One of the largest jobs we secured was for some signal generator modules with USB control from a PC. The development took nearly one year working during the evenings / weekends. The Client paid NRE and for the modules. Here is our approach to the product development. Each phase of the project being accepted and invoiced in turn.
Phase 1: Capturing the Requirements
Initially we worked with the Client for a few weeks to ensure the requirements were adequately specified and that we agreed the requirements were what was required for their use. This resulted in a report that was signed off and agreed.
Phase 2: Design and Simulations
The system architecture and circuit design was then carried out with simulations as required. Components were identified and purchased. We use ADS, Matlab, Excel and SIMetrix SPICE to simulate.
Phase 3: Schematic Capture and PCB Layout
The schematic was then drawn using our Easy PC software and reviewed before laying out the PCB, also using the same software. We have a large library of component models (schematic symbol and PCB footprint) already created.
Phase 4: Prototype and Optimisation
A few PCBs were then fabricated and we sub-contracted component hand-placement to a technician we work with. The PCBA was then brought up and debugged and then tested. Optimisation of the design ensured the agreed requirement specification was met. Concessions or agreed re-work was agreed with the Client as necessary – sometimes a relaxed spec is acceptable but at other times the requirement is fixed and further optimisation is required.
Phase 5: Software GUI
For this project we also wrote a software GUI using VB.net. I am not a software engineer but find Visual Basic okay to use.
Phase 6: Enclosure Design
We drew up the enclosure drawings and work with a local precision engineering company who have CNC machines, etc.
Phase 7: Manufacture
We don’t usually do manufacturing ourselves but are often involved in the handover to factory. For this project, volumes were small and the work carried out in the UK by a sub-contractor we know.
Phase 8: Test and Documentation
Each module was assembled and tested. A test report for each unit was produced. The units were shipped.