Reverse engineering (extracting information about a product from the product itself) is a competitive strategy for many firms and is often costly to innovators. Recent research has proven metrics for estimating the reverse engineering time and barrier and has shown that products can strategically be made more difficult to reverse engineer, thus protecting the innovator. Reverse engineering, however, is only the first phase of attempting to duplicate a product. Imitating – the process of discovering how to physically reproduce the performance of the reverse engineered product in one or more of its performance areas – is the second and final phase. This thesis presents metrics for the time and barrier to imitating and shows how they can be joined with reverse engineering metrics to estimate a total time and total barrier to duplicate a product. As there is a cost associated with the design of barriers to reverse engineering and in imitating it is important that a return on investment analysis be performed to ensure a profitable endeavor. Details of such an analysis are presented here. To illustrate the methodology, two case studies are presented. The first is an analysis of KithcenAid's Stand Mixer. The second is an analysis of a cantilevered "L-beam" that has been structurally optimized under four conditions to achieve a specified mechanical performance. Additionally, anecdotal solutions to creating barriers to reverse engineering and imitating are discussed throughout.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





imitate, reverse engineer, barrier to reverse engineer, barrier to imitate, return on investment, product design, product development