software. Because of this, in order to monopolize technology, many software require users to agree not to reverse research before software is installed.

The implementation process of reverse engineering is a multi-field, multi-disciplinary collaborative process.


Reverse engineering is widely used in new product development and product modification design, product imitation, quality analysis and testing and other fields. Its functions are:

  • 1. Shorten the design and development cycle of products, and speed up the replacement of products;
  • 2. Reduce the cost and risk of developing new products for enterprises;
  • 3. Speed up product modeling and serialized design;
  • 4. It is suitable for the manufacture of single and small batch parts, especially the manufacture of molds, which can be divided into direct molding and indirect molding. Direct molding method: The rapid direct molding method based on RP technology is to directly manufacture the result of the mold CAD by the RP system. This method neither needs to use the RP system to make samples, nor does it rely on the traditional mold manufacturing process. It is particularly fast for metal mold manufacturing and is a very promising molding method; indirect molding method: indirect molding The method is to use RP technology to manufacture prototypes of product parts, use the prototypes as master molds, mold cores or molding tools (grinding molds), and then combine them with traditional molding processes to create the required molds.

10 Reasons for needing reverse engineering

  1. Interface design. Due to interoperability, reverse engineering is used to find cooperation protocols between systems.
  2. Military or commercial secrets. Steal the latest research or product prototypes from an enemy or competitor.
  3. Improve documentation. When the original documentation is insufficient, and when the system is updated without the original designer, reverse engineering is used to obtain the data needed to supplement the explanation or understand the latest state of the system.
  4. Software upgrade or update. Reverse engineering is used to understand existing or legacy software systems to assess the effort required to update or port the system due to changes in requirements for functionality, compliance, security, etc.
  5. Manufacture of designs without permission/unlicensed.
  6. Academic/learning purpose.
  7. Remove copy protection and fake login rights.
  8. Loss of files: In the case of reverse engineering, the files of a particular device have been lost (or not at all), and the person in charge of the project cannot be found at the same time. The complete system often needs to be redesigned based on the old system, which means that the only way to integrate the original function and carry out the project is to use the reverse engineering method to analyze the existing fragments for redesign.
  9. Product Analysis: Used to investigate how the product works, the composition of its components, estimate the budget, and identify potential infringements.
  10. Make a game plug-in: Understand the game operation mechanism through reverse engineering, and then bypass the protection mechanism and realize the plug-in function by modifying the memory value, modifying the code in the memory, and calling internal functions.

Reverse engineered equipment and software

With the popularity of computer-aided design, reverse engineering has become a method of constructing 3D virtual models from existing physical components through CAD, CAM, CAE or other software. The process of reverse engineering uses a method of measuring the size of the actual object and making it into a 3D model. The real object can be measured by 3D scanning techniques such as CMMs, laser scanners, structured light source converters or X-ray tomography. . These measurements are generally considered to be point sets, lack topological information and at the same time are usually made into more useful formats such as polygon meshes, NURBS curves or CAD models. Since the vertex cloud itself is not as intuitive as the model in the 3D software, such as 3-matic, Imageware, PolyWorks, Rapidform or Geomagic, these software provide the ability to turn the vertex cloud into a visible image or be used by other application software, such as 3D CAD, CAM, CAE recognized format capabilities.

Reverse engineering is also used in commercial activities that require the application of real geometry in a virtual digital development environment, such as digitizing 3D data of one’s own products or competitors. In this way, it is possible to analyze how the product works, make up the components, estimate the budget, and identify potential infringements.

Value engineering is a similar tool used in business. But the point of value engineering is to find cost savings by deconstructing and analyzing products.

Reverse engineering software

Imageware, produced by the American EDS company, is the most famous reverse engineering software and is being widely used in the design and manufacture of automobiles, aviation, aerospace, consumer appliances, molds, computer parts and other fields. The software has a large user base, including BMW, Boeing, GM, Chrysler, Ford, raytheon, Toyota and other famous international companies.

The software is mainly used in the aerospace and automotive industries, where aerodynamics are very demanding at the very beginning of product development. In the conventional design process, the structure is first designed according to the needs of industrial modeling, and the clay model is produced and then sent to the wind tunnel laboratory to measure the aerodynamic performance, and then the model is repeatedly modified according to the experimental results until satisfactory results are obtained. The final clay model obtained is the model that meets the needs. How to accurately input the shape of the clay model into the computer into an electronic model requires the use of reverse engineering software. First, use a three-coordinate measuring instrument to measure the surface lattice data of the model, and then use reverse engineering software (for example: Imageware surfacer) to process to obtain a class 1 surface.



With the advancement of science and technology and the continuous improvement of consumption levels, many other industries have also begun to use reverse engineering software for product design. Taking the mouse produced by Microsoft Corporation as an example, in terms of its function, only three buttons are needed to meet the needs of use. However, how to make the mouse feel the best, and it is not easy to produce fatigue after long-term use, but it is production. Manufacturers need to seriously consider issues. Therefore, Microsoft first made several models according to ergonomics and handed them over to users for evaluation, and then modified the models directly according to the evaluation opinions until everyone was satisfied. Finally, the model data was used to generate CAD using the reverse engineering software Imageware. data. When the product is put on the market, due to its novel appearance, smooth curve, and good hand feeling, which conforms to ergonomic principles, it is quickly widely recognized by users, and the market share of the product has increased significantly.

The main products of Imageware reverse engineering software are:

Surfacer – reverse engineering tool and class 1 surface generation tool

Verdict – comparative evaluation of measured and CAD data

Build it – Provides real-time measurement capabilities to verify product manufacturability

RPM – Generate Rapid Prototyping Data

View – Similar in function to Verdict, mainly used to provide 3D reports


CopyCAD is a powerful reverse engineering system software produced by the British DELCAM company, which allows to generate three-dimensional CAD models from existing parts or solid models. The software provides sophisticated tools for the generation of CAD surfaces from digitized data. CopyCAD is capable of accepting data from coordinate measuring machines, while tracking machine tools and laser scanners.

CopyCAD’s simple user interface allows users to produce in the shortest possible time and quickly master its functions, even for first-time users. Users of CopyCAD will be able to quickly edit digitized data to produce complex surfaces with high quality. The software system can fully control the selection of surface boundaries, and then automatically generate smooth multi-block surfaces according to the set tolerances. At the same time, CopyCAD can also ensure the continuity of the tangent between the connected surfaces.


RapidForm is one of the world’s four major reverse engineering software produced by South Korea’s INUS company. RapidForm provides a new generation of operation mode, which can calculate point cloud data into seamless polygonal surfaces in real time, making it the optimization of 3D Scan post-processing Interface. RapidForm will also increase your productivity, expand the use of 3D scanning equipment, and improve scan quality.

Picture of Author: Mose Li

Author: Mose Li

Director of Project Engineering at 3Q Machining

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