Electronic hardware design forms a core offering from TDI. More than any other of our professional services, hardware design requires close liaison and co-operation with all other technical aspects of electronic product development: mechanical, PCB and software design; production engineering (manufacturing interface) and regulatory certification.
Working from a requirements specification created by our clients (or compiled in collaboration with our clients) we evaluate alternative hardware architectures to identify the most appropriate configuration to fulfil a prioritised set of product goals. This task involves assessing trade-offs between potentially conflicting design characteristics (e.g. product features, cost, size, power or regulatory requirements) and also takes careful account of the end application (e.g. consumer or industrial markets). For complex or partially-defined product designs, we may recommend that a feasibility study be conducted or a proof-of-concept prototype be developed in the first instance, in order to properly establish the viability of a particular solution, taking full account of both commercial and technical perspectives.
Integral to effective hardware architecture development is a carefully applied component selection process. This must consider not only a part’s fundamental technical capabilities but also cost, availability and supplier technical support. Most designs include at least one processor and making the right choice requires due consideration of the software development effort that will be needed to deliver a working product platform. TDI gains valuable guidance from component suppliers by using our well-established and mutually strong links with key integrated circuit (IC) manufacturers and major franchised component distributors. These links help provide good insight and advance knowledge of the latest innovative products, making us well placed to take early advantage of new technologies that can ultimately provide our clients with valuable competitive advantage.
Only once the hardware architecture is fully defined and key component building blocks have been chosen, do we start on the detailed hardware design process itself. Harnessing advanced Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) tools from Mentor Graphics or Altium, our engineers firstly create circuit symbols and library parts for the new components. Often our comprehensive parts library provides a framework template for a new item, reducing effort and minimising errors. The next design stage involves schematic entry, where a circuit representation is created that precisely defines the required power distribution and signal connectivity between all the electronic parts. Independent verification of new library parts and independent scrutiny of new circuit schematics helps us to ensure successful right-first-time design realisation. By working closely with our own PCB layout designers and external industrial design partners throughout the hardware development process, electronic designs can be optimised to suit tight space constraints and achieve efficient and cost-effective PCB fabrication and circuit assembly.