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Copying a printed circuit board

One common misconception about reverse engineering printed circuit boards, is that it’s the same as PCB copying. It’s not – a reverse engineered PC board is electronically identical to the original PCB, but it’s not a copy or a clone.

Beyond ethical considerations, there are four important reasons why it’s better to reverse engineer a circuit board.


1. Current technology and components

Making a direct copy of an existing circuit board limits you to using the technologies available when it was first designed – which means you’re stuck using older systems and obsolete, hard-to-find components.

Reverse engineering the circuit board retains 100% functionality while reducing costs by using readily available, cheaper, easier-to-handle parts and processes.


2. Original plans in a universal format

Making a direct copy of a circuit board may not be possible, particularly with multi-layered PCBs. Some people X-ray PCBs or actually abrade the board, layer-by-layer, to make photocopies. These approaches, however, introduce errors that can impair functionality.

Reverse engineering the PCB gives you a first-generation set of plans no matter how complex the circuit board.


3. No intellectual property conflicts

There may be copyright issues to circuit board cloning that could expose your organization to liability if you don’t own all the intellectual property rights.

In contrast, according toU.S.copyright law, the result of reverse engineering is not a copy. Although the new PCB is functionally identical to the old one, there are enough differences, including current trace routing and updated component specifications, to make it an original piece of work.


4. The ability to move forward

Unlike simply copying the circuit board, reverse engineering reveals how the circuit board does what it does. You get all-new manufacturing files, including schematics, Gerber files, and drill files for each layer. That enables you or your design team to improve the product or add capabilities going forward.

We’ve done numerous projects in which an existing circuit board was simultaneously reverse engineered and upgraded. We can even build pre-production prototypes for testing.


If you need to duplicate a printed circuit board, reverse engineering offers long-term value over cloning the board. To find out how Hualan Technologies can help, just give us a call, or contact us with your project details!

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