I'd be happy to help, depending on what you need help with. I advise early stage hardware startups on rapid prototyping, market testing, etc. I've both founded my own hardware startup (which has gone on to raise over $10 MM), and designed and built hardware prototypes for other startups.
If you'd like to schedule a call, feel free to send a Dropbox link to related materials beforehand so I can go over them,
Answered 7 years ago
Most entrepreneurs, and even most engineers, do not understand all the consequences of various product features. Another example comes from an entrepreneur who asked me and the other experts in the Hardware Academy for feedback on his product concept. He was very technically minded and had spent a lot of time specifying his product in detail. These changes made his product about 3 times easier to bring to market. The catch is that unless you understand the entire development and manufacturing process it is difficult to know the future implications of all your product decisions. If you outsource product development be aware that asking your primary developer to help simplify your product may create a conflict of interest. The more complex your product the more money they get paid. Instead, work with independent experts to help you simplify your product and better understand the long-term impacts of your early product decisions. To build an electronic Home product keep the following in mind:
1. Step 1A – System Block Diagram
When creating the preliminary production design, you should start by defining the system-level block diagram. Most products require a microcontroller or a microprocessor with various components interfacing with the microcontroller via various serial ports. This is an essential first step for selecting the correct microcontroller for your product.
2. Step 1B – Selection of Production Components
This will allow you to then create a preliminary Bill of Materials., Newark, Digikey, Arrow, Mouser, and Future are the most popular suppliers of electronic components. You can purchase most electronic components in ones or up to thousands. Once you reach higher production volumes you will save money by purchasing some components directly from the manufacturer.
3. Design the Schematic Circuit Diagram
Whereas a system block diagram is mostly focused on the higher-level product functionality, a schematic diagram is all about the little details. But be warned these are quite expensive and are best for those designing multiple products.
4. Design the Printed Circuit Board
The PCB is the physical board that holds and connects all the electronic components. Development of the system block diagram and schematic circuit have been mostly conceptual in nature. In general, the smaller the product, and the tighter the components are packed together, the longer it will take to create the PCB layout. If your product routes large amounts of power, or offers wireless connectivity, then PCB layout is even more critical and time consuming.
5. Generate the Final Bill of Materials
Although you should have already created a preliminary BOM as part of your preliminary production design, it is now time for the full production BOM.
6. Order the PCB Prototypes
Creating electronic prototypes is a two-step process. The first step produces the bare, printed circuit boards. Your circuit design software will allow you to output the PCB layout in a format called Gerber with one file for each PCB layer. These Gerber files can be sent to a prototype shop for small volume runs.
The same files can also be provided to a larger manufacturer for high volume production. The second step is having all the electronic components soldered onto the board. From your design software you will be able to output a file that shows the exact coordinates of every component placed on the board. This allows the assembly shop to fully automate the soldering of every component on your PCB. Your cheapest option will be to produce your PCB prototypes in China. For producing your prototype boards in China, I highly recommend PCBWay, Bittele Electronics, Seeed Studio, or Gold Phoenix PCB. Note that discounts are available in the Hardware Academy for many of these services, so you may wish to join before ordering any custom boards. Members also get a 30% discount on the DipTrace software. Now it is time to evaluate the prototype of the electronics. Keep in mind that your first prototype will rarely work perfectly. This is when you will identify, debug, and fix any issues with your prototype. Most designs take multiple prototype iterations to get ready for market. Nearly all modern electronic products include a microchip called a Microcontroller Unit that acts as the “brains” for the product.
7. Develop the Enclosure
If appearance and ergonomics are critical for your product, then you will want to hire an industrial designer. If appearance is not critical for your product then you can probably get by with hiring a 3D modeler, and they are usually significantly cheaper than an industrial designer.
8. Create 3D Model
The first step in developing your product’s exterior is the creation of a 3D computer model. The two big software packages used for creating 3D models are Solid works and PTC Creo. Once your industrial or 3D modelling designer has completed the 3D model you can then turn it into physical prototypes. The 3D model can also be used for marketing purposes, especially before you have functional prototypes available. You can also get a photo realistic, 3D animation of your product done. The biggest risk when it comes to developing the 3D model for your enclosure is that you end up with a design that can be prototyped but not manufactured in volume. Ultimately, your enclosure will be produced by a method called high-pressure injection molding. Developing a part for production using injection molding can be quite complex with many rules to follow. So be sure to only hire someone that fully understands all of the complexities and design requirements for injection molding.
9. Order Case Prototypes
An additive process, like 3D printing, creates the prototype by stacking up thin layers of plastic to create the final product. The advantage of subtractive processes is that you get to use a plastic resin that exactly matches the final production plastic you will use. This is important for some products, however for most products this is not essential. With additive processes, a special prototyping resin is used, and it may have a different feel than the production plastic.
Resins used in additive processes have improved significantly but they still don’t match the production plastics used in injection molding. Be warned that prototyping processes are completely different than the technology used for production. You may also consider purchasing your own 3D printer, especially if you think you will need several iterations to get your product right.
10. Evaluate the Enclosure Prototypes
Developing the plastic for your new product is not necessarily easy or cheap, especially if aesthetics is critical for your product. However, the real complications and costs arise when you transition from the prototype stage to full production.
11. Transition to Injection Molding
Although the electronics are probably the most complex and expensive part of your product to develop, the plastic will be the most expensive to manufacture. Setting up production of your plastic parts using injection molding is extremely expensive. Most plastic products sold today are made using an old manufacturing technique called injection molding. The mold has a carved cavity in the shape of the desired product. Then, hot molten plastic is injected into the mold. Injection molding technology has one big advantage it is a cheap way to make millions of the same plastic pieces. Current injection molding technology uses a giant screw to force plastic into a mold at high pressure, a process invented in 1946. Injection molds are extremely efficient at making lots of the same thing at a low cost per unit. You can eventually increase your production speed by using multiple cavity molds. They allow you to produce multiple copies of your part with a single injection of plastic. To learn more about injection molding see this blog and check out this paid course.
Which type is required for your product depends on whether your product features wireless communication capabilities such as Bluetooth, WiFi, ZigBee, or other wireless protocols. Consider initially using electronic modules for any of your product’s wireless functions.
13. UL / CSA
However, most major retailers and/or product liability insurance companies will require that your product be UL or CSA certified.
CE certification is needed for most electronic products sold in the European Union.
15. Lithium Battery Certifications
For most products I recommend initially using off-the-shelf batteries that already have these certifications. This is primarily since most hardware companies choose to have a battery custom designed to take advantage of all the space available in a product.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call: https://clarity.fm/joy-brotonath
Answered 3 years ago