Trailblazing the transition to a product-centric design process…
In a world increasingly shaped by rapid progression and global market competition, there has been a call to arms in the fields of electrical engineering and design.
As an industry that’s long been defined by Printed Circuit Board-centered (PCB) processes and strategies, the journey to recovery from inherently flawed designs or oversights on budget can be long and incredibly costly.
According to The Economic Times, handset devices are one of the most frequently updated electronic products, with worldwide industry juggernauts introducing at least one new flagship model every year.
And while, over the years, PCB-centric methods of product development have undoubtedly delivered, general product composition has been dramatically altered since 2014, marked by an unassailable shift towards product-centric design that gives companies an edge over market competition.
“Consumers are looking for smaller and cooler looking products,” writes Bob Potock, Vice President of Marketing for design software giant, Zuken. “This translates into smaller PCBs fitting into smaller enclosures with less room for error,” he adds.
“On the one hand, SOC[system-on-chip]-based reference designs make the hardware design process easier, but those designs still need to fit within a very creative enclosure demanding much closer collaboration within design disciplines,” Potock explains.
Gone are the days in which PCB-centered strategies of design and product-centric design were mutually exclusive; in their place lies a greater urgency for increased collaboration within the global design field. In line with this state of constant technological evolution, companies must, on top of keeping pace with fluctuations in consumer demand and appetites, accommodate a product-centric mindset to stay competitive and remain one crucial step ahead of the ever-changing curve.
But what exactly are the benefits of moving towards product-centric design?
Product-based virtual prototyping
Today’s dynamic industry requires products to compete across a number of factors, including cost, weight, size, performance and functionality. Current design structures often adopt an insufficient, disconnected approach, creating a wedge between expense, performance and even size target violation, influencing overall competitiveness and impacting success. As such, product-centered design requires a product-based virtual prototyping system, allowing cost, weight, size, enclosure fit and number of PCBs to be analyzed collaboratively before investing in detailed design.
Block-based design and reuse management
With corporations consistently releasing improved versions of existing products, design and reuse of known good circuits or “modules” have become a competitive business asset. In response to this development, a formal reuse strategy places the reuse block or reference design within the company library under version control, granting the option to share across the entire organization. From here, employees will have access to component obsolescence alerts and reuse block updates, so design teams can be certain they are using the most current approved components and most up-to-date design.
2D/3D multi-board planning and design
The traditional 2D single board PCB flow has morphed into a 2D/3D multi-board design process, spurring the need for partnership between multiple design teams. But the concept of 3D design is not yet supported by current PCB tools, inspiring the creation of next generation platform that meets the multi-domain needs of contemporary design.
The convergence of ECAD and MCAD
While electronics have generally become much smaller and also far more mobile, these very same products tend to have greater capabilities for display. Above all, these changes have blurred the lines between electronics and enclosure design, and a physical flaw discovered too late in the process can spawn a delay in product launch and bestow a distinct advantage upon existing market competitors. This is why product-centric design consolidates ECAD and MCAD collaboration, granting designers the power to natively exchange 3D data with convenience and ease.
While the industry typically fosters boundaries to separate different facets of design, a product-centric process will enable a collaborative chip-package-board co-design process in a single platform tool. And with product cases becoming smaller with more convoluted angles, the demand for I/O optimization becomes increasingly important. Additionally, native collaboration between chip and package and board data is fast becoming an industry necessity, making it vital for new package architectures to incorporate this methodology.
With corporate concerns regarding intellectual property (IP) on a steady rise, managers are keen to protect their organization’s IP beyond the company firewall. A tailored, product-centric solution means the IP can be programmatically separated from the aspect of design, reducing the length of time your IP faces exposure to manufacturers, thus diminishing the risk of theft and the progression of ‘copycat’ products.
To stay competitive without incurring driving up cost, companies would do well to employ the product-centered approach, acknowledging design while also supporting the development of products that can be modified by price, weight, performance, appearance and function. And ultimately, if a company wants to realize a faster time-to-market system and maximize their product margins, a shift towards system-level EDA software for the electronic design process must be intrinsically product-centric, incorporating every feature listed above, much like Zuken’s CR-8000. Here, business leaders gain the tools needed to optimize design processes at both the product and PCB design level, promising a platform from which to dominate traditional competitors.