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The process of taking any new product to market can seem long and daunting. Add electronics, software, or hardware into the mix where the scope for complexity increases and it might just be enough to put any one off trying all together.

Whether it is an idea on the back of a beer mat after a conversation between friends at the pub or a global corporation with a fully developed idea, Cubik Innovation has the experience and technical expertise to support our customers at every stage of the process. Here we offer a brief overview of each stage of our process from concept right the way through to production.

Initial Concept

So, you’ve got a great idea for a product but now you need to flesh out your idea and develop the concept. Think about, what you want the product to do, who will use the final product and who the target market is. If you know how you want it to look, you can create sketches of your idea and make notes on how you think it will work.

Product Specification

This is where we get into the nitty gritty of what your product can do, clarify the scope of the project, desired timelines, and key priorities. By now, you should have an in-depth knowledge of the product you want to create, the need it solves and the desired functionality. Does your product solve a real-life problem? Are there any products on the market like yours? How can you improve on what is already on the market?

At the end of this phase, you will have a Technical Design Specification (TDS) that details the system architecture and outlines all the technical requirements that need to be met. This will form the blueprint from which your product will be developed.

Design

The design phase can be broken down into 3 stages: electronic design, printed circuit board (PCB) design and mechanical design.

Electronic Design: Our engineers use their technical knowledge and experience to select the best components needed to achieve the desired functionality and usability whilst keeping within budget constraints. When selecting components, there are various factors that need to be considered which will impact what materials are selected to ensure the product runs safely and at full capacity. Taking time to think about what is required will help guide future decision making and ensure the best chance of achieving the final design. Once selected, we produce a schematic design which depicts the graphical representation of the electrical circuit and its components.

Printed Circuit Board Design: Using layout software, the printed circuit board (PCB) design process takes the schematic design and brings the electronic circuit to life in a physical form. This process combines component placement and routing to determine a map of electrical connectivity.

Mechanical Design: Once we have finalised what is electrically required to make your product function, we begin to design the components, or systems of a mechanical nature. Here we consider what is mechanically required to obtain a useful output i.e. to make your product work. For example, the enclosure or housing, buttons, switches, and bearings all fall under the scope of mechanical design.

Using Solidworks software to produce a computer aided design (CAD), we create a detailed technical drawing of your product and the physical components that have been selected.

Software

Incorporating specific software code can increase the level of functionality of the PCB and, ultimately, the product. This phase often poses a dilemma where we must determine if the desired outcome can be better achieved through specific software code or hardware circuitry. So, it is important to balance the advantages and disadvantages of either approach.

Prototyping

Once the product design has been finalised we can begin working on a prototype. The type of prototype that is developed will depend on the product and the intended functionality and may, or may not, contain all the products features. You can find out more about the different types of prototypes in our article: Prototyping – What is it and do I need it?

Prototyping is a critical phase in the design process. It allows us to evaluate the overall product concept as well as validate our ideas and design assumptions. It also gives us an opportunity to explore the mechanical features so that we can ensure the best selection of parts and components.

Testing

Another critical part of the process is testing as it gives us an opportunity to identify any potential problems or flaws in the products design. By carrying out tests early in the process, we can resolve any issues and find alternative solutions ahead of compliance testing, saving both time spent and budget.

During the design phases special consideration is given to the types of tests that are required and how those tests might be completed in both the prototype stages and during batch manufacture. For example, we may add test points to the PCB to enable a bed of nails automated test rig to be used.

During the design and initial testing phase the engineers will methodically work through the design, testing and verifying the various parts of the system, one at a time. Items such as power rails will be brought up independently to ensure they are functioning correctly before running the system in its entirety. This ensures that no damage is caused to the PCB and that we can rectify any issues before they cause any knock-on effects.

Iterative Design

This is a cyclical process of prototyping, testing, analysing and refining the product. The aim of the process is to get closer to the solution with each repetition of the cycle. Using the results from the latest round of tests, we adjust and refine the product to ensure that it meets the technical requirements that were set out during the specification phase.

Compliance Directives & Standards

To ensure the safety of the end user all electrical products are subjected to thorough and vigorous compliance testing. The scope of directives and safety standards is vast and the electronic and mechanical make up of the product will dictate which compliance directives and standards need to be met.

Another consideration is whether you plan to launch your product abroad as regulations may vary between countries and you may be required to meet different or additional directives.

To ensure the best chance of passing compliance testing first time, we design all products and make suitable component selections with compliance testing and manufacture in mind.

Manufacture

The final stage of the design process is manufacture during which the tested a validated product is manufactured on either a large- or small-scale basis.

The first step in this process is to generate the necessary files needed to produce the product. These would typically include, PCB files or Gerber’s, a Bill of Materials (BOM), assembly and test instructions and any additional files such as mechanical design files.

These files are verified by the Production Team to ensure they contain the required information, in the correct format. The job is then loaded into the Production schedule.

PCB blanks and components are ordered from our trusted partners and any tooling that is required such as a paste stencil is also ordered. Once these items have arrived the files and components are loaded onto the pick and place machine(s) and the engineers will run a batch of PCBs through the semi-automated production process, including stencil printing, placement, reflow and inspection.

Once the PCBs have been produced and have passed inspection the boards as tested using the test procedure provided. They are then assembled into an enclosure, mechanical assembly or boxed with their cables and instructions leaflets as required. All items are then put through quality control before being packed and shipped.

Over the course of the following expert articles, we will explore each of these phases in technical detail including what is expected during each phase, how key decisions and selections are made, and the intended output at the end of each phase.