The electronics manufacturing spectrum has never been in short of skilled professionals building perfect circuit boards no matter how small and complicated they may be. And it is a universal fact that 100 per cent perfection is not possibly achievable. For large production runs, a small number of defects do not pose threat as such. However, when the demand is for a customized circuit board or a unique prototype, the cost to recreate it would be huge. And proceeding with the defective piece would be disastrous. In such cases, PCB repair and rework is one of the best options to save an investment from being a failure. PCB repair services in fact can save money and resources in cases of failure.
Introducing Reverse Engineering
There are several reasons to carry out reverse engineering services of a Printed Circuit Board (PCB). One amongst them is that industries invest huge capital on machine systems. Many a times, these expensive machines can go down simply because of one component in a PCB. It makes logical sense that when a company invests in an expensive machine system, it would be imperative for it to utilize it for many years. In many cases, it has been observed that an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) goes out of business while the machine system developed by them is still running. Now a machine on which so much of investment was made is left without the facility for support and an inability to get it repaired. In the electronics manufacturing sphere, it has been observed that in a time span of 15 to 30 years after a machine was installed, only one or two components or PCBs become defective requiring replacement or repair.
Reverse Engineering: A Systematic Process
The process of reverse engineering may include the following:
1. Perceiving specifications and engineering sketches
This is done to identify and analyze the components of the machine and their relationship with one another.
2. Electronic analysis of the system
This constitutes analyzing each component’s electronic aspects like, electromagnetic interference, radio frequency, control loops, and communication and contacts between parts.
3. Obsolescence analysis of components
This allows companies to make room for spare parts and support for components such as circuit boards that have become obsolete years ago.
4. Component Information analysis
Information is extracted when components and their interrelationships are thoroughly studied. The diagrammatic representation of the information discovered proves to be of great help in the process.
5. Process variation of the reverse engineered system
The diagrammatic representation facilitates creating a physical version by reassembling the different parts and components.
Reverse Engineering vs Repair & Rework
Reverse Engineering when compared to repair and rework is quite a different approach altogether. They, however, serve the same purpose. And that is making the components or PCBs or the whole machine systems free from defects. Reverse Engineering comes into play when repair, rework, or modification for a machine system becomes difficult or impossible. For instance, when a machine system whose OEM is out of business fails due to a defect in one or two components, it becomes necessary to carry out reverse engineering. Moreover, reverse engineering also facilitates research and development of electronics.
So, both repair and rework, and reverse engineering have their own significance in the electronics manufacturing industry. Rather than having a comparison between the two, it is better to look at both as systematic processes being parts of a diverse discipline.