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There are now, a total of 52 PCB electronics on this catalogue for Smart Devices, A.I. enabled. Designed in Kicad, and ready to download, order fabrication online, or buy on Tindie ready to install use.

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README.md

Open Hardware Electronics Prototyping Catalogue

AeonLabs, a personal brand of Miguel T., is about the conceptualization, design, and prototyping of technology solutions for Enterprise businesses and Institutions. To know more about the author visit his LinkedIn profile.

This repository is the main catalog for all PCB prototypes and publicly available here on GitHub. There are now a total of 52 PCBs for Smart devices, A.I. enabled, designed in KiCad and ready to download, order fabrication at a PCB factory or buy them on Tindie and Gumroad ready to install and use. See the list of fully tested ready to use PCB designs.

In my PCB projects, I give preference to EspressIF ESP32 line of microchips. However, designs are not limited to EspressIF. While the reader browses this catalog, don’t forget to read the Wiki full of useful information about all Smart PCBs available here.

Make sure to also check my Open Source Software Catalogue here.

Get a Notification on every PCB update

No one likes to work for free. If you like my work, and use it, please consider supporting it. Links at the top, bottom and right side pane. Thank you.

Current projects i’ve been working on the past 4 weeks.

  • [firmware prototyping] (1st milestone completed)
  • Indoor Solar Power (2nd milestone completed). Next step a Power wall. See Jehu Garcia for an overview of what’s to come.
  • PCB design and prototyping using Nvidia’s Jetson Nano for Artificial Intelligence IoE solutions. (Robotics, autonomous vehicles, live data acquisition)

OEM Firmware development:

There are now 4 Smart devices with alpha versions of firmware.

Smart Home Automation section

View my hardware projects on.

Download the PCB design files in KiCad

Subscription users have available to download the original hardware pcb design files as a KiCad project complete with circuit schemetics and component list (BOM). To enable download you need to subscribe to a montlhy plan here. To order a custom PCB acording to your specifications and needs. go here

Hire me on Fiverr

If you like my work here and are looking to design and deploy your own Smart device you can hire me on Fiverr. The price starts at 25.

Available Open Hardware PCB Designs

To all those not into electronics and still liked and want to own any of the listed PCB for Smart devices can buy the PRO version on [Tindie](https://www.tindie.com/products/aeonlabs/) and [Gumroad](https://aeonlabs.gumroad.com) ready to install and use.

Digital transformation in the construction industry is revolutionizing the way projects are planned, executed, and managed. Through the adoption of advanced technologies such as Building Information Modeling (BIM), drones, robotics, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, construction companies are streamlining processes, improving efficiency, and enhancing collaboration. BIM allows for the creation of detailed digital models that encompass the entire project lifecycle, facilitating better design coordination, clash detection, and cost estimation. Drones are utilized for aerial surveys, site inspections, and progress monitoring, enabling safer and more accurate data collection. Robotics automate repetitive tasks, increasing productivity and reducing manual labor requirements. IoT devices provide real-time monitoring of construction sites, improving safety, and enabling proactive maintenance. Overall, digital transformation is reshaping the construction industry, driving innovation, and delivering projects more efficiently and effectively.

Digital transformation has revolutionized home automation by integrating advanced technologies and connectivity into our living spaces. Through the seamless integration of Smart devices, sensors, and networks, homes have become smarter and more efficient than ever before. With digital transformation, homeowners can control and monitor various aspects of their homes remotely, such as lighting, security systems, temperature, and even appliances, through mobile applications and voice commands. This transformative shift has not only enhanced convenience and comfort but has also improved energy efficiency, safety, and overall quality of life. The ability to automate and personalize our living environments has reshaped the way we interact with our homes, making them more intelligent, responsive, and adaptable to our individual needs and preferences.

Mental Health Wellness Solutions (7)

Mental health refers to a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It is an essential aspect of overall health and impacts how individuals think, feel, and behave. While there is ongoing research on the potential effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) on human health, current scientific evidence does not establish a direct link between EMR and mental health disorders. The primary concern regarding EMR revolves around its potential impacts on physical health, such as the increased risk of cancer or other physiological effects. However, maintaining a balanced lifestyle, including managing screen time and taking regular breaks from electronic devices, is advisable for overall well-being, including mental health.

  • Indoor Smart Plant Watering with builtin microwave LED Jammer
  • Smart Wireless Electromagnetic Wave Active Monitoring (soon. stay tuned!)
  • Smart Wireless Sonic/Sound Wave Active Monitoring (soon. stay tuned!)
  • Smart Wireless with spectrometer microwave active Monitoring and analysis (soon. stay tuned!)
  • Smart Indoor Environment EM RF Energy Monitor
  • Smart Indoor Environment GSM 4G Cell Tower Identification
  • View more here.

Smart solar cell solutions integrate advanced technologies to enhance the efficiency, reliability, and functionality of solar cells. These solutions utilize intelligent features like embedded sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, and data analytics to optimize energy production, monitor performance, and enable remote management. By leveraging real-time data and predictive algorithms, Smart solar cell solutions can maximize the output of solar panels, adapt to changing weather conditions, and identify maintenance needs proactively. Furthermore, these solutions facilitate seamless integration with Smart grids, allowing for effective energy management and grid stability. Smart solar cell solutions play a vital role in driving the widespread adoption of renewable energy by improving overall system performance, reducing operational costs, and providing valuable insights for sustainable energy management.

Micro Small Enterprise Businesses (7)

smart, prototyping, rapid, tools

Digital transformation has revolutionized small businesses by providing them with new opportunities and competitive advantages. Through the adoption of digital tools and technologies, small businesses can streamline their operations, enhance their productivity, and reach a wider customer base. Online platforms and e-commerce solutions enable small businesses to establish an online presence, sell products and services globally, and compete with larger corporations. Cloud computing allows for cost-effective data storage and collaboration, while data analytics provides valuable insights for informed decision-making. Furthermore, digital marketing techniques, such as social media advertising and search engine optimization, help small businesses target their desired audience and create personalized customer experiences. Overall, digital transformation has empowered small businesses to thrive in the digital era, enabling them to grow, innovate, and adapt to changing market dynamics. See all commercial solutions here.

By business Type

Digital transformation in the office refers to the process of integrating advanced technologies and digital tools to optimize productivity, streamline operations, and enhance collaboration. It involves the adoption of Cloud-based platforms, automation, data analytics, and other digital solutions to replace traditional manual processes. This transformation empowers employees to work more efficiently, enables remote and flexible work arrangements, improves communication and information sharing, and drives innovation. By embracing digital transformation, organizations can stay competitive, adapt to evolving market demands, and leverage data-driven insights to make informed decisions, ultimately leading to improved overall performance and growth.

Industrial Enterprise Businesses (6)

Digital transformation has revolutionized industrial enterprises by integrating advanced technologies into their operations. These companies are leveraging digital solutions to optimize efficiency, enhance productivity, and streamline processes. Through the adoption of automation, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), and Cloud computing, industrial enterprises are experiencing improved connectivity, real-time data analytics, and predictive maintenance capabilities. This transformation enables them to achieve higher levels of agility, scalability, and adaptability, resulting in reduced costs, accelerated innovation, and increased customer satisfaction. By embracing digital technologies, industrial enterprises are paving the way for a more agile and competitive future.

Smart data acquisition devices are cutting-edge technologies that enable the efficient and accurate collection of data. These devices incorporate advanced sensors, connectivity options, and intelligent processing capabilities, allowing them to gather and transmit real-time data from various sources. They are designed to be compact, portable, and user-friendly, making them suitable for a wide range of applications across industries. Smart data acquisition devices play a crucial role in streamlining data acquisition processes, enhancing data quality, and enabling quick decision-making. With their ability to capture and analyze data in real-time, these devices empower organizations to optimize their operations, improve productivity, and drive innovation in the digital age.

Autonomous vehicles, also known as self-driving cars, are revolutionizing the transportation industry. These vehicles utilize advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, sensors, and cameras to navigate and operate without human intervention. By eliminating the need for a human driver, autonomous vehicles offer numerous benefits. They enhance road safety by minimizing human error, increase efficiency by optimizing routes and reducing traffic congestion, and provide mobility options for those who cannot drive, such as the elderly or disabled. Additionally, autonomous vehicles have the potential to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future. While there are still challenges to overcome, such as regulatory frameworks and public acceptance, autonomous vehicles hold great promise for transforming our transportation systems and improving the way we move from one place to another.

Robotics Industrial Automation (1)

Robotics and industrial automation have revolutionized the way we manufacture and operate in various industries. These advanced technologies involve the design, development, and application of robotic systems to perform tasks with high precision, efficiency, and reliability. By incorporating automation into industrial processes, companies can streamline production, reduce costs, and improve overall productivity. Robots can handle repetitive and dangerous tasks, freeing up human workers to FOCUS on more complex and creative activities. With continuous advancements in robotics and automation, we can expect to witness further optimization and integration of these technologies in diverse sectors, leading to increased efficiency and competitiveness in the global market.

Do It Yourself (DIY) Makers (10)

DIY innovation refers to the practice of creating and developing solutions or inventions through do-it-yourself (DIY) methods. It involves individuals taking a hands-on approach to problem-solving and using their creativity and resourcefulness to design and build unique products or systems. DIY innovation encourages experimentation, collaboration, and the utilization of readily available tools, materials, and technologies. It empowers individuals to explore their ideas, overcome challenges, and bring their visions to life without relying on traditional institutions or established processes. DIY innovation fosters a culture of self-sufficiency, innovation, and personal growth, while also promoting affordability and accessibility in the development of new ideas and solutions. Below are a few, see the full list here. If you’re looking to expedite work, in here there’s a list of PCB modules ready to deploy.

To make any of the available PCBs here run as intended is needed to download into it a binary program. Anyone can use the PCB available on this repository AeonLabs-MCU-Burner-USB-to-UART-TTL to fabricate a USB to UART MCU program downloader. Compatible with Arduino Studio, VS Code and Visual Studio programming IDEs (among many others)

Other DIY Projects and Makers

PCB Conceptualization and Design

You can get in touch with me on my LinkedIn Profile:

smart, prototyping, rapid, tools

You can also follow my GitHub Profile to stay updated about my latest projects:

Hire me on Fiverr

If you like my work here and are looking to design and deploy your own Smart device you can hire me on Fiverr. The price starts at 25.

Be supportive of my dedication and work towards technology education and buy me a cup of coffee

The PCB Desgin Files i provide here for anyone to use are free. If you like this Smart Device or use it, please consider buying me a cup of coffee, a slice of pizza or a book to help me study, eat and think new PCB design files.

Make a donation on Paypal

Make a donation on paypal and get a TAX refund.

Support all these open hardware projects and become a patreon

Liked any of my PCB KiCad Designs? Help and Support my open work to all by becomming a LDAD Patreon. In return I will give a free PCB design in KiCad to all patreon supporters. To learn more go to patreon.com. Link below.

Before proceeding to download any of AeonLabs software solutions for open-source development and/or PCB hardware electronics development make sure you are choosing the right license for your project. See AeonLabs Solutions for Open Hardware Source Development for more information.

About

There are now, a total of 52 PCB electronics on this catalogue for Smart Devices, A.I. enabled. Designed in Kicad, and ready to download, order fabrication online, or buy on Tindie ready to install use.

Must Have Rapid Prototyping Tools

Suppose your job involves rapidly iterating designs or creating a wide variety of products for clients. In that case, there are some essential tools available that can save you a tremendous amount of time, bringing high engineering risk devices to completion successfully. Whether you’re working on internal projects or developing high mix devices for clients as a consulting or freelance firm, these indispensable tools will help you ship a higher quality product in less time.

The tools on this list target those who are not afraid to get their hands dirty and populate a PCB themselves. When you’re rapidly prototyping devices to get the design finalized, it can be tough to wait for a contract manufacturer to fit you into their schedule. Even if you use a contract manufacturer to assemble your board initially, you are still likely to swap components on the circuit board to optimize a design. So, these tools are always great to have, even if you have someone else doing the initial assembly.

I regularly use every product on this list for rapidly prototyping designs for my project articles on this blog. These are the essential items I use in every job, and the list is trimmed down to specific brands and products after trying multiple options until I settle on the ones that just work for me without hassle or frustration.

Voltera V-One

Voltera V-One. The V-One is a deposition system, which can print conductive circuits using a silver ink paste or print solder paste directly on a board. It can do with a reasonably high resolution allowing down to 0.5 mm pitch components to be prototyped directly.

You can also build double-sided boards with the drilling attachment using rivets for vias. I don’t see this so much as a tool for building whole circuit boards. Instead, for me, it’s always been a way to make a prototype of a high-risk section of schematic rapidly or to evaluate a range of devices that don’t have development kits available or where the development kits are highly priced or hard to source.

With the paste deposition, you can quickly prototype boards that fill in the printing area without the need of a stencil – you just load your paste layer into the control software, and a minute or so later, you have a board ready for the components. With its built-in heat bed, you can reflow the board directly using the V-One without needing to worry about an oven or any other reflow system. This can allow you to utilize local following-day board services so you can prototype with multi-layer boards that have impedance control and all the other bells and whistles you need for high-speed interconnects or other complex requirements.

For me, the V-One quickly pays for itself when compared to the time wasted etching simple breakout boards myself, the exorbitant charged for following day board services, or the project delays waiting for low-cost boards to come in from overseas.

Soldering Station. JBC CD-2BE with T245 handpiece

Swanstrom 7-SAH has none of these shortcomings; they are not particularly expensive and offer good value for money. You won’t bend the tips just by jamming them into cut tape when you attempt to pull the cover tape off. They are also non-magnetic, so you won’t have to worry about components attaching themselves at the most inconvenient moment. Finally, all the metal is ground down to a smooth finish making them comfy to use and aesthetically pleasing.

As someone who can spend hours hand assembling boards, the large soft handle is a dream to use. The handles are also slightly textured, making them much more comfortable to grip than your typical epoxy-coated metal tweezers.

ESD Mat

If you’re working with electronics and don’t have an ESD workstation, then you will want an ESD mat on your desk or work area. An ESD mat will help equalize potentials between you, objects on your desk, and the circuit you’re working on. So, as you generate a static charge, it will be grounded away from you. My desks feature relatively low-cost “house brand” vinyl mats from local electronics distributors, but I’m not typically working with high-cost, highly sensitive devices. As with all things, ESD mats and other ESD treatments for a lab come in a range of performance categories and price points depending on what level of ESD protection you require.

Autofocus Microscope

This is a tool I do not own, but it comes highly recommended from several reliable sources. I had discussed the possibility of adding a Vision Mantis scope to this list, but it’s an expensive piece of equipment that is not as versatile as other expensive items on this list. Several people suggested an autofocusing microscope from Aliexpress; there are quite a few on offer. However, one from Eakins Micscope Store was explicitly recommended by someone who has owned one. They said that it’s fantastic when mounted to a large screen for doing board assembly and rework, allowing you to work with small components much more efficiently without suffering eye fatigue.

I find these devices that have the autofocus unit in the camera body, moving the sensor rather than the lens up and down, really interesting. It allows many different lens options to be used. with an industry-standard C mount, the possibilities for using different lenses are endless.

Rework/Reflow

With the basic tools out of the way, let’s dive into what, for me, is the meat of Rapid prototyping: building prototypes. With the Voltera V-One, soldering station, and hot air rework station, we have ways to get things hot, but nothing yet to get hot.

Solder Paste. Loctite/Henkel GC10 SAC305

GC10; firstly, it’s a room temperature paste. At past employers, having solder paste in the office fridge was considered a health and safety no-no (not very adventurous!). There usually wasn’t room to put a bar fridge or similar somewhere in the lab to store solder paste, which created a problem. GC10 can be stored at room temperature for up to a year, which is longer than many other pastes can be stored in a fridge. The second fantastic thing about GC10 is its very long open time; from the point when you apply the paste to your board to the time when you reflow, GC10 offers you a comfortable 8 hrs. – more than enough time to hand populate all but the highest component count boards.

If you are regularly hand assembling boards stretching the limits of GC10, it’s most likely going to be cheaper for your company to lease a pick and place machine like the Essemtec Fox. This is fast to set up, offers paste jetting capabilities, and is, most importantly, easy for infrequent or untrained users to operate successfully. The cost of labor when assembling boards by hand can be substantial.

If buying GC10 for the first time, aim for the higher mesh numbers (i.e., T4 or T5). This will allow pasting of smaller stencil apertures and is generally an easier product to work with, despite costing near enough the same amount of money. The half-kilogram tubs of GC10 are not cheap, but most labs will struggle to use all of that within a year!

Solder Wire

MG Chemicals “no-clean” gel flux and Chip Quick’s equivalent to try out. I’m now a convert to gel flux. It’s very thick stuff; it sticks to everything and doesn’t tend to just vanish on the first sign of any warmth like a flux pen does. The gel flux is fantastic for just bathing an area in flux and then heating it, giving you beautiful solder joints made under a layer of flux, preventing any chance of oxidation. It’s also fantastic for creating a perimeter around a leadless part if you need to reheat it to fix a bad joint or a shorted joint beneath the IC. It gives you time to poke and prod at the IC while it’s floating on molten solder (or even take it off and put it back on again without getting an oxidized joint.

Despite its ease of use and significant improvements compared to using liquid flux on a board, it does have a considerable downside. “No clean” only means the solder is low activity, pure rosin flux. It has very little or no activators in it, so it won’t rust your board if it’s left on. If you use flux gel, you end up with a sticky mess wherever you use it, so you want to clean it off. An ultrasonic cleaner does a fantastic job if the components on your board are washable. Otherwise, use a paper towel soaked in isopropanol and applied locally to remove the worst of it.

Silicone Mat

0402 MLCC. Wurth 885050 offers the broadest range of values

0603 MLCC. Wurth 885060 is perfect for most uses.

Wurth has capacitor kits going up to 1812 sizes and packs with 0603/0805/1206 sizes all in one box. I don’t often find myself using through-hole, or surface mount electrolytic, or polymer capacitors, particularly as these tend to be used in a bulk capacitance role and are less likely to be critical to a design that needs to be swapped out. Wurth does have great kits for these, as well.

For resistors, I have to admit I just buy packs from the online marketplaces. Huge resistor assortments with 20-50 of each value seem to be readily available, though unfortunately, you can’t say the same for capacitors. Despite their low cost, 1% resistor kits measure within 1% of their advertised values on my benchtop multimeter using 4 wire measurements. Most component distributors will have assortment kits of specific name brand resistors if you must have high quality, reputable brand components.

When it comes to inductors, these are a component you will want to try different in-circuit values. However, I don’t find general assortment kits to recommend you buy for this purpose. Suppose you’re working on a specific product that you will be rapidly prototyping, and you need to switch out the inductors. In that case, you should buy an inductor kit for that series from the manufacturer, or your component distributor may have an assortment for that series. There are so many inductor series available with so many different land patterns; it is not practical to just buy all of them. It is also probably not very practical to just buy a random assortment that looks nice.

Have more questions? Call an expert at Altium and discover how we can help you with your next PCB design.

Quick Turn Prototyping for Printed Circuit Boards

RedStar Worldwide is pleased to offer Rapid-printed circuit board (PCB) prototyping for customers around the world. As a premier PCB supplier, we provide 24/7 technical support and personalized customer service to ensure our customers receive the products they need with exceptionally fast turnaround. Our FOCUS on quality and efficiency allows us to provide your prototype PCB board within as little as 24 hours.

PCB Prototypes

CUSTOMER FEEDBACK – “It is almost as if they are connected…”

When designing and fabricating a PCB board, it is common for engineers to generate a prototype PCB board for testing purposes before investing in full-scale production. Often, more than one prototype will be created to ensure the PCB has been thoroughly vetted for all functions. In fact, prototype PCB assembly services will frequently include increasingly complex PCB models that test functionality until a fully operational model has been assembled and tested.

RedStar’s quick-turn PCB prototype services operate on a 24-hour clock, and our customers can contact a representative anytime to keep the process moving and address questions if they arise during the building process. Our prototype PCB manufacturing services help customers go from conceptualization to full production in the fastest, most cost-effective manner. Not only does PCB Rapid prototyping ensure that your model is reliable and fully operational, but it also saves you the expense of reworking designs later in the manufacturing process.

Quick-Turn PCB Prototype Lead Times

At RedStar, we understand that time is of the essence. That is why our typical lead times for quick-turn prototyping are as follows:

  • Next-day turnaround for standard FR4/double-sided
  • 2–4 days for 4- to 8-layer PCBs
  • 5 days for PCBs with 10 or more layers
  • 5–10 days for metal core, rigid flex, and flex PCBs

Our Rapid PCB Prototyping Process

Our quick-turn PCB prototypes are designed to meet the highest expectations for quality and accuracy. With a knowledgeable team of engineers and cutting-edge CAM input technology, we can address manufacturing and functional issues as they develop and provide workable solutions.

Standard Operating Procedures

Our PCB Rapid prototyping process follows rigorous Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) specially tailored to meet the needs of quick-turn PCB manufacturing. This process allows us to use a standard, methodical approach to detect any challenges as they arise.

Here is a breakdown of the standard operating procedures at RedStar Worldwide:

  • Design Review: Within two hours of receiving specifications, our seasoned staff thoroughly reviews the manufacturability of the design. During this stage, we immediately correct design flaws to speed the overall prototyping process.
  • Production Line: Once the design has been reviewed, it is forwarded to our dedicated quick-turn prototyping production lines for manufacturing and assembly. The prototype is fabricated to meet your exact specifications, with quality checks and process validation for each phase.
  • Quality Assurance Inspections: Every prototype is tested for functionality, and every operation is validated throughout the production process. This helps to ensure your PCB prototype functions optimally upon completion.
  • 24/7 Service: To ensure fast and responsive service, we ask our customers for an after-hours contact so we can notify them of ongoing developments as they occur rather than waiting until the next business day. Our 24/7 personalized service allows us to work on your PCB prototype around the clock and ensure the shortest possible lead time.

High-Quality Materials

At RedStar Worldwide, we pride ourselves on providing superior fabrication of PCB prototypes for our customers in a variety of industries. We work with standard materials, RF, high-speed digital, low-loss, and flexible interconnect materials.

Specialized Coatings

We are pleased to offer a variety of specialized finish coatings, including:

Our Tolerance Capabilities

At RedStar, we are dedicated to providing prototype PCB manufacturing processes within the tightest available tolerances. Our high-tolerance capabilities include:

  • Trace/Space Tolerance: /- 10%
  • Drill Position Tolerance: /- 0.4mil
  • Drill Size Tolerance: /- 10%
  • Impedance Control: /- 5%
  • Flex-to-rigid registration: /- 3mil

Advantages of Quick-Turn PCB Prototyping

Prototyping is a critical step in PCB manufacturing and offers a variety of benefits, including:

smart, prototyping, rapid, tools
  • Product Viability: PCB prototype service allows you to perform crucial testing on the product for each function to ensure it is fully operational before it advances to production.
  • Faster to Market: Quick-turn prototyping reduces lead times, ensuring you have a functional product ready to put on the market sooner than your competitors.
  • Cost Savings: If a product fails late in the manufacturing process, it can become expensive to redesign and retool. Using fast prototype PCB manufacturing prior to production will help you save production costs by reducing the potential for product failure.

PCB Prototypes Used in Various Industries

As technology continues to evolve, more applications and industries are turning to computerized systems. Since many industries require specially designed equipment, the need for PCB prototyping services is growing to incorporate applications outside the electronics industry, including:

  • Medical Applications: PCB prototyping is often used by medical technology developers to create diagnostic imaging and treatment equipment, lab equipment, and even implantable devices. Since medical applications require a high degree of accuracy and reliability, PCB prototyping is critical to ensure medical devices and equipment function effectively.
  • Automobile Equipment: Modern vehicles are equipped with increasingly advanced Smart technology that include infotainment, safety features, and climate control. To ensure safe and functional operation, the PCBs for automotive systems must be prototyped and thoroughly tested before production.
  • Defense and Military PCBs: In the military and defense sectors, PCBs are used in everything from guided missiles and aircraft flight systems to drone vehicles and satellites. To ensure this no-fail equipment is fully operational, PCBs are thoroughly tested as prototypes to prevent dangerous system failures.

Get Your Quick Turn PCB Prototype Today!

At RedStar Worldwide, we are dedicated to helping our customers develop the latest technology with top-quality PCBs. Our quick-turn PCB prototype services help you to test your PCB designs quickly and affordably prior to production. Our highly knowledgeable engineering team will stay in contact throughout the process to ensure your PCB is designed with the highest-quality materials for the best price.

To learn more about ways that our PCB prototype services can enhance your product development, contact us today or request a quote.

Smart Prototyping: Turning Your Idea into a Real Product

I had the honor of presenting to a sold out audience on a topic that is important to me: DFx solutions for Electrical Engineering. In my talk I started by outlining the various stages of a product’s lifecycle. But, the FOCUS of the presentation was on the middle phase, or the “meat” of product development – crossing the chasm from prototype to full production.

There are a lot of steps required to get a product ready for production after a prototype has been developed – and it’s crucial that adequate DFX technology guidelines are implemented to help guarantee Smart prototyping for a successful product launch.

What is DFX? In short, it is a term used to capture the multiple facets of making design decisions for someone or something else. Design For X. Where “X” is one of the following:

Design for Manufacturability – Designing a component with electrical engineering solutions so that it can be manufactured or fabricated in an efficient and cost effective manner.

Design for Assembly – Designing an assemblage feature so that multiple components can be assembled together in a reliable and cost effective manner.

Design for Testing – Incorporating features to make it simple and efficient to test the functionality of a product in a timely and cost effective manner.

Mature engineers and product developers recognize that it takes a village to go from prototype to product. There are multiple stages to DFx engineering and manufacturing and no one person can do them all, nor become experts in each stage. But, once someone becomes educated enough on the basics of what steps are required in another stage of the product manufacturing ecosystem, then they can show empathy for the persons performing those tasks, and they themselves can make better decisions to ensure the success of others.

This is what DFX is about. Making good design decisions so someone else (or thing) can do their job better. And the best way to make these decisions is to understand what tasks others will have to do when they receive the output of your work.

DFx applies to all disciplines, not just electrical engineering, but to keep the talk succinct I focused only on DFx engineering for Printed Circuit Board Assemblies (PCBAs). Because electrical circuits can have 10’s to 1000’s of individual components assembled in very small and potentially complex networks of conductive traces, they inherently are complicated assemblies with the potential to incur very subtle defects.

What can go wrong with assembling PCBAs? The list is not short, but for brevity I’m highlighting the most common:

  • Insufficient or too much solder application resulting in electrical opens or shorts, respectively
  • Poor soldering causing “cold solder joints” which in turn result in temporal electrical connections or joints which fatigue over time from prolonged use and exposure to various environments
  • Counterfeit or damaged components which are not caught before being assembled
  • Valid parts incorrectly assembled into the product

One can implement as many design decisions as they want to prevent these potential issues, but the only way to know if the choices are making an impact is to actually measure it. For manufacturing, that metric is called yield.

Yield is a percentage of how many individual units in a production batch have passed all milestones and tests of the total batch size. Because of the potential complexity of products, and in my opinion PCBAs are the most complex, there is no guarantee that you will have 100% yield. But, through Smart prototyping and good implementation of DFx engineering guidelines you can certainly increase your chances to get as close as possible.

The primary metric to use is called First Pass Yield (FPY). This is the only way to compare apples-to-apples. Conceptually, an individual product which fails a test could be reworked once or several times until it finally passes the test. Since this is too variable, the safest metric to use is how many units pass on their first test attempt, without any need for reworking; hence the term: First Pass Yield.

The goal is to achieve 97% FPY or better.

Next we’ll discuss how to achieve this by applying practical steps of DFX principles in your PCBA design.

As previously discussed, there are many steps required to get a product ready for volume manufacturing. Just because you may have a functionally working prototype, it doesn’t mean your implementation can be manufactured effectively, or even at all. Don’t be surprised if someone tells you it will take 6 to 12 months to get your functional prototype ready for mass production! In this article I will outline some valuable DFX principles that will help you reduce that time to get a product ready for production and reach your goal of a high First Pass Yields (FPY) greater than 97%.

VARIANCE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

The key to successful prototype product development is to remove the variance from your design as much as possible. Variance is the enemy in volume manufacturing, as it leads to more variables, higher risks, and thus lower yields. Any process that is repeated over and over will inherently have some variance each time it is executed. This is called Normal (or Gaussian) distribution.

Humans are inherently Normal (pun intended). So, the first step to improving yield and manufacturing a prototype is to remove the variance (i.e. human) and allow for as much automation as possible in the manufacturing, assembling, and testing of your products.

SMD AND THD PARTS

Starting with your part selection, it’s crucial to understand for PCBAs there are two main categories of electrical components. What differentiates them is the means by which they are assembled to the circuit board:

Surface Mount Devices (SMD) – Components which are solder assembled to the outer surfaces (top and bottom) of a Printed Circuit Board (PCB)

Thru Hole Devices (THD) – Components which have pins that penetrate through the PCB and are soldered on the opposite side

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Many electrical components are available in both technologies, as they each have their specific purposes – but the Surface Mount Technology (SMT) used to assemble SMDs is a much more automated process with drastically higher efficiencies and lower costs than Thru Hole assembly technologies.

So, the first DFX rule for PCBAs is to select Surface Mount packages, exclusively. However, in practice it’s not uncommon to still have some small percentage of Thru Hole components for various reasons, but you should strive to keep this under 10% of the total component count.

SHOW A LITTLE EMPATHY

As mentioned in the previous post, a valuable asset of great engineers is their comprehension of the processes used in other stages of the manufacturing ecosystem. For PCBA SMT, the reflow oven is the lynch pin and understanding how it works will drastically improve your design skills.

In short, a reflow oven has a conveyor belt along with multiple heating elements set at different temperatures to create a specific thermal pattern. As the PCBA travels past these heat sources, the solder will transform from its original paste-like state to a liquid state and then to its final solid state to hold all the components in place. If the heating elements in the reflow oven are not tuned to the specific thermal profile of your PCBA, it will introduce the risk of components receiving too much or too little heat, which results in a low yield due to poor, or “cold”, solder joints.

Even if the thermal pattern is correct, there are still only so many dials and knobs a technician can tune on a reflow oven. So, the majority of DFX efforts should be spent on the component selection and layout of the PCBA, itself. Here are some simple guidelines to help improve your PCBA layout:

  • As noted earlier, select a surface mount package for as many components as possible in your circuit. This allows for the highly automated and less variant processes associated with mounting and assembling these parts
  • All items have mass, which when combined with the material type result in a specific required amount of applied heat in order for the item to reach the necessary temperatures for the solder to do its job. So, keeping this in mind, it’s imperative to select components and create a layout on your PCB that generates a more uniform thermal profile, so all elements can easily reach their required temperatures. Try to select components of similar mass and volume and place them evenly across your PCB.
  • Leaving sufficient space between parts on the PCB is important for multiple reasons.
  • It allows pins to have greater access to the heat source, ensuring more robust solder joints
  • It reduces risk of a solder short-circuiting between parts
  • It allows easier access for test probes

DESIGNING FOR TEST

Remember, the only way to know if the design decisions you make for DFM and DFA are effective is to measure them. Thus, we must also implement good DFT (Design For Test) practices. This means it’s just as important to make the test and measurement stages as simple, efficient, and cost effective as possible, as the other DFX stages.

Testing is no different than assembly when it comes to the use of automation. Relying on people to setup and take test measurements is risky, horribly time inefficient, and expensive. Therefore, each manufacturing line needs one or more automated Functional Circuit Test (FCT) stages. This is the equipment that will test that each instance of your PCBA is assembled correctly and each function is working to its specification. The results of these tests contribute to the final First Pass Yield metric.

A simple step to Design for Testing on your PCBA is to add explicit test points to facilitate the measurement of key signals and outputs of your circuit. All of these test points are to be located as close as possible to their associated source and placed exclusively on the bottom side of your PCBA. A corresponding custom test fixture, often referred to as a “bed-of-nails” is used to hold the PCBA under test in place. An array of electrically conductive pogo pins mounted in the test fixture make contact to the PCBA at the exact locations of the test points. These pogo pins are connected to the appropriate automated test equipment to make and record all of the test measurements. Software packages are used to customize and execute these tests, again removing the human element

GET OUT OF YOUR BUBBLE

If there’s one thing to take away from this article is to ensure you never design a product in a bubble. It’s imperative that you talk to your manufacturer early about your design and the best ways for them to assemble and test it.

Remember, the fundamental philosophy of DFX is you are making design decisions to help someone else do their job better.

That someone else more often than not is your Contract Manufacturer. So, while there are plenty of DFX guidelines published for you to start with on your own, your CM reserves the right to tune those guidelines to better match their specific processes and equipment capabilities. Therefore, the earlier you incorporate their DFX feedback into your design, the faster you will be able to get ready for production with a greatly reduced risk and a very high yield.

The Best PCB Prototype Service For Your NPI

The world of electronics is continually expanding as new devices and equipment are developed. Transitioning these products from the drawing board to the showroom is known as a “new product introduction” (NPI). Before reaching a final design, the production cycle starts with a PCB prototype that acts as a stepping stone for further testing and development. A successful prototype will pave the way for the project’s development and, once complete, will allow production to scale for market introduction.

A PCB contract manufacturer specializing in the best PCB prototype services is necessary to build a successful prototype. PCB prototype expertise requires knowledge of specific skills and processes; learn some keys to identifying an appropriate PCB contract manufacturer.

PCB Prototypes: The First Step of NPI Manufacturing

Launching a new product is an involved process that takes the design to the point of manufacturability:

From Concept to Hardware

The NPI process requires extensive time and resources to ensure that the final production version can balance a high level of quality against low manufacturing costs. To achieve these goals, considerable planning usually goes into the NPI, beginning with a PCB prototype.

The Necessity of a PCB Prototype

A prototype is often used to describe the initial design and the eventual product development, but there is an important distinction. Prototyping results from the initial design stages while the engineers explore how to realize their vision. This portion of the design process is experimental. Multiple designs may be created to find the correct configuration to achieve the specifications.

Once the design specifications have been met in the prototype, the design can then be refined for full production. This is the product development portion of the design process. The goal is to optimize the working prototype for production. Here is where manufacturability, product performance, and reliability changes will be made. Product development is based on the initial prototypes, however, and the development of the prototype is essential to the project’s success.

What Kind of Prototype is Needed?

Mockup: This prototype is an example of the final product, but it is not intended to be a functional unit.

Design Concept: This prototype will include some of the intended functionality of the final product to confirm the design concept, but it won’t necessarily work as a full-featured board.

Working Model: This prototype will function as the final product is intended to, but the features of the board may change with ongoing design development.

Functional Prototype: This prototype will work as the final product is intended to work and contain its complete feature set. The design may be refined for manufacturability purposes, but for the most part, it is fully functional.

With the purpose of a prototype and where it fits into the NPI plan squared away, let’s look in greater detail at what it takes to build this printed circuit board successfully.