Teardowns: breaking things, carefully

Sometimes we break things to test them.   Sometimes we test things to make sure they won’t break. Every now and again we break things for fun.  And sometimes we break things carefully to see what’s inside.  Tearing down a competitor’s product is a great way to help understand the good, the bad and the ugly about that product’s design.  We can learn what works and what to avoid.

The last few months have been pretty intense for us on the teardown front.  OK, both intense and fun–so much fun that we are now getting resumes from people who have heard about what we’re doing and want a piece of it. But teardowns are difficult, because by definition we don’t have a set of drawings, we don’t have a service manual, and we don’t necessarily even have the subsystem level specs.  So its half engineering, half forensics  and half just plain being very, very careful.

Our largest teardown project has involved satellite internet devices of various size, shapes and colors, which is doubly cool because we get to look at some freakishly high frequency electronics–up to 30 GHz. So suddenly acronyms like LNB and BUC are  wafting through our lab,  along with dissertations on the various microwave bands. L Ku Ka, m-o-u-s-e.

And the occasional grunt as we apply old-fashioned elbow grease to a recalcitrant screw (there are a LOT of screws in microwave electronics).

with lotsof screw holes

Along with taking a thousand or so photos, both microscope and big picture, we’re also investigating supply chains, envisioning block diagrams, and creating strawman process flows and BOMs.  Hopefully this knowledge will benefit both our customer directly in terms of competitive analysis but also help us support them in the next phase when we hopefully get to help productize their exciting new product family.  Which is top secret–you’ll have to buy one and tear it down to figure out how it ticks.

The whir of a dremel beckons.  Back to the lab.




1 Comment

  • Sincere

    Thanks a lot to everyone at Chipworks! This GPU is such a myretsy and this is the first real major attempt at uncovering more details. Some more mysteries have now arised, but that’s the fun part. Hopefully, all this attention/discussion will bring more details to light.Again, big props!

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