My Design Process

There are two processes I follow to take an idea to a product. The first process takes a raw idea to a working prototype, whilst the second process takes a working prototype to a final product.

Idea to Working Prototype

The outcome of this process is a working, fully tested prototype.

From Idea to Working Prototype

 

IDea

It starts with the idea. It might be fuzzy and vague, or it could be more defined. It is the starting point for the entire process.

REfinement

  • The idea is refined into comprehensive list of specific requirements.
  • A product design specification is written to state exactly what the product must do.

Prototyping

  • A rough prototype is made of the desired circuit.
  • This serves as the first proof of concept for the product and allows core components to be chosen and tested early on in the design process.
  • Following a working proof of concept, a system diagram can be created, including the core components for the final product.

Design

  • The first schematic of the circuit is created, stemming from the system diagram and product design specification.
  • From the schematic, an initial layout of the circuit is created, again based on the product design specification.
PCB and Schematic

 

Manufacture

  • Small-batch prototypes can be made very quickly and cheaply using a desktop milling machine. Components can then be soldered on manually or using a reflow oven.
  • More complex circuit layouts are outsourced for manufacture, components then being soldered manually to minimise cost.
  • For high density circuit layouts using non-solderable surface mount packages, are outsourced for both manufacture and component assembly.

 

Testing and certification

  • The testing process is comprehensive, starting with basic connectivity tests.
  • Following that is a test outline, following closely the initial design requirements.
  • Certification is crucial to getting a product to market. I will assess which certification standards would apply and carry out testing to ensure the design passes basic certification standards.
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  • If the circuit fails to behave as desired or flaws are identified, the design process is iterated back to the circuit design stage.

The result is a bespoke designed working prototype.

Prototype to Product

The outcome of this process is the final, mass manufactured product.

Prototype to Product Design Process

Cost Optimisation

  • The working prototype proves that the product can be made to work. But can it be made cost effectively? In this step, the design is tweaked and iterated to reduce the cost.
  • This can involve using different components, reducing board size, and even reducing the number of drill holes.
  • Many techniques can be used here to reduce cost, depending on the method of manufacture.
  • The output of this stage is a Bill of Materials.

ComponenT sourcing

  • Following cost optimisation, the components are sourced from suppliers.
  • Sourcing components is a tradeoff between cost, quality, speed and safety. In some cases Chinese components will be used to minimise cost. In other cases a requirement for quality means European or American components are preferable.
  • I have my own agent in China to assist with finding low cost, high quality Chinese parts.
  • A supplier sheet describes the locations, MOQs, lead times and costs of all components chosen for a circuit.

Redesign

  • The prototype circuit is redesigned to use the updated components.
  • The circuit is also redesigned to better fit the final manufacture house chosen

Sample manufacture

  • A low volume of samples are manufactured to verify correct operation of the final electronics design.
  • This small scale manufacture also serves to identify any manufacture issues before the large order is placed
  • The samples are comprehensively tested. The final process of certification is carried out at this point.

Mass manufacture

  • Upon passing of certification testing, the large order for manufacture is placed.
  • This requires direct and clear communication with the manufacture house, as logistical and technical problems can happen at any point.
  • I have a trusted manufacturer in the US that I use for all my manufacturing under (under 10000). I also have a manufacturer in China for larger jobs.