Q. What assistance can you give me regarding the mechanical design of a suitable enclosure for the electronics that you designed?
A. We do not undertake bespoke mechanical design of enclosures. We work closely with specialist design consultants who have immense experience of enclosure design of every type. There are alternatives. Many of the projects we undertake make good use of standard off the shelf enclosures. For low volume projects, these are considerably cheaper than bespoke mouldings. We will help select standard enclosures, and for example, design suitable machining for connectors, LEDs, and visual displays.
Q. If you design some electronics to my specification, who does the field testing to make sure that it works in all the necessary environments and conditions?
A. Field testing of our electronic designs is almost always undertaken by clients. This is a vital part of the design process and is not to be neglected. Small pre-production batches must be produced and thoroughly field tested by clients. Field testing often throws up issues that were not foreseen and covered in the project specification. This is not a design failure. It is just part of the iterative nature of design. Fixing these design issues will be at additional cost.
Q. The electronic units you designed and manufactured have got wet in service and don't work anymore. Will you examine them and fix without charge?
A. We will assess the damaged units and recommend the appropriate remedial work. Unless specified otherwise in the project specification, failure of electronic units due to water ingress is not our liability. Electronics must be protected from adverse environments by suitable enclosures. Weather proofing electronics is a serious and demanding task. This aspect must be considered at the design stage, and we are happy to advise.
Q. I signed off the electronic design, and you have built production units for me. Some of these production units have been returned to me by my customers marked as faulty. What liability do you accept for these units?
A. Product is covered by our standard terms and conditions, and extends to repairing problems attributable to faulty components and poor workmanship. We will examine units returned to us and report on our findings. We are not liable for failures caused by field conditions and customer misuse outside the agreed design specification.
Q. Who supports future developments of an electronic design after project completion and sign off?
A. Our contractual work is completed and evidenced by the “sign off. Whilst the bulk of development work is done at the front end of a project, issues invariably arise after sign off which need resolving. We offer to cover this support under a separate contract.
Q. How do you structure projects in stages and why?
A. We believe that projects work best when they are managed in small and achievable stages. We ask clients to make payments for each stage. This keeps them on track and ensures that problems are identified as early as possible. We do not move onto the next stage without a customer sign off on the preceding stage.
Q. When I sign off a design as complete to my project specification, what happens when I (the customer) find that the design does not perform as I expected?
A. Every project stage must have an end point and the “sign-off” is a major milestone. Once a project is signed off, any further work will be under a new contract.
Q. What happens when an element of the design specification that you accepted cannot be achieved within the budgeted design costs?
A. We would expect to meet the cost over-run ourselves and achieve the specification agreed with the client.
Q. When do you consider a design project to be finished?
A. When we have demonstrated a working sample that meets the customer’s project specification. After this “sign-off” further work will be at additional cost unless agreed otherwise.
Q. I have a new product in mind that needs a new electronics design to make it work. How do I write a clear electronic design project specification so that you can give me a quote?
A. This is a big question. If you have electronic expertise, then you could write this technical document yourself. The electronic unit to be designed would be treated as a black box at this stage, and the inputs and outputs would be listed and defined. The specification can be lengthy and detailed if the project is well understood. Voltages, currents, waveforms, frequencies, tolerances, and operating temperature ranges might be specified amongst any number of requirements. Consideration must be given to cost, size, environment, enclosures, connectors, communications, controls, power supplies, battery life, safety, manufacturability, test, servicing, repairs, and component availability for example. If you have limited electronic expertise, then you could start with a simple plain English description of what the electronics is required to do. This might lead on to a need a recommendation for a feasibility study. Someone has to spend time doing research to assess whether your project is achievable. A feasibility study often results in a "proof of concept" working prototype of some sort.
Q. Will you sign an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement)?
A. Yes, we agree to maintain confidentiality for your project, and sign NDAs. We can supply a standard form of NDA on request.
Q. I have specific budget unit production costs in mind for my new electronic project. How can I get an idea whether these costs are achievable in a finished unit before I spend too much money on the design process itself?
A. A “me too” project that just sets out to duplicate an existing product, at lower cost is a tough challenge to meet. We don’t recommend this sort of project. If you have a new angle and something innovative, then the inevitable higher costs of low volume production associated with new products will be supported in the market place. Do your research as to what is out there in the market already. Actual unit manufacturing costs may have to be just 15% to 25% of the retail price to make the economics work. Higher costs may be profitable if you sell to clients directly. There may be existing standard electronic modules available already that may suit your requirements. Production cost estimating is frequently a major part of the feasibility studies that we undertake.
Q. How many iterations (spins) of a design does it take to finish a project?
A. It is normal for a project to take two or three spins before completion. It may take more. We believe in producing more rather than less spins. Our hardware production costs are low, and each spin moves a project on substantially. Design is not a linear process. Quick and dirty first spins are an effective way to gain in depth understanding of the crux of a project. Electronic designs are very complex systems and it is not practical to “get it right first time”. Practice has proven that it is more effective to not to try to achieve a perfect first time design, and to treat the process as iterative.