A product teardown, or simply teardown, is the act of disassembling a product, such as a television set, to identify its component parts and functions. For products having secret technology, such as the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25, the process may be secret. For others, including consumer electronics, the results are typically disseminated through photographs and component lists so that others can make use of the information without having to disassemble the product themselves.
This information can be of interest to hobbyists, but can also be used commercially by the technical community to find out, for example, what semiconductor components are being utilized in consumer electronic products, such as the Wii video game console or Apple's iPhone. Such knowledge can aid understanding of how the product works, including innovative design features, and can facilitate estimating the bill of materials (BOM). The financial community therefore has an interest in teardowns, as knowing how a company's products are built can help guide a stock valuation. Manufacturers are often not allowed to announce what components are present in a product due to non-disclosure agreements (NDA).
Identifying semiconductor components in systems has become more difficult over the past years. The most notable change started with Apple's 8GB iPod nano, were repackaged with Apple branding. This makes it more difficult to identify the actual device manufacturer and function of the component without performing a 'decap' – removing the outer packaging to analyze the die within. Typically there are markings on the die inside the package that can lead experienced engineers to who actually created the device and what functionality it performs in the system.
Teardowns have also been performed in front of a live studio audience at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC). The first live teardown was performed on a Toyota Prius at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, April 2006. Since that time, additional live teardowns have been performed, most recently being the Sony OLED TV, Gibson Self-Tuning Guitar, SuitSat space suit, and Sony Rolly MP3 player.
Major companies that publicize their teardowns include Portelligent and Semiconductor Insights, both of which write featured articles in EETimes and TechOnline on their findings. Both companies were acquired by TechInsights, a division of United Business Media in 2007. While Semiconductor Insights still remains focused on their other business opportunities, their teardown services, as well as Portelligent, are now part of TechOnline, which is a subgroup of United Business Media's TechInsights division. There also appear to be three main authors from these companies that write the articles. David Carey, President for Portelligent, Jeff Brown, Senior Analyst for Portelligent, and Gregory A. Quirk, Technical Marketing Manager for TechOnline.
More recently TechInsights has completely merged Semiconductor Insights, the leading technical advisor to the global microelectronics industry for asserting intellectual property (IP) rights and developing and commercializing new technologies and products; Portelligent, the respected provider of teardown data and structured analyses of high volume portable consumer electronics products; and Sanguine Microelectronics, a high quality provider of integrated circuit reverse engineering services and information with an established footprint in Asia into a trading company now marketed as UBM TechInsights. This company is headquartered in Canada with operations around the world