A product teardown, or simply teardown, is the act of disassembling a product, such as a television set, to identify its component parts, chip & system functionality, and component costing information. 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 is important to designers of semiconductors, displays, batteries, packaging companies, integrated design firms, and semiconductor fabs, and the systems they operate within.
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). Teardowns also play a part in evidence of use in court and litigation proceedings where a companies parts may have been used without their permission, counterfeited, or to show where intellectual property or patents might be infringed by another firms part or system.
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 see 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. The two companies were merged to form TechInsights, headquartered in Canada. ABI Research also provides teardowns for all major mobile devices and components in their Device Portal. Other websites offer user-contributed teardown information at no cost.