In the lab: hardware development

Simulation of acoustic responses

Olaf Albert is responsible for developing electronic hardware at ds automation. Here he talks about the key success factors – for mass production runs or individual applications.

What is the basis for your work in hardware development?

In many cases the customers come to us with a problem or bring us products in need of improvement for us to work on. The drivers for a new development cycle are changes in standards or the operating environment, like the need for a lower production cost, and of course the desire for new functionalities. Manufacturing also gives us additional requirements in terms of manufacturability and to ensure the necessary production quality. Every development cycle is the result of an intensive process of coordination – with the customer and with our colleagues. Some of our developments are based on our own ideas for completely new products.

Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?

Additional functional input for developing a specific product comes from trade fairs and conferences, for example: new components, new algorithms and technical equipment and manufacturing processes like 3D printing – they all give me ideas for making improvements.

  • An existing design is refined on the basis of component documents and measurements
    An existing design is refined on the basis of component documents and measurements

And how do you address the challenge?

I develop new designs on the basis of the requirements. A simulation of the circuitry and the testing of evaluation kits provide the initial foundation. Then I design a new circuit diagram and a suitable layout on breadboards, and take a series of measurements, which are analysed by signal processing programs. This goes hand in hand with the software development, because nowadays a large part of the functionality is realised in software and firmware. And of course there are other aspects, like the mechanics and the appearance, which are vital for a successful product.

  • Joint measurements by firmware and hardware developers when a new design goes into operation
    Joint measurements by firmware and hardware developers when a new design goes into operation

What happens next?

First of all I give the design to my colleagues here in model manufacturing, for them to build a model. Then we can put the model into operation, take measurements, and bring it to life with software. When that is done I compare the data from the model with those from the system simulation..

How do you find out if all the requirements have been met?

We measure, test, verify and document over and over again. First we check how well the functions work and then move on to system testing. The parameters for this stress test include, for example, the operating temperature, supply voltage and the product’s functional load. In cooperation with certification bodies we verify that the relevant standards are met. Only when all the tests have been completed successfully can we give the product the CE mark and bring it to market.