“Hardware development is a great profession that requires good puzzle skills and solution-oriented thinking. It should lead to a nice result: a beautiful product that rolls down the assembly line and that solves the customer’s problem. That’s the reason I like my job. “A nice statement from our hardware engineer Eric Los. In this blog he shares his insights and experiences with you.
The struggles in a development process
The development of a new product is not a straight path. Sometimes you have to take some bumps and come across some curves. Such as in the development of our BeeAlert, a product that guarantees a meter and a half distance in corona time. Two things were important at the start of this project: costs and hygiene. The end product had to be affordable and easy to clean.
To keep the price low, we chose bluetooth technology. In the test phase it appeared that the BeeAlert works well statically, but is insufficiently accurate when worn (where people move). And that is of course a no go. We went back to the drawing board and chose a better technology: Ultra Wide Band. After overcoming that hurdle, there is now a well-functioning product.
Then the cleaning issue. In order to be able to clean the BeeAlert properly, we opted for a design without extra openings or connections. That is why we investigated the possibilities of wireless charging. An educational process for us, in which we had many contacts with other parties and suppliers. But: research still resulted in charging via a USB cable, because this is much cheaper and more reliable in terms of price. So we took a side road on our journey to the final destination.
This example shows that you sometimes have to adjust your starting points during the process on the basis of progressive insight. That is why we build in enough variables that we can “play” with in order to arrive at an optimal end product.
Those involved in hardware development often cannot wait until the working concept is ready. But getting there is just as fun. We organize that road as practically and efficiently as possible. We give you five tips for this, based on the experience we gained ourselves.
Tip 1: Determine the purpose, the functionalities and the result of your product
We discussed this extensively during our first meeting, so that the frameworks and objectives are clear to everyone. Every design starts with an idea, followed by a rough sketch of what a system or product should look like. This concept of a high level design is almost the same in the prototype design and the more “mature” product, so that you already have a good idea of what your end product will look like in the initial phase.
The functionalities are the starting point in the design process. Together we analyze what you really need and what the possible extra options are. You weigh those options against each other, for example on the basis of budget or the expected sales opportunities. There is a good chance that you will have to make compromises, because it is quite possible that not everything you want is technically or financially possible. The other way around is also possible: perhaps during the test phase it turns out that a design without bells and whistles works much better in your situation and you go back to basic.
Tip 2. Accelerate and ensure a tight schedule
Of course, as an entrepreneur you want to stay on top of things and not miss opportunities. That is why we switch quickly and plan our sprint to the finish line immediately. This way you immediately know when you can enter the market with your innovative solution.
Tip 3. Make sure you have the right components at the right time
When building prototypes and in the production of your end product, you depend on the suppliers of the various components. Therefore look for a reliable supplier who delivers on the agreed time and who can deliver during the entire production process. We therefore look at the expected product life cycle. Because nothing is as expensive and time-consuming as redesign, because the components cannot be delivered or cannot be delivered on time. So make good agreements with your suppliers, especially when it concerns components for which you cannot easily find another supplier, because there are few or no alternatives.
Tip 4. Determine the production volume
Based on this, you can start looking for a suitable producer who has delivery conditions that match your product. Think of delivery time and costs.
Tip 5. Use the knowledge of your suppliers
They know their product like no other. If we get stuck in the design process, we also consult the supplier. In practice it turns out that they like to think along and sometimes come up with brilliant ideas in the field of use or implementation of the product. Two know more than one, so take advantage of that.
Do you have a good idea or do you want to solve a problem in your organization? And do you want to take the next step towards the development of a prototype and / or (mass) production? We like to think along with you.
Eric Los studied Medical Electrical Engineering at Saxion University of Applied Sciences. He started his career at Nefit / Bosch Thermotechniek as a hardware engineer. After 18 years he came to strengthen the Beeliners team. His specialties: PCB design and product realization.