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Six Teardowns That Inspire Design Innovation

One of the best ways for engineers to learn about product design is to carefully examine other products.

Engineering details, manufacturing processes, and material choices can all be used to inspire your own designs and decisions.  Taking things apart is part of the engineering life (see my very first post for this blog about breaking it to make it), and we’re always discovering inspiring examples to share with each other.

 Taking things apart is part of the engineering life.”

Fictiv is one great source of teardowns — they do a good job of explaining the subtle details that go into a complex product. For instance, the Ricoh Theta S 360 Camera teardown details the painting, light management, and thermal management required to package a dense, electronics-heavy product. Beyond Fictiv’s, there are many more sources to consider.

Here are a few of our favorites, crowdsourced from our mechanical and electrical engineering teams:

1. Form Labs 2 Printer by Bunnie Huang

This cool teardown of a Formlabs Form 2 printer by Bunnie Huang has lots of nice details about the assembly and electrical engineering component selection. There is a lot of good commentary on why he thinks the engineering team made certain decisions and how sometimes you choose more expensive components to save development time and reduce risk. Read the Formlabs Form 2 printer teardown here.

2. Amazon Echo by ifixit

Ifixit’s teardowns are very thorough. This one shows the oh-so-cool saxophone-shaped bass reflex port of the Amazon Alexa. The Amazon Echo has become very popular of late as a means of both information acquisition and home control.  For its size and shape, its sound quality is particularly impressive.   This teardown gives us a detailed view of the speaker architecture used, along with the tuned port shape for bass reinforcement, and how it all cleverly fits into this unit. Read ifixit’s Amazon Echo teardown here.  – Jerry Iannelli

3. HTC Vive by ifixit

This Vive teardown epitomizes the idea that there’s a lot “under the hood” and that every component and mechanism has a story. Just to show how amazing the Vive system is, its positional tracking is accurate down to 1.5mm at 5m, which is incredible for affordable consumer grade hardware. Something like the lighthouse, a small non-descript cube that is part of the Vive’s positional tracking system, required a LOT of engineering and design to make work (and it is truly an elegant device). Once you realize how complex something really is, you can better respect good design and engineering. See ifixit’s HTC Vive teardown here. – Eric Chang

4. Fake Apple USB Charger by EEVblog

Something as mundane as a charger can show the importance of good design. (In this case, fake Apple chargers can catch fire, so it’s actually also a safety issue.) This was the first EEVblog video I ever saw, and I remember really appreciating the level of detail he goes into for all the components. It’s also clear he knows what he’s talking about — he’s not some charlatan hiding behind good quality production (which is increasingly common on Youtube). See EEVblog’s Fake Apple USB Charger teardown here. – Eric C

5. Motorola Moto 360 by ifixit

Wearable devices push the limits of size constraints.  The printed circuit board (PCB) seen in Step 14 and 15 in this device uses a neat technique for packing in even more ICs by stacking them on top of each other.  It’s one of the more nicely laid out PCBs that you’ll find out there — and it probably kept the engineers busy for a long time while building it! See ifixit’s Motorola Moto 360 teardown here. – Nick McGill

6. Apple’s AirPods by TechInsights

This teardown of the Apple AirPods wireless earbuds shows the state of the art for fitting digital processing power into a small space. Each AirPod contains three processors, two accelerometers, two microphones, one light sensor, and a battery, all packaged to fit in your ear! The analysis shows this is made possible by Apple’s new “W1” wireless processing chip, aggressive circuit board stacking, and minimizing battery size through algorithms utilizing the on-board sensors. Read TechInsight’s AirPod teardown here. – Kevin Murphy

Since you’re interested in how things work, here are some more neat links: Check out JerryRigEverything’s durability tests of phones; Thang010146’s uploads of unbelievable animations of mechanisms in CAD; and CNLohr’s incredible videos for the electrical engineering-minded.

Have fun!

(This post is part of Curiosity Club, a series where Bresslergroupers ask questions, tear things apart, and dive into rabbit holes.)