The pandemic has changed the way we work, the way we live, and now how we design hardware boards/Products. This article talks about tips for building a successful first attempt at Hardware/product design, considering post-pandemic challenges.
Electronics component shortages and design impact:
Component shortages (due to End of life and larger lead time) in the entire industry are very common issue post-pandemic it impacts all ongoing design and production projects. Even products undergoing production are impacted due to the same issue and it causes engineers to redesign products as well as continually monitor the supply and demand of BOM (Bill of material) parts and take appropriate actions. Designing boards with multiple footprints for key parts will help hardware designer to design boards with multiple manufacturers. EOL checks before freezing design and during every stage of design will help hardware engineers to avoid design changes at the last moment. Entire BOM component selection with alternate manufacturers, as well as procurement of entire BOM components for 2-3 years of product demand in the design phase, helps to address this issue. Having a strong vendor relationship for component availability and shortage information is a must to do in the current scenario.
Lab access limitations due to lockdown, Travel restrictions as well as engineers work from Home options:
Nowadays getting 100% lab access is a challenge due to lockdown, Travel restrictions and engineers work from home options. It enables engineers to spend time and automate Lab instruments for all test cases. Engineers can remotely access the instrument by working from home and still performs all planned test cases. This avoids human errors due to manual testing and it helps to improve overall test convergence and test time. It helps engineers to store test results using automation for future builds.
Reusable schematic and layout blocks:
Designing hardware schematics and layouts in form of reusable blocks which can be useable for all future designs will help hardware designers to build error-free designs and to use the same components in all future designs. It makes design at low cost, as the same components require huge quality for production builds. Hardware blocks should be error-free and fully validated/characterized before it is certified as reusable blocks. This method will help to standardize components and other design accessories across all products.
Component part database:
80% of Hardware design, Production DFM/DFA issues are due to using incorrect/unverified footprints in design. Building component part database with all certified and proven footprints will help to avoid DFM/DFA issues in production builds. These footprints should be linked with the production build environment through PLM (product life cycle management) system so that they will be reusable across all designs. These PLM tools can be linked/interconnected with component life cycle checking tools so engineers can track Active/EOL status using the PLM system and it will help to identify EOL parts in the early phase of design.
Hardware tool automation:
Hardware engineers can use tickle scripts to automate schematic and layout tools and implement different DRC checks. It will help to reduce manual verification-related issues. This automation will reduce design as well as verification cycles and avoid schematic and layout-related issues.
Designing quick prototyping using Development Kits, Conductive ink, and 3D Print:
Building quick prototyping using Development Kits/ Evaluation kits and 3D print (in case of mechanical design) will help the hardware designer prove concepts before it goes into the final design. Designing a quick prototype using conductive ink for a small design with fewer components avoids fabrication and PCB lead time costs.
ECAD (Electronics Tool) and MCAD (Mechanical tool) collaboration:
Creating 3D step files for every footprint used in the design and integrating them with the Mechanical tool will help designers to review complete product design in 3D form and can-do mechanical integrity checks with other interconnecting boards. It avoids connector mating as well as accessibility-related issues. It helps designers to review boards in end product form factors with reviewers so that they will get exactly the same look and feel.
Standardization using Templates for hardware design files:
Engineers can make different templates and checklists for hardware design files Like Schematic templates, BOM templates, FR4 Layout Fabrication templates, Flex layout Fabrication templates, and Mechanical design templates to reduce design errors. It helps engineers to implement best practices across all designs. By designing a proper layout template engineers can avoid maximum CAM queries and FAB issues. With help of proper design templates, engineers can communicate all design challenges and constrain to the Fabrication/manufacturing house without phone calls. It also helps engineers to produce designs globally at multiple locations. With help of proper templates, hardware designers can make capability matrices for assembly and fabrication vendors and it will help designers to select the best vendor for the best job based on design complexities.
Pre and Post circuit simulation:
Pre and post-circuit simulation tools will help the hardware designer to verify low-speed as well as high-speed interface signals using simulation tools. This avoids multiple spins of boards as well as Signal Integrity Issues. It’s a challenge for hardware engineers to select the correct and accurate simulation tool to get the best results.