When undertaking any project it is necessary to define exactly what is required. Requirements can be captured from many sources: users; end customer; market assessment, etc…
With most of the requirements in place (often requirements capture progresses for many months and some work must usually start before all the requirements work is complete), the high level product can be worked out. This will enable other processes to be undertaken.
The high level concept of the product will highlight any areas of the design that may present a high risk. These can be “de-risked” by undertaking a concept proof or feasibility study. This may even involve undertaking some trial development to prove whether concept can work. Simulations are a major way of providing the required data as accurate simulations can be created using software tools.
At this stage it will be possible to undertake a reasonable estimate of the costs.
In the light of costing, concept proof and other inputs it may be necessary to refine the requirements.
A review is essential at the end of this initial stage of the electronics development process to ensure that all the required definitions, and authorisations are in place before moving on to the next stage. Moving on without ensuring that a sufficiently robust definition is in place can lead to major problems further along the electronics development process.
A large number of activities occur during this phase of the project. Many of them need to be undertaken in parallel, so it is essential that the development team communicates to ensure that all activities proceed in a coordinated fashion and not in a disparate manner where different activities diverge.
This is often the chief focus of a development activity. It will start with the high level design, and then as the requirements are flowed down, it will split into modules or subsections. These can be addressed as individual projects. Again communication is key.
Software forms an increasingly significant portion of projects. Typically it will be many times that of the hardware development. Like the hardware, it should start with the top level design, flowing down the requirements to smaller modules that can be addressed separately. It should follow an orderly structured development to ensure that all the modules operate together satisfactorily when there is a complete software build.
The mechanical design is an important element in the overall electronics design process. Not only is the mechanical box designed, but aspects such as any mechanical interfaces as well as heat flow and many other elements all need to be addressed. Typically 3D mechanical modelling is used.
The printed circuit board design is a major element of the electronics hardware development. As many of circuit performance features – especially with RF and fast digital circuits – the PCB design is of great importance. Signal integrity simulations may be carried out as part of this activity. The PCB design should be carried out in close liaison with the electronics hardware development. Normally PCB CAD packages are used.
When developing electronics equipment, it is necessary to develop a test and production strategy alongside. The development and purchase of the equipment needed can occur during the development stages.
Prototypes of the equipment will be built. Concurrent engineering practices used to shorten timescales would normally indicate that the production facility, and any fixtures are trialled at this stage.
It is necessary to undertake constant testing during the development phase to ensure that each module, software of hardware meets its specification.
Before moving on to the next stage of the electronics design process, it is necessary to ensure that this phase is completed to a satisfactory level to move on. The review prior to formal testing is normally called a Test Readiness Review, TRR.
Integration, Verification & Validation: A major element of any electronics development process is the formal integration, verification and validation element of the overall process. The testing is normally undertaken to ensure that the item works, and it is validated against the requirements to ensure that it fulfils the purpose for which it was designed. This testing normally occurs towards the end of the overall electronics development process when the hardware and software have been integrated, however it will still be necessary to keep the development team in place to rectify any problems.
ED² supports ISO15288 Systems Engineering, standard processes for design and lifecycle stages. Where possible, we employ Object-Oriented analysis for the process of analysing a task in order to develop a conceptual model that can be used within a team environment to complete the task.