We've all seen sci-fi movies where scientists try to reverse engineer a UFO to understand how it defies gravity or navigates in space.
In its simplest form, reverse engineering involves taking apart an object to see how it works with the goal of duplicating or enhancing it. The practice, taken from older industries, is now frequently used on computer hardware and software. The techniques have been refined over the years to help software specialists reverse engineer a program's machine code back into the source code.
Hardware reverse engineering uses the same basic principle, that of taking apart a device to see how it works. A computer processor can be disassembled to understand its inner workings, then copied or improved upon. Hardware reverse engineering requires skill and knowledge, and is therefore quite expensive.
Hardware reverse engineering and particularly software reverse engineering often violates copyright laws. So care must be taken and written approvals granted before such engineering tasks are undertaken.
A third version of reverse engineering uses 3-D Laser Scanners to create images of previously manufactured parts. The goal here is to be able to remanufacture the part when the original blueprint can no longer be found. The part is placed in a coordinate measuring machine to create a 3-D wire frame image. The image is displayed on a monitor and subsequently dimensioned. Once dimensioned, it can be manufactured to its original specs.
For an additional perspective, check out this video:
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Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.