It is not unusual for engineers to be confronted with a repair or maintenance situation that requires product documentation, but there is none. For example, what if you want to repair an obsolete board, and you don’t have documentation as a guide?  Or, what if your supplier limits repair support to a single provider or forces you to return a failed unit. Lack of choice and a reliance on a single source of support usually means increased costs and inconvenience, as well as extended repair/downtime. 

 

One answer is a system that can recreate circuit schematics, even PCB layouts, of the equipment being maintained or repaired. Although manual point-to-point circuit detection and observation is one solution for trying to re-document the PCB, it is prohibitively time-consuming.  However, there is now an easier way, using a product from Europe called RevEngfor REVerse ENGineering (Fig. 1).

This documentation recreation tool supports the increasingly vexing problem for users and maintainers of long life systems where support strategy for spares and repairs are critical issues. This includes water and electricity utilities, medical equipment, military systems, air traffic control, aircraft maintenance, avionics simulation, traffic control, trains, and signaling.

Today, established companies are being taken over, restructured, or go out of business, leading to the growing situation where no support is available. Rapidly changing technology increases the problems of support. Many products quickly become obsolete and are not supported or manufactured long before the end of their true operating life. And, although many consumer products are replaced rather than repaired, this approach cannot be applied to long life systems.

A standard solution from many suppliers is an upgrade to the latest product or its nearest equivalent.  But when a product is part of a large system, this solution is unacceptable unless the replacement is physically and functionally identical (form/fit/function).  Changing to a new component may entail the expense of recertifying the whole system for critical equipment such as medical diagnostic machines.