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I'm an engineering student and we have a reverse engineering project going on. We need to disassemble a simple object and understand how it is made: which processes are used, why, how much it costs... So I decided to look on the internet to find out how my object is made. I found something on YouTube but nothing detailed. I tried reading patents but it was... cryptic.

Where do engineers find how things are made? For example, a turbine. Is there a website or another resource everyone is using? I'm asking this for my project but mostly for my future career as an engineer and because I want to learn for myself. I guess most processes are secret but there must be some general knowledge (although not detailed) every engineer has on manufacturing processes. For example, I guess mechanical engineers all know how cars are made. Where could I find that?

Thank you.

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  • $\begingroup$ Textbooks, scientific papepatent filings are pretty normal sources. sources like youtube are a hit and miss. $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 30 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ Read, read, read, ... Text books, trade magazines, manufacturing equipment suppliers, toolroom/machining techniques, patents, etc. Build up a broad knowledge. Visit manufacturing sites. Ask questions. Think! $\endgroup$
    – Transistor
    Commented Apr 30 at 19:56
  • $\begingroup$ Read those books by Cummins, Ricardo, Judge etc etc and follow how they encountered problems and then solved them. Apollo 13 is another famous story re CO2... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Apr 30 at 20:02

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I can't read your instructor's mind, so I can't be sure this is what they intend, but: the fact you've been asked to disassemble the object suggests to me that you're expected to look for physical traces of manufacturing methods on the object itself, rather than look up the manufacturing method online. For example, are there marks on surfaces from machining? Are those marks aligned along a particular direction? Are they at regular spacings, and if so how far apart? What does all that tell you about the machine tool that was used? If parts of the object are made of crystalline materials, what are the size and shape of the crystals, and are they the same at all locations in the part? What does that tell you about the rate and direction of cooling when the material was cast (or otherwise solidified)?

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Take the object fully apart. Inspect each component and consider it.

Is it standardized like a screw or gear? If that's the case internet search to see how those are made. Done.

Even for parts that aren't off the shelf, most will take a well known form (eg. pawl). If you can name it, internet search it.

For a custom component, what is it made out of? Plastic? Metal? Wood? Each of these things can be formed in many ways. Some will be more common that others, start with those. Work your way down the list until you find a likely candidate. Once you know how a part was made you can get your own quotes to make the same part, or maybe just find prices for similar parts, since this is a school thing.

To give you an example, any plastic part is highly likely to be injection molded. I would consider that first. Does it have ejector marks? Parting lines? Draft angles?

If it's metal, is it clearly made from a sheet? Likely stamped. Does it have a rough surface? Probably cast. Does it have milling marks? or a blocky shape that suggests it was cut from a block? Probably CNC machined.

90% of manufacturing is done by just a handful of semi-standardized processes. Once you have experience with all of them, you will be able to determine how almost any part is made just by looking that the shape, material, surface finish, etc. The more experience you gain, the more niche and specialized processes you will learn about, and therefore be able to identify.

If you can't figure a part out, try showing it to other engineers. Most love talking shop and speculating about how an unusual part was made. Once you're in the work place you will learn a ton this way. Don't be shy.

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I mean, manufacturing is just one of the steps in creating an object. It's like asking how someone knows the theory of a concept, or how someone knows how to design something. They study the subject in school, or learn it at work. Manufacturing techniques is part of a mechanical engineers degree, and you can get a masters degree in only manufacturing technique if you want.

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Reverse engineering definition

I'd recommend you first look up the definition of "reverse engineering". Right now, you seem to be trying to find a source that directly tells you how a product is made, but that is not reversed engineering. That will teach you only how to look up manufacturing processes in Google.

Wikipedia's definition of Reverse Engineering is "a process or method through which one attempts to understand through deductive reasoning how a previously made device, process, system, or piece of software accomplishes a task with very little (if any) insight into exactly how it does so". That is what your instructor wants to teach you.

How to do this

So, you need to deductively reason how the manufacturing process works could work, without knowing much about it. You can do this by taking the product apart as far as possible, thereby considering how it could have been assembled (a). Then, you look at each part and consider how it could have been constructed (b).

Let's say you are researching how your computer-mouse is made, and while taking it apart you encounter many thin plastic parts. Your search query should not be "how is a computer mouse made" but "Methods to assemble multiple thin plastic parts" (a), or "Methods to manufacture thin plastic parts" (b). Then you consider these methods, and reason about which of them was most likely applied while originally building your computer mouse.

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