The process of reverse engineering occurs when an existing product is copied in terms of its design and overall elements in order to analyze its form, fit and function.
People often reverse engineer other products to better understand how a product is made and how it works once in the hands of consumers. By studying the existing product, inventors are often able to construct a new device based on their own ideas and analysis without directly copying anything from the original product.
During the reverse engineering process, it is extremely important to analyze and study the part without copying or replicating it. To copy a part exactly would, most likely, infringe on existing patents of the design and should, of course, be avoided at all costs. The process of reverse engineering is beneficial as it further allows inventors the opportunity to completely change or improve on the design through their own methods without exact replication.
Generally speaking, if you look at the variety of products in the market, while they usually differ in appearance (color, shape, size, etc.), their basic design and components are very similar. For example, think about a printer that you use in the office to make copies. The printing process itself is very simple, requiring a few basic components and moving parts. The printer feeds paper through one side with the use of rollers to project the paper forward and backward into position. Ink is then printed on the paper with a mechanism that holds the ink cartridges as it moves from side to side. The paper is then ejected by the feeding rollers from the other end of the device. This simple process is the basic working method of all printers regardless of appearance in terms of size, shape, color, etc.
Reverse engineering, in terms of the printer example above, allows for individual companies to study printers already on the market. Through the process, these companies are then able to modify or improve the design by putting their own twist on different areas, allowing them to obtain patents for their improvements. Because of this, the market is saturated with a variety of printer options that all have the same function but vary in design, cost, and features.
If you are stuck in the design process and perhaps cannot quite figure out the next best step for your design, consider reverse engineering. Looking at other products within the same market can often be beneficial to revamping your own design process and modifying your process. However, always remember that reverse engineering can be a tricky process and must be done with caution. It is extremely dangerous to copy someone else’s design. However, on the same note, it is very helpful to study and analyze an existing product that is relative to your invention in order to better understand its design or potential modifications. Therefore, it is a delicate balance between understanding and acknowledging the original design while maintaining the genuineness and originality of your own invention or product.