Designing a high technology electronic product can be a long and complex process. This article is intended to give a brief and easy to read overview of some of the steps in developing an electronic product it's software for the non-technical.
This article is an overview of the design process and does not cover Design For Manufacture (DFM) or the generation of product ideas which are very important parts of product design but which could not be covered by a single article.
A full product specification is not required for Lean Design but it is necessary to determinine the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and having a specification for this will reduce the number of iterations required to produce the final product.
To simplify this article it is assumed that the product specification is already decided as covering this aspect of development will require a separate article.
1. Electronic hardware design
Once the product features and specification are decided, design can proceed on the electronic circuitry. The designed circuit and components are entered on to a schematic in a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program as shown.
For complex circuits many pages of schematics may be necessary to fully describe the design.
Entry of the circuit design into the CAD package is often called schematic capture.
2. Circuit simulation
For more complex designs it may be necessary to simulate the electronic circuit to verify that it is capable of operating within the specification. The results from the simulated circuit can be compared to the prototype hardware during testing.
Simulation is an optional step and may be skipped for simpler designs but simulation may save time in product testing and validation.
3. Firmware design
Firmware (the software that will run on the hardware) may be designed and created the during the design of the hardware.
This will reduce the time required for the design process as the hardware and firmware design can occur in parallel.
It may be possible to test the firmware by simulating the hardware or hardware may need to be manufactured before the firmware can be completed.
4. PCB design and layout
Once design on the electronics is complete a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) embodying the design in the circuit scematic is designed and laid out.
Components are placed on a representation of the PCB in a CAD program and interconnections made.
At this stage any mechanical constraints, such as enclosure sizes, must be taken into account in determining the size and shape of the PCB.
5. PCB 3d rendering
Once the PCB layout is complete a 3d rendering of it with components mounted on it can be generated to help verify that the hardware design is adequate and will meet the specifications and that it's physical dimensions are correct.
6. Prototype Manufacture
A number of prototype PCBs are manufactured and assembled with components using information generated by the CAD tools directly from the design.
Manufacturing prototypes helps to prove that the design data is correct and complete.
7. PCB test
The prototype boards are tested and checked that they conform to the design specifications and meet all relevant standards such as CE conformance.
Third party compliance testing and certification may be required before any devices can be sold.
See our Safety standards article for an overview of some of the commonly required standards.