Design for Manufacturability: Industry Tips for Hardware Startups

blurred-background-chips-circuit-1432669

At Altitude Accelerator’s Smart Product: Designing for Manufacturability, hosted in partnership with Arrow Electronics, industry experts gathered from leading companies like Intel, Analog Devices, SiliconExpert Technologies, Swift Labs, Microart, and CENGN to talk with startup founders and share their experience.

Looking to the Future

According to David Allen, Intel’s Director of Platform and Distribution Sales, the key sectors for the future of computing and communications are autonomous driving, 5G networks, artificial intelligence, and virtual worlds. He argues that AI represents the single biggest opportunity for entrepreneurs, driven by a need for intelligent, connected edge devices. (Pam Banks, Altitude Accelerator Executive Director, calls this the “Wild West” for startups since there are so many opportunities and it’s not yet dominated by bigger companies). For entrepreneurs, Allen says it’s important to start with a problem that needs to be solved and focus on building an end-to-end, market ready solution.

For a hardware startup, you can’t overstate the importance of a functional prototype. It’s not only necessary for testing and refining the product, it’s critical for landing a first customer, raising capital, and getting buy-in from potential partners. Analog Devices recently launched MeasureWare, a multifunction sensing product that allows entrepreneurs to have a sensing prototype working in minutes.

 

Rob Finnerty, System Application Engineer for Analog Devices in Ireland, explained how the collection of software and hardware tools, used in conjunction with compatible Analog devices, works. The MeasureWare designer can specify the requirements of your design, choose hardware for implementation and download custom code generated automatically for your very first design. The first MeasureWare compatible chip from Analog Devices provides precision monitoring for temperature, pressure, load, Strain and PH measurement. MeasureWare can be accessed via www.analog.com/measureware.

Industry Tips from the Experts

If you’re developing a smart product, here’s what else you need to keep in mind, according to the experts:

Material Selection – Greg Durlacher, SiliconExpert Technologies

  1. Evaluate the health of your your Bill of Materials – especially their lifecycle, end of life and availability
  2. Consider multiple sources of supply so your growth isn’t limited by the capacity of your supplier
  3. Consider where the final product will be shipped for compliance regulations RoHS3 to many customers

 

Product Design – Mike Brown, Swift Labs

  1. Try to avoid feature creep that significantly changes the product. If you need more features, get them out as a second product
  2. Engage test labs early to understand your product’s certification requirements, complete a pre-scan before you submit the board for your second revision, and fix any issues before the second revision is submitted.
  3. When using a module, review the requirements for antenna implementation. Each approved module has integration notes that help integrators implement the RF system properly

 

Manufacturing – Mark Wood, Microart

  1. “No one wants to admit they have an ugly baby”. Engineers and entrepreneurs tend to get too attached to their product. Be open to changes to make the product more readily manufacturable
  2. It’s never to early to engage with distributers. Engage with reputable distributers who can ensure you are choosing parts that are readily available
  3. Beware of manufacturers reps selling “new and improved” products. Yes, they might be new and improved but are they available for commercial use?

 

Startup Strategy – Robert McMillan, CENGN (Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks)

  1. Design with testing in mind – for example, you don’t have to build your hardware from scratch. There are advantages to using component parts that have already been tested and certified, like saving time and getting to market more quickly. (But be careful! The cheapest parts may be of variable quality, which can impact future sales)
  2. Find out what assistance is available. Meet with designers, manufacturers, certification labs, and any other players you can think of. You can get connections to these organizations either from your own network or through organizations like Altitude Accelerator well before your product is complete. They can provide valuable insights that can impact your product cost and market opportunity
  3. Treat funding like a sales opportunity. Do your research and tell your story carefully
  4. Don’t over-design features. Get to market quickly with Version 1.0 of your product. Your customers will identify features that are important to them, and you can incorporate those into Version 2.0

 

This is a great time to be a hardware startup developing a smart product. The cost of components like sensors is decreasing, and so are costs related to bandwidth and processing. Moore’s Law continues to enable the creation of smaller devices with more power and functionality and greater complexity. At Altitude Accelerator, we’re seeing lot of exciting IOT startups signing up for our entrepreneur training and advisory services.

 

Our IoT Tech Showcase is Nov 14

This November, Altitude Accelerator is partnering with Arrow Electronics and the City of Brampton to host a Technical Showcase and Demo Day to continue the conversation on IOT-related technology, product development, and commercialization opportunities. Register for this free event to see some of the exciting IOT products being built in Ontario and hear more from the experts..

Register Here

Recent Posts