Reverse Engineering Paper Essay

Reverse engineering is a process by which one understands the complete mechanism of a system by dismantling the system down into its components. The goal of reverse engineering was not to alter the system in any way but to understand the mechanism of the machine in order try and improve it. A stapler is a device, whose mechanism is to bind sheets of paper or similar material in place; by way of thin metal staples. Staplers are widely used in offices, schools , businesses but not exclusive to these places alone.

Stapler is one of the most widely used machines.

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The stapler was first made in the 15th century, during the reign of King Louis, the XV. Each stapler had the royal seal embossed on it.In 1977, Henry R. Heyl came up with the design of the modern stapler, which could both insert and clinch a stapler pin in one step. The word “stpler” was first conined in 1901, when the American Munsey’s Magazine used it to describe the machine.

Soon after, many people came with different designs and forms of staplers. In modern times, the stapler has significantly affected the population in its general progress. It’s a simple concept of using a thin metal pin to bind objects together. Some of these applications were common day to day activities whereas; some others were life saving such as in the medical field. Some of the most common applications of staplers were the following: pinning papers, skin staplers where they are used to surgically staple open skin, carpet tacking, electrical wire and insulation installation as well as the manufacture of furniture. This machine was chosen to be reverse engineered because it was one of the few machines that was used most often by the general public, and at the same time, was easily accessible too. The team could also find legitimate information about it from various online resources as well as help from some of students in mechanical engineering, that were senior to us.

The stapler has a variety of designs because of its wide range of application. As a result, we could not easily find a design suitable for our project, which we could easily break down and study completely. As a result, the group had to choose again the model of stapler that would make more sense to work with. The stapler is clearly a machine, which requires further improvement, so that it would help the common masses, who use it daily basis. One of the main applications of a stapler, for which it had been invented, was to attach sheets of paper together. The paper clip is a machine that performs a similar function, just like the stapler. The paper clip is a metallic tool that uses a simple design in order to hold sheets of papers together. The design of a stapler is one that was continually adjusted and improved upon. New raw materials and processes are developed in order to improve the functioning of the stapler. In today’s society, most tools are expected to have multiple functions.

The stapler is one such machine too, from which nothing less is expected. The typical home stapler have few main components which included a base, which was also called the anvil (the metal plate over which the document that would need to be stapled is placed upon); the magazine (slot where the staples are held); the metal head (used to cover the magazine); and the hanger (which was welded to the base to hold the pin that was connected to the magazine and base). A pin acts as the hinge point for the top and bottom half even rivets are used to keep the parts together. Plastic cover was used to make the stapler more stylish and commercially appealing. Finally, the springs in a stapler typically perform two major duties; the first one was to line the staples up in the track so that it is ready to be used and the second one was to return the plunger blade to its original position.

Evaluation Method

Three main procedures were used to do the project: an in depth analysis of the structure, function and operation; research and last but not the least, a healthy division of tasks required to perform. The tasks required to perform was divided on the October 18th .Since the tasks were divided early on; it made the project easier to work on as each and every member of the group knew what they were doing exactly. Division of labour among the group help formed little clichés within the group in which the members of the cliché were able to work on common grounds. An in depth analysis was done regarding the structure, function as well as the operation of the stapler was conducted. The best way to conduct such analysis was done by asking questions and more importantly, the right ones.

The first question asked was which would be the most appropriate model that can show all the parts and functions of a stapler. This would lead to the fact that the group members were aware that the product they were going to reverse engineer was not the only one of its kind. At first, the answer was thought to be obvious and so, work was undertaken to open an “office space stapler”. It was only when the project went on further, did the group members realise they were having difficulty in opening the most widely used stapler type. That led to the question whether the mostly used stapler was such a good choice to reverse engineer. A consensus between the group members lead to the decision that a new sample stapler was required that would afford the group the luxury of taking it apart easily, in order to study it.

Figure 1: Smaller Stapler (from Staples)

The one stapler chosen was one that was of smaller size and could be removed apart easily, as shown in figure 1. The stapler was evaluated on the basis how much effort it would take to be removed apart and put back together, as well as the time taken to be assembled. All the team members had to do both these exercises. The stapler was then evaluated on the basis of how often it got jammed as well as the provision to take the stapler pin out with the same device too. The stapler that was used to reverse engineer was able to remove the stapler pin. For the first task however, the possibility for jamming a stapler was almost negligible though not an impossible. For the research component of the project, the parts of the stapler were named by looking up for parts of a stapler on an online source. Since drawing a stapler and its parts proved to be a challenge using basic lines on the computer, a picture that showed the parts were taken from the internet. To this, the group members added relevant information so as to describe each part of a stapler and its function as aptly as possible.

Application Details
Top Arm
Spring Tooth

From the project conducted, the application had eight main parts in general: a top arm, a pin, spring, magazine, spring tooth, spring steel, base and finally a carriage. A top arm and base would have given an ergonomic design to the whole structure, making it more user friendly. The pin would play a small but significant role in the functioning of a stapler. It was an essential component because it held both the arm and base together. The spring is an over generalized term used to describe the two types of springs found in the stapler. One spring is attached to the base so as to release the return of the upper arm called the clearing spring. The second one is the one in between the magazine and the metal latch that allows the upper arm in the stapler to return to its original position. This is the part that holds the stapler pins as well is pushed down on in order to make the connection.


The basic principles behind the functionality of a stapler was a very general mechanism even though they were produced for different uses and in just as many sizes too. As discussed above, the chief components (springs, stampings, rivets, modelings and pins) were assembled in order to create a stapler.

In order to have achieved a successful manufacturing of a stapler, one should have started with the forming of two springs. Firstly, the coil in the spring should have been properly adjusted to hold a constant pressure and also to maintain its shape. The coil must be relatively elastic in order to return to its original state. The second spring, the leaf, should resist any bending motion applied while stapling. For instance, the clearing spring which was situated on the underside of the stapler, must have been curled properly, so as to be able to loosen the base from the upper assembly. The second functionality one must take into consideration is the stamping material which was in the form on a coil. It was made of a flat sheet metal and allowed to cut and clip a piece of material out of the sheet. Thus, the coil sustained automatic feeding of the metal that came out of the stapler.

Most of the metal components in the stapler had similar functionalities such as the anvil, which was a tool that allowed the energy to transfer to the work piece. In order to ensure that a stapler functioned properly, an engineer must make sure his materials were well fabricated. In the case of a stapler, the metal used for the brake forming, must be soft so as to be able to bend more easily. The brake forming was bent at ninety degrees. The role of the brake forming was to ensure that the stapler deviated to an appropriate shape by stamping out specific shapes. Also, the rivet must be fairly elastic to function properly. Its main purpose was to hold parts in place, just like the screws. Creating mouldings is another process that was used in order to achieve a successful design. The plastic was moulded and then cooled down after taking the shape of the die. Lastly, the pin was made from a strong metal. It was used as a turning point for the top as well as the bottom half of the stapler.

First, the spring and pins were assembled in different stages, and then combined with the upper and lower half of the stapler frame. In the lower part, the rivet was located between the anvil and the clearing spring which would allow it to be placed in the correct holes. The case and the coil were placed on the top half of the stapler. Lastly, the pins connected the bottom and the upper part of the stapler.

Future work

Quality control was highly recommended to ensure a successful manufacturing process. Once each part of the stapler was assembled, an engineer must inspect its functionality. He must be able to recognize the difference between normal damage and a design flaw.

Staplers were continuously adjusted and improved like any other daily tools. New materials, more developed techniques and technologies united to form better staplers. The use of stapler would have increased gradually over the years. For instance, staplers would be used in medical fields to staple stitches.

A new idea that could be adapted to improve the functionality of a stapler was to combine the stapler with the staple pin remover. This way, instead of a person buying two machines, a single machine can be bought that could fill the purposes of both machines.

To have a better mechanism, the springs used in the stapler must also be very thin (less than 10mm in diameter) and elastic in nature, in order to maintain the resistance of pressure. The pins used in the manufacturing process should be subsidized with not only a stronger metal but with a heat treatable metal too. Finally, the coil in the stapler must be elastic and well positioned so as to avoid having papers flying around everywhere.


While reverse engineering the stapler, the first difficulty faced was breaking the object apart. At this point of the project, consulting a professional became a necessity. Therefore the team as a whole decided to consult a senior mechanical engineering student (Mahesh Pinnagoda 4th year Engineering student) to get information on reverse engineering the application. As per instructions, the stapler was replaced with another stapler of smaller size which was less complex and easier to break apart. Then the parts of the stapler were first analyzed as visible. External research on the mechanism of the stapler was done through the study of helpful images, videos and articles in order to improve the knowledge on the structure of the stapler prior to breaking it apart. While reverse engineering the mini stapler, the group did not use any specific tools and easily separated the structure into eight pieces: hand grip, spring steel, tooth, arm, carriage, spring, magazine and the base.

Reverse engineering the object had created the required understanding to comprehend the basic concept of constructing a stapler. During the project, some of the resources used could be listed as online resources, articles, videos, images, social networking sites and also a personal interview with a mechanical engineering student. These resources helped us achieve a good understanding on the mechanism and the concept of the stapler in various different ways. The research helped provide a better insight of the usefulness of the stapler in different fields of day to day life.

Although stapler is mainly known for pinning paper stacks together, it could also be used in various other fields such as human surgeries and engineering constructions. For example research materials regarding the surgical stapler enhanced our knowledge on the development of the concept of the stapler which pinned papers into pinning extremely sensitive tissues in the human body. By studying the development of the stapler from the manual stapler to electronic and technologically improved equipments we were able to grasp the innovative expansions of a simple concept. This helped us develop the idea of the stapler mechanism into thinking out of the boundaries and coming up with another stage of stapler development.


The advertisement refers to an electronic stapler of the “Swingline” manufacturers. This advertisement was posted on the social networking website “Facebook”. The advertisement is titled “Best Price Swingline Commercial Electric Stapler with Adjustable Paper Guide (S7006702PT)” with an image of the stapler in the middle. This page provides important facts for the stapler consumer and contains a link addressing the webpage of the Swingline promotions and offers. The bottom of the advertisement is a description of the staplers’ uses and features. The features include the maximum number of pages that could be stapled, consumer friendly physical properties of the stapler and the quality of materials used when engineered.

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