Many are looking into electronic design with focus on the detailed electronic (hardware) design: selecting the right ICs, connecting them properly and analyzing the properties of the PCB structure. This is all very fine.
It seems that many failures in electronic design occur not because of bad engineering but rather bad electronic design process. We will in this document describe a process we have been following for many decades. This process will bulletproof your electronic design from day one.
Whether you develop electronic product for an external customer or internal customer, you want to gather all the requirements into a single document and check (and double check) that your customer has approved all the requirements in the document prior the development phase. It’s not very unusual that customers change their mind, and this can cause a significant (or minor) change in the detailed electronic design. Therefore, the first step should be to capture and document the customer requirements into a specification document and getting this document approved by the customer.
It’s also a good time to create a test specification document that describes how the product should be tested, when it’s ready.
Before rushing into schematic design, you want to make a high-level hardware specifications document that is describing the electronic product in a word document. Among other things, this document should consist of a general block diagram and detailed smaller block diagrams for each cluster.
You may want to consider power and clock distribution. Mechanical design, location and pinout of connectors and thermal analysis.
If you design consists of RF, or high-speed signals, you should analyze the critical signals and look carefully into signal integrity issues.
Making the design in higher level makes it so easy to start the actual design: schematic capture.
As a matter of fact, your entire design is depended on the availability and the cost of the ICs you plan to use in your electronic design. Therefore, you should make sure your design meets the customer budget and to confirm that the ICs in your design are not becoming obsolete next year.
A simple Excel sheet could help you find out the total cost of your bill of material, ask the ICs vendors to send you a price estimate, plug those prices into an Excel sheet and show the customer (or your marketing/sales team) the total price. This exercise is important to the entire company because it will impact the profit the company will be making from this electronic product under development.
It is needless to mention that the ICs you plan to use should be 100% available, and they have no “end of life” situation coming soon. Semiconductor vendors will be able to tell you their prediction of the IC life time. Of course, the lifetime of the ICs should be at least as long as the life time of the electronic product you are designing.
Selecting the right electronics service provider is critical to the success of your project. It’s important to find a vendor that has the relevant experience and a business model that fits nicely to your company’s ambitions. For example, electronic design services companies have experience in various domains (automotive, wireless, IoT and more) and FPGA design services companies have experience in different applications (video, data acquisition, modems and more).
Also, when you look into PCB layout services and printed circuit board manufacturers try to find a vendor that not just give you the right price, but also meet your schedule and your quality requirements.