Reinventing the wheel is a bad idea, at least in most cases. So world-class organizations are always checking out the competition, seeing how they do things. The MBA types call it as benchmarking; we just like to get our hands dirty and tear stuff apart.
Often times the purpose is not to actually copy anything directly (and avoiding IP infringement is something we do take seriously) but to learn:
- How is a product built?
- What kind of supply chain does it have?
- Who are the major component and subsystem suppliers?
- What kind of processes were used?
- How is it split up into subassemblies and subsystems
- Was it designed for manufacturability?
- Was it designed for repair
It should be noted that teardowns are an imprecise art and often involve a fair amount of forensics and even guesswork. And for the most part teardowns can render a product less than perfectly functional, not to mention voiding the warranty.
Analyzing competitors’ products to understand performance, cost and supply chain. These are always done on products that are available for sale on the open market by personnel who do not have any access to confidential information from the products vendor. Note that we never to teardowns on products from past or present customers, nor anyone else where we are encumbered by previous non-disclosure agreements.
Reverse engineering is a much more detailed teardown, with an eye towards completely understanding the detailed design of a product, subassembly or assembly. Like a teardown, this is done from an open-market acquired product. Care does need to be taken wrt any license agreements for example software that are a part of the product, and also other forms of IP such as design patents.
Supply chain and product cost reconstructions
Often this is the main goal of the teardown. Finding clues as to how a product was made, and using these clues to develop a BOM, and often a product cost estimate.
Recently we conducted a detailed teardown of 8 satellite internet systems. Most of these products function at over 20 GHz and involve some very complex technologies. The systems ranged in complexity from discrete LNBs (preamplifiers / down-convertors) and BUCs (power amplifiers / up-convertors) to complete satellite internet systems, the most complex being a $15,000 marine system with fiber optic gyros. Other examples include: tearing down several baby products to see how certain latching mechanisms were implemented; reverse engineering the powertrain for an electric bike as part of a major systems engineering we have ongoing with an E-bike startup; and we are currently reverse engineering an automotive aftermarket product leading to a complete redesign of hardware and software.
So send us something else cool to teardown.