ELECTRONICS PROTOTYPING FOR CUSTOM DEVICES
PROTOTYPING FOR CUSTOM ELECTRONIC DEVICES
During the product development stages we produce several rounds of prototypes. We often start with simple block models to evaluate ergonomics and size. Next can be partially functional electronic prototypes to evaluate the best cost/performance of certain components. We end with complete looks-like-works-like working prototypes, for client approval. For reasons of speed and IP protection, we do most of our prototyping in-house, the housings 3D printed and the circuits often hand soldered by our nifty technicians. Our design engineers assemble the working prototypes themselves to assure proper functionality and start a range of functional tests. The working prototypes are then sent to our clients for field-testing, get real user feedback to identify potential bugs and possible improvements. After the CNC’ed prototypes have undergone sufficient testing and validation, pre-production prototypes are made using injection molded parts and PCB assemblies produced by an automated SMT line. We use the actual injection molded parts to do drop- and ingression tests on the housings.
PROOF OF CONCEPT FROM A TECHNICAL STANDPOINT
A rudimentary prototype may be made during the early stages of development in the form of a Proof of Concept to prove the idea works from a technical standpoint, or as a Mock-Up to simply convey shape and size but not the function, material, or production methods of a final mass produced product.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A PROTOTYPE
A prototype is the product of the electronic development process and is an essential part of the design, development, as well as certification procedure. In prototyping, we take a concept that exists only on paper and substantiate it into a physical form that functions as the envisioned product should. How an electronic product will respond to user input is difficult to evaluate without experiencing them first hand. As a tool in the development process used to validate the electronic design, a prototype is crucial for understanding the complex interaction between user and device.
WHAT IT TAKES TO CREATE A PERFECT GOLDEN SAMPLE
During the development stage, several working prototypes may be produced, usually by hand, and are tested by our engineers. The prototypes are then sent to our client for further testing in the field to gather feedback and to identify bugs that will later be corrected. Once a prototype has undergone sufficient testing and validation, a pre-production prototype is then regarded as the “golden sample,” which is used as the benchmark or standard on which mass-produced units will be based. This golden sample is also used for certification purposes and sent to a third-party testing facility for CE, UL, FCC, or ROHS markings.