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A Step by Step Guide to Electronic Product Design and Development


A well executed design and development cycle for an electronic product requires travel through many stages before arriving at a successful conclusion. Here are the stages that we have determined are needed to create a well designed electronic product.

1. Concept

The stage where an idea for a new product, a variation on an existing product, or the identification of a need for an undefined product causes research to be done to define a product, a market, and an approach for manufacturing this product.

2. Research

The stage at which the product concept is utilized to fuel research that includes identifying the technology, methods, and vendors involved in producing the product. This stage of research must result in a detailed design specification that is used to cost the design process that follows as well as the estimated manufactured cost of the product. The agency compliance requirements (U.L., F.C.C., C.E., etc.) are defined now.

3. Circuit Design

The stage where a schematic diagram is created (usually via computer drafting software) and a preliminary parts list is created for costing and prototyping the product.

4. Packaging and Printed Circuit Design

This is the stage where the device under design gets a suitable enclosure designed or selected. This enclosure selection as well as connectors, controls, and diplays must all be resolved before the printed circuit layout commences. The first step in designing a printed circuits the mechanical pattern or outline of the board assembly itself.

The major steps in this process are:

  1. A package (housing) is selected or designed. If designed, the mechanical drawing must be produced of the assembly. If selected, this drawing will be supplied by the manufacturer.

  2. Nomenclature and graphics for the enclosure will be designed. This may be applied in the form of labels, overlays, silkscreens, or a combination.

  3. The printed circuit layout commences and resolves the requirements of the circuit diagram usage of electronic components with the form factor demanded by the packaging design process.

  4. The printed circuit artwork is processed on film and used by a manufacturer to etch printed circuit boards for the board assembler. A silkscreen of part locations to assist in the assembly process is normally applied on the printed circuit card by the manufacturer.

5. Prototyping or Trial Production

Sometimes protypes are built before stage 4 (packaging and printed circuit layout) but the speed and cost advantages of computer aided design are making this more uncommon. A hand-wired prototype of all or a portion of the circuit may be required for the design process.

6. Design Review

The stage where the prototype and initial units are evaluated for function, appearance, build-cost, and possible enhancements. This process should result in minor changes but is a must to insure compliance with the original goals.

7. Manufacturing Setup including Test Setup

The stage is where the necessary test procedures and apparatus, fixtures if necessary, and detailed assembly instruction and documents are put in place in order to yield quality, tested products when quantity production takes place.

8. Documentation

The phase where circuit diagrams, parts lists, master printed circuit artwork, parts sources, software source code and documentation, mechanical drawings, assembly drawings, and all other items included as part of a project's deliverables are provided. This package should be sufficient so as to make the product producible by any qualified source, not just the parties involved in the design.

9. Agency Compliance

According to the nature of the product some agency compliance may be required by law. In addition, some agency compliance may be desirable for product acceptance or for product liability insurance coverage. Agency compliance can cost several thousand dollars per agency and can add months of time to accomplish. It is not to be taken lightly or left as an afterthought.

10. Followup

After a product is released into production; the manufacturing facility experience, the product support data, and the user responses, should all be reviewed for the purpose of steering future designs and marketing. Don't forget this crucial step on the road to improved quality, value, and often lower cost.


Sizing up the Task

If you are contemplating a project, make a copy of this document and put an estimated time and dollar amount by each stage and sub-stage. Add up the time and dollars and see if it makes sense. Also, add a name or source for each of these items. Hopefully Industrologic, Inc. can aid or provide you one or more of these stages of development.

Trite But True:

Some seemingly small, but important observations we have made over the years.

  • There is Good, Cheap, and Fast. You can only have two of the three at any one time.

  • If you can buy something, do not build it or anything similar without some truly overwhelming justification.

  • Always make a mockup or model, even if it is cardboard with hand drawn features. It will pay for itself again and again, and you will learn something crucial each time you build one.





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