Your Top PCB Reverse Engineering Supplier in China

PCBMay can provide high-tech PCB reverse engineering service for your old PCB project.

  • Single-sided to 30 layers PCB reverse engineering capability
  • Scanner, computer, PORTEL99 and AUTOCAD software
  • 12H PCB layout expedite service
  • 100% E-test and AOI inspection
  • 7/24 sales and engineering tech support
ItemCapability
Layer Count1-40layers
Base MaterialKB、Shengyi、ShengyiSF305、FR408、FR408HR、IS410、FR406、GETEK、370HR、IT180A、Rogers4350、Rogers4000、PTFE Laminates(Rogers series、Taconic series、Arlon series、Nelco series)、Rogers/Taconic/Arlon/Nelco laminate with FR-4 material(including partial Ro4350B hybrid laminating with FR-4)
Board TypeBackplane、HDI、High multi-layer blind&buried PCB、Embedded Capacitance、Embedded resistance board 、Heavy copper power PCB、Backdrill, PCB Gold Finger
Board Thickness0.2-5.0mm
Copper ThicknessMin. 1/2 OZ, Max. 10 OZ
PTH Wall25um(1mil)
Maximum Board Size1100*500mm(43”*19”)
Min laser drilling size4mil
Min. Spacing/Tracing2.7mil/2.7mil
Solder MaskGreen, Black, Blue, Red, White, Yellow, Purple matte/glossy
Surface TreatmentFlash gold(electroplated gold)、ENIG、Hard gold、Flash gold、HASL Lead-free 、OSP、ENEPIG、Soft gold、Immersion silver、Immersion Tin、ENIG+OSP, ENIG+Gold finger, Flash gold(electroplated gold)+Gold finger(50u”), Immersion silver+Gold finger, Immersion Tin+Gold finger
Min. Annular Ring3mil
Aspect ratio10:1(HASL Lead-free 、HASL Lead、ENIG、Immersion Tin、Immersion silver、ENEPIG);8:1(OSP)
Impedance control±5ohm(<50ohm), ±10%(≥50ohm)
Other TechniquesBlind/Buried Via
Gold Fingers
Press Fit
Via in Pad
Electrical Test
VPC Plating Line

Releted Other PCB

Why Choose PCBMay for Your PCB Reverse Engineering

PCB reverse engineering is also known as PCB Copy, PCB cloning, or PCB duplication. You must be curious why there is PCB reverse engineering. The reason is that the products are old design or components obsolete or the documentation from the original supplier are missed.

Some customers often ship one board or a finished product and request us to produce the same PCB, therefore, our PCB reverse engineering team is here to support you.

Are you looking for a reliable PCB reverse engineering manufacturer in China? You have come to the right place. PCBMay can offer PCB reverse engineering, Schematic reverse engineering, and BOM list reverse engineering.

If you have a board or old project, it’s very important for you but you don’t want to spend much time to re-design, so PCBMay can help you.

Our engineering team will use the old PCB to the scanner and create the Gerber file & BOM list, we provide you with a schematic.

We use technology to scan artwork, photos, or circuit boards on a computer to generate CAD data for photo drawing so that new PCBs can be produced.

This is a more economical way to replace the printed circuit board and saves the cost involved in redesigning the CAD layout.

It also ensures that the functionality of the new PCB is the same as the original PCB while eliminating any risk of errors.

Typically, we suggest you produce the sample batch first. Because we have to make sure every detail of the function is correct. After you test the sample is good, then we will start to produce the large volume.

PCB Reverse Engineering: The Ultimate FAQ Guide

Whether you are a product designer, system integrator, engineer, or maker, you sometimes face these situations. Sometimes the designs are backdated, board components are obsolete or hard to find, documentations are no longer available. The power of PCB reverse engineering is crucial in these situations.

We meet customers with these issues frequently in PCB May. We disassemble the client’s sample previously, scan and examine the PCB board layer by layer using our state-of-the-art tools and provide an updated documentation package.

As we have to do these more often, we want to share our knowledge with our clients or anybody who wants to know about PCB reverse engineering.

What Is PCB Reverse Engineering?

What does a child do to understand its toys? Break it. Well, this is the basic rule of understanding any complicated thing – deconstructing.  And in PCB reverse engineering, we use this basic rule in a more advanced way.

PCB Reverse engineering

PCB Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering is not a Hardware engineering thing. You will see reverse engineering applications everywhere, from software development to human DNA mapping; reverse engineering plays a vital role everywhere.

PCB reverse engineering works backward from the PCB to schematics to analyze and understand the mechanism of the PCB.

From this analysis, you will generate documentation and find out the operation and design concept of that printed circuit board.

Consequently, you will be able to re-manufacture it.

There are other significant uses of PCB reverse engineering, that is, building better products than your competitors.

What is the purpose of reverse engineering? It finds out the interconnection of the components on the PCB, how the layers are manufactured, and takes a picture of them.

After patching together all the layers, you can pinpoint the complete circuit board. And when you have that information, you can find out the areas you can improve the board with additional features or cloning the design.

Moreover, you can create a schematic diagram to understand the working principle of the product.

Reverse engineering is not that simple, and you can not do that by watching a youtube video or getting a one-day training session. You will need years of working experience and have to be a master of how engineers model circuits of a printed circuit board.

Why Learning PCB Reverse Engineering Is Crucial?

Most engineers are confused between PCB clone design and PCB reverse engineering. In PCB cloning, you target a printed circuit board and copy-paste the exact design. Here comes the vital question: If reverse engineering is not precisely cloning the original design, what is it for?

PCB Design

PCB Design

Getting the schematic from PCB helps you to create a PCB prototype with the same working principle, just like the original PCB without being a replica.

To clear the engineers’ confusion, let us tell you how learning PCB reverse engineering can help engineers bring their skills to the next level.

● Cost-Effectively Replace Obsolete Components With Modern Ones.

One of many aspects of using reverse engineering techniques in PCB is to replace obsolete components with new modern, cost-effective parts. Most of the time,  it is required because previous components are not available in the market at the moment.

Semiconductor technology is evolving rapidly, and the components of PCB also change these days very quickly. Therefore, PCBs that are outdated or are facing environmental compliance changes.

You can boost the electronic circuitry’s functionality with reverse engineering. You can use the most cost-effective and the most updated technology that is available in the market.

● Understanding and Analyzing the Authentic PCB

You can master the technology better and use that improvement on other boards from PCB reverse engineering. You can learn and educate yourself from reverse engineering PCB more than any other way.

PCB netlists and deconstruction help you understand how the process, circuit, and whole system works in an integrated circuit.

PCB analysis

PCB analysis

You can have a deep look at how the components are interconnected at circuit or transistor levels.

Apart from that, you will learn the patented semiconductor packaging and layout features at the process level.

Thus you will be able to understand the materials and technology behind the integrated circuit.

● Update System

Sometimes you can find a faulty file in the PCB and need modifying. Sometimes the application using the PCB board needs to move to an entirely new platform. You can learn the PCB design, netlists, schematics, and bill of materials from PCB reverse engineering.

These are crucial for system updates, and reverse engineering techniques will help you learn that.

● Design Copy

However, the complex VLSI designs are too complicated to mimic, but you can do that with the help of reverse PCB engineering.

Using photocopy and automated X-rays, you can do that, but slight deviation in the re-engineered circuit can impact the functionality.

PCB design

PCB design

You should also know that copyright regulations mainly permit every company to replicate functionality, but you can copy the design.

So, disclosing new PCB details of the intended design you are copying is mandatory. In addition, you have to identify upgraded PCB electronics applications and routing modifications.

How Many Types Of PCB Engineering Are There?

When it comes to PCB engineering there, many techniques involved. You can use two methods to use these techniques. They are:

  • Manual PCB Engineering
  • Automated PCB Engineering.

What Are The Best Ways Of Manual PCB Reverse Engineering?

Using advanced techniques in PCB reverse engineering can be costly. Therefore, many times you need to use manual techniques for your PCB reverse engineering.

Here are the steps on how you can manually use reverse engineering techniques on a PCB:

Components Identifying

This is the most fundamental thing you have to identify when you start your PCB reverse engineering process.

Ensure that you recognize every component on the board. Identify as many as you can, such as a transistor, resistor, IC chips, capacitor, inductor, connectors, diode, fuse, and other components.

PCB components

PCB Components

Modern PCBs use more IC chips than passive components, and all of those are similar. Therefore, you should scrutinize the printed number on the IC chip. If you don’t have the number, you have to be more experienced and use more of your brain.

Be cautious; sometimes, some manufacturers delete the numbers to prevent reverse engineering of their PCBs. If you get one of those, copying the design will be more challenging.

With the numbers, you can search for the datasheet of the elements from the web.

Another problem is the modern surface mount components. Those components are tiny these days, making applying a standard color band scheme for a part extremely challenging.

SMD Resistor Sample

A standard coded system is applied for smaller SMD resistors to print their value. This coding system is stated as EIA marking code, making it an extremely challenging task to establish the resistor value.

But, this has become easy for the internet as you only need to find the value based on the code.

SMD resostor

SMD resistor

You can also use a particular application to find out the resistance value from the EIA. Those applications also provide additional features that make reverse engineering more accessible.

Related PCB Documents Information

The following critical stage is data acquisition, and to achieve that, you should get two samples at your disposal.

Scan the PCB, and from the image, you can identify the locations of the components and the polarities. From there, collect detailed information on types and component specifications.

Collect technical information and manuals of the PCB assembly. In addition, acquire maintenance and usage data along with the performance specifications.

When you are finished with collecting all data, remove the board’s components. Use a clean and thin board to remove the soldiers. Remove the dust and dirt using dry air.

Important Signals Analyzing

In the PCB reverse engineering process, this is the most tedious phase. In this step, you will identify the interconnection between the components. You have to map out every component-to-component connection.

● Single Layer

One important thing, before starting the procedure, you have to identify how many layers the PCB has. One layer PCB has a single layer, and the board comes with solely the PCB trace routing. But the other boards consist of many electronic components.

● Double Layer

You will find trace routing on every side of a two-layer board. You will often see through-hole components on one side and surface mount components on the other. You will need a continuity tester for identifying functions.

You can also use an Ohm meter function which displays 0 ohms when you get a connection. We recommend the multimeter continuity function, but you have to understand the processes very well.

With the combination of your continuity tester and vision, you will be able to reduce mistakes.

You have to take notes of a transformer, inductors, a sense resistor, coil, and other external connections of wiring to the PCB.

One necessary caution is you have to make sure that you have unplugged the power supply. Many engineers forget to do that before mapping out the connections.

● Multilayer PCB

This is the most challenging type of PCB to apply reverse engineering technique. Many engineers like using the middle layer for power traces such as VCC and GND. However, that is not a universal rule, but from our experience, we can say that this is the most common practice.

You can not use your standard vision to trace the PCB – that is impossible. Match one pin to every other pin on the board to match the components pin connection.

From your experience, sometimes you can shorten the time, but there is no shortcut trick for that except experience. Draw the component’s connection, mark all of them and designate the trace just when you feel that you can establish its function.

Power supply traces are the most convenient place to start with, and from there, you can learn where the power connection is going.

PCB layers

PCB layers

From there, you will be able to map out the voltage regulator. You can also establish the connection by analyzing the datasheet of the IC chip.

When you know the configuration, it is straightforward to recognize the regular standard circuits like pull up, relay circuits, driver circuits, voltage regulators, input circuits, etc.

You can identify the functionality of the circuit model by drawing them out in a layout.

This is a complicated process, and there is no fixed rule to do that. It all depends on your experience and how much mastery you have of your skill.

What Is The Process Of Automated PCB Reverse Engineering?

Automated PCB reverse engineering can automate many processes. They have the ability to do the following:

  • Can detect components automatically applying machine vision
  • Can use the internet to collect technical data
  • Can examine the technical document and grab relevant information.

Here is how can use automatic PCB reverse engineering:

Use Software Specialized For PCB Reverse Engineering

Most software build for PCB reverse engineering has the following features:

  • Schematic diagram drawing
  • Drawing generation
  • Combined signal simulation of analog and digital circuit
  • Designing multilayer circuit board.
  • Combined signal simulation of analog and digital circuits.
  • Designing Programmable logic semiconductors, and more.

Typically these types of software can process high-resolution pictures of every side of the PCB. This software can automate the most important part of PCB reverse engineering, identifying the components and collecting vital information on those.

Documents Analysis

This step starts with a high-resolution camera which is very common these days. At first, you segment the images by recognizing microchip’s standard regular visual features.

Then you have to use an OCR or Optical Character Recognition library to get the part number from the integrated circuit package. After getting the number, you cross-check that part number with the naming pattern of common manufacturers to minimize the chance of false positives.

When you get the part number, you can use the internet to collect the associated technical documents. You can just google it, or you can use the particular search engine that indexes this information.

OCR sample

8 OCR Sample

Download the documents that matched and extract primary data such as feature descriptions, diagrams, and ping signal tables.

The app organizes those data in a structured way, and the way it represents the data is helpful for accessing all the information quickly.

After analyzing technical documents and recognizing critical components, you can find out the authentic connections between the circuit board and the elements.

You can use the UI to add a serial connection that joins two components. The connections are stored in a database. You can alter them at any time.

You can produce a visual report of every result.

What Is Non-Destructive PCB Reverse Engineering?

This is a cost-effective way and also requires less time.

This method of reverse engineering is mainly dependent on X-ray tomography.

X-ray tomography is common in nondestructive PCB reverse engineering. This is a technique that you can use to observe the internal structure of substrates without any interference with the over and under-layer structures.

With X-ray tomography, you can obtain the geometrical information of every connection via every hole and trace on the printed circuit board.

You can capture every layer on the PCB (back, interior and front) using a single imaging session. The central concept is to collect 2-D images.

Then you can regenerate the 3-D images for those 2-D images using mathematical algorithms.

You have to gather 2-D projections from different angles according to the quality you will need for the final image.

Scanning PCB

Scanning-PCB

Dimension, material density, and some other PCB features are crucial when you select the tomography parameters. The parameters consist of:

  • Source Power: This is related to the amount of X-ray energy and penetration.
  • Detector Objective: This determines the field of view and the resolution angle.
  • Filtering: This determines the dose which will allow higher power X-rays to go through.
  • Distance between source to the sample and detector: Inversely proportional to the number of counts.
  • X-ray projections numbers: These determine what should be angular increment for each rotation in the tomography process.
  • Exposure Time: Correlated to the counts and determines the total time; consequently, the cost.

You can reconstruct the 3-D image from that analysis of exterior and interior structure. The pixel size determines the 3-D image that you would regenerate.

PCB photography for reverse engineering

What Is Destructive PCB Reverse Engineering?

As the name suggests, this is a destructive method but more efficient than the non-destructive method of PCB reverse engineering.

Typically destructive reverse engineering has 3 procedures: imaging, delayering, and solder mask removal.

Solder Mask Removal

This step aims to remove the PCB’s solder mask from exposing the copper traces on top of the bottom layer. Though you can identify copper traces with the solder mask on top of it, removing it will provide a clear view.

You can follow the below techniques for solder mask removal from the PCB:

  • Sandpaper
  • Fiberglass scratch brush
  • Abrasive blasting
  • Laser
  • Chemical

Delayering

This step aims to access a multilayer PCB’s internal layer. Here are some ways to do that:

  • X-ray
  • Dremel Tool
  • Sandpaper
  • CNC Milling
  • Surface Grinding

Imaging

This step aims to collect images of every layer of a multilayer PCB. This process uses the imaging method used in the non-destructive method. You can use this method for a fully assembled PCB also.

You can use computerized tomography (3-D X-ray), or you can use 2-D X-ray to complete the imaging process.

What Are The Requirements Of PCB Reverse Engineering?

You will need the following before you start your PCB reverse Engineering.

Printed Circuit Board Without Components Of Populated

A printed circuit board is a laminated non-conductive base that connects various electronic components using copper traces.

These traces electrically connect every component and chip mounted over the board.

PCB Reverse engineering

PCB reverse engineering

If you can access and take images of each copper layer, you can perform reverse engineering on that specific PCB.

PCB’s Scanned Picture

This is the most widely used technique – converting pictures into an electronic layout. In this process, you capture the original PCB with the help of a high-resolution scanner. You should use black paper with a hole at its center to prevent the light reflection and get the best possible image.

Regenerating Gerber Files

Gerber data can convey PCB information in a structured manner. From these data, one can know the size and shapes of holes, lines, and other vital properties.

Schematic Designs Or PCB Designs Which One Should You Develop First?

Theoretically, you can start with either one. If you are planning to design the entire project, starting from the schematic is recommended.

You can find a reverse engineering feature that develops an initial point schematic from the PCB design.

Designing layout using reverse engineering

How To Add Customized Values To The Components?

Components come with multiple values, such as:

  • Distributor
  • MTBF Value
  • Bin Number
  • Manufacturers Part Number
  • Tolerance, etc

When you are performing component editing, select the edit menu – values. You can insert values and their series from this option.

Always save the components to the library when your editing is done.

What Is The Purpose Of Netlist In PCB Design?

A netlist is a list of nodes and the electric components linked to the circuit. This is an assembly of more than one interconnected part. A netlist is typically held in textual form.

In A PCB Reverse Engineer Schematic Who Owns The Intellectual Property Right?

When you are doing a schematic from a PCB using PCB reverse engineering, you developed the schematic, and therefore, you own the intellectual property.

Any patents protecting the final system or product is an entirely different issue. Patent administration works between the manufacturer and the patent holder, and it has no business with the PCB reverse engineering.

One important note, patents are never private; a patent must be made public.

We have talked about schematics and PCB layouts obtained from the service manual. This kind of work is a violation of intellectual property as you are copying another person’s work.

Some components you find in a PCB can be the company’s trade secret. If you are not a member of the development team of that company, you have an obligation to protect that secret.

Which PCBs Should I Use For Reverse Engineering?

Which PCB is suitable for reverse engineering depends primarily on the technical complexity. Then there is economics, the data you can gather for that PCB.

As this is a complex, time-consuming, and sometimes expansive process, you should pick a PCB that has wide usage and a high per-unit cost. Remember, technical complexity is crucial. So, choose one with less technical complexity.

Are There Any Limitations With Computerized Tomography?

The size of the X-ray system’s field of view is a minor problem you would face with tomography.

If the field of view is increased, you will get fewer resolutions, resulting in fewer details. So, you have to balance between sufficient board visibility and quality image. The board will not cover the whole PCB at once. Therefore, to get a clear picture of the PCB, you must divide the PCB into segments.

Final Words

PCB reverse engineering has much use. It can rebirth an obsolete device or redesign old compliance. If we forget about the application, it can enhance the skill of engineers by a great deal. But this is not a skill you can learn from a one-day training, google, or youtube. It takes years of experience and the most advanced tool. We provide the best PCB reverse engineering service in China. Are you hungry to know more about PCB reverse engineering? Send us a message, and our team of expert engineers will contact you shortly.

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