What is Reverse Engineering – Reverse Engineering Definitions, Purposes, Process & Steps | CNCLATHING


When your machine has been used for many years and some components are failed, you need to replace these parts, the reverse engineering process can help you find out what you need and replace them properly. What is reverse engineering and why use it? In this article, we are going to talk about the reverse engineering definition, purposes, steps, process and more.

What is Reverse Engineering?

Reverse engineering, also known as back engineering or backwards engineering, is a process through which people attempt to understand how a device, process, system, or software to complete a task through deductive reasoning, it involves working backward the original design process and analyze the details. In reverse engineering, software, machines, or products are generally deconstructed to individual components or disassembled piece by piece, enables you to learn about how a part was designed so that the part can be recreated, this is where also the most challenging. 

Reverse engineering includes image reverse, software reverse and physical reverse. At present, physical reverse technology is the most popular. It studies the reconstruction of the CAD model and the manufacture of the final product. Reverse engineering is only an analysis to deduce design features from products with little knowledge about the original production, it is not concerned with creating a copy or changing the part. 

What is Reverse Engineering Used for - Purposes of Reverse Engineering

Why do we use reverse engineering? Reverse engineering is performed in various fields based on many reasons, it originates from the analysis of hardware for commercial or military interests. Reverse engineering often used in maintenance or making a new device or program that does the same thing without copying anything from the original. Reverse engineering is carried out under circumstances like lost documentation, product analysis, security auditing, removal of copy protection, and more. Its main purpose is to deduce the design principle of the product directly from the analysis of the finished product without easily obtaining the necessary production information. Some common uses of reverse engineering:

– Software reverse engineering: the design information of software may lose over time, reverse engineering can recover the lost information and reduce the time to understand the source code. Even if the functional old parts of computer equipment have been lost, reverse engineering allows technicians to rediscover these formulas and bring them up to date. 

– Military or commercial espionage: use reverse engineering to learn about the enemy’s latest research and dismantling it to develop a similar or better product. 

– OEM: if the original equipment manufacturer lost the design measurement of the product, reverse engineering can be applied to analyze the vital product information to assist the manufacturing. 

– Additive manufacturing: a 3D product can be captured in digital form and remodeled to improve the iterations. 

– Cultural relics protection: Museum pieces and historic artifacts can be captured through 3D scanning and use reverse engineering to save the CAD data in case of any future damage to the object. 

– Competitor analysis: analyze the products of competitors.

– Product security: examines how a product works and identifies the potential patent infringement. 

– 3D model: create a 3D virtual model of an existing physical part for use in CAD, CAM, CAD, or other software, which can offer the exact design for CNC machining parts. Reverse engineering can extract the design of the product. 

– File loss: reverse engineering is often adopted when the file of special equipment has been lost and the person in charge of the project cannot be found. The complete system often needs to be redesigned based on the old system, which means that the only way to integrate the original functions for the project is to use the reverse engineering method to analyze the existing fragments for the redesign.

– Discontinued products: if the old products lost their paper blueprints, reverse engineering can help companies regain the lost designs and create the archives of the product legacy. Or if the products have not been manufactured for a long time, you can’t get in touch with the original manufacturer, reverse engineering may be the only way to obtain the design of the product.

The Process of Reverse Engineering - Reverse Engineering Steps & Stages

In forward engineering, the developer first analyzes the application and finally does the implementation. TO reverse engineer, you need to start with a finished part or implementation of an application. 


Reverse engineering usually imitates and innovates a real sample or model. Aiming at the existing sample, a 3D digital measuring instrument can be used to measure the product shape data accurately and quickly. The surface model is constructed in reverse software and then input into CAD/CAM system for further editing and modification. The CNC code of the cutter is generated by CAM and sent to the CNC machine tool to make the required mold, or by the rapid prototyping machine makes the sample model. So the process of physical reverse engineering generally follows the steps as below:

1. Samples -> 3D Profile Measurement -> Data Processing -> CAD Surface Construction -> Shape Modification -> CAM Generates CNC File -> Mold Processing -> Molding -> Product Duplication


2. Samples -> 3D Profile Measurement -> Data Processing -> CAD Surface Construction -> Shape Modification -> Generate STL file layer by layer -> Rapid Prototyping -> Molding -> Product Duplication