Reverse engineering PCB assemblies:

The low cost solution for building maintenance companies

The modern factory or office building is controlled by a variety of systems for safety and security. These systems are generally maintained by specialist maintenance companies, generally on a fixed contract, where they will be responsible for the repair of the system, In the eventuality they are unable to make a repair, they are expected to replace the whole system. Many of these contracts will have been taken on sight unseen of the building and it is very rare that there is a full audit of the condition of all the control systems.

It is quite common for some of the controls to be 15- 20 years old and obtaining spares can be difficult, as original system manufacturers will often discontinue support after 10 years and some may have gone out of business. This is where Reverse Engineering can be a cost effective solution for obsolete PCB assemblies. In general, it is not the very complex PCB’s that tend to fail but the power and motor control boards. These may be only a small part of the overall system but are more economic to reverse engineer.

It is not uncommon for a large control panel to cost around £5000 and it could cost a further £2000 to remove the old one and install and configure a new one. When looking at a large building it is not uncommon for there to be 10-15 identical panels, which could prove very expensive over a period of time.

Reverse engineering is a complex process where how the original PCB was designed to work is analysed, then the original design calculations are checked to see if they are valid. In most cases at least one PCB that has failed in service is available which can be investigated for the cause of failure. The engineer will then redesign the system using modern components, which are typically more reliable than some older components and produce a fit and form alternative PCB assembly.

The economics of a reverse engineered solution very often far outweigh the cost of a total system replacement and the savings will multiply if there commonality of units over a number of installations.

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Posted in Reverse Engineering.