Reverse engineering is a common design strategy in industry. It is a term that has come to encompass a large array of engineering and design activities in the literature; however, in its basic form, reverse engineering is simply the process of extracting information about a product from the product itself. Depending on its use, it may or may not be advantageous to utilize a reverse engineering strategy. As with any rational decision, reverse engineering is only favorable when the benefits from its use outweigh the investment. Therefore, a general understanding of the principles that increase the difficulty or investment required to reverse engineer mechanical products would be helpful for everyone affected by reverse engineering activities. In this paper, we articulate and explore these fundamental principles by reviewing several examples from the literature and from our own experience. We then use the principles as a basis for the development of a methodology to build barriers to reverse engineering into new products, and provide a simple example to illustrate its use.

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