Cubik Innovation is delighted to announce that Sam Beard has been appointed as Operations Director.
Cubik Innovation is delighted to announce that Sam Beard has been appointed as Operations Director.
Cubik Innovation make their debut at the Engineering Design Show at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry for an action packed 2-day event.
The Reskube offers a simple solution providing access to both continuous power and uninterruptible internet connectivity for itself and any connected devices during a power outage.
With effect from 1 April 2023, Sam Beard will take over from Paul Mullen as Managing Director of Cubik Innovation.
This National Apprenticeship Week, we talk to Alicia about what motivated her decision to do a project management apprenticeship and the skills that she has learned along the way.
This National Apprenticeship week, we talk to Jake about his experience as a Production Apprentice, what he is studying and why an apprenticeship is a great way to start your career.
With the market struggling to settle, we explore what measures can be put in place to mitigate the effects of a changing landscape.
The global supply chain has become increasingly unstable causing component shortages across the industry. So, what does this mean for electronic components and when will we see an end to shortages?
The IZLID is a compact, lightweight infrared laser device used by the military as a command pointer for target marking and communicating with aircraft. It is small enough to fit into the user’s pocket, or attach to their belt for quick access, offering swift guidance to ground personnel over a range of 39km.
Close Air Solutions (CAS) asked Cubik to design a simulator that replicated the look and feel of the IZLID’s aesthetics, ergonomics and user functions, without the infrared beam. The IZLID simulator needed to connect to CAS simulation system via a single USB lead and return data back to the simulation system.
The IZLID simulator is used in classroom based military training to help soldiers gain knowledge and experience of how it would behave in a real-world application. Simulation is a critical part of military training allowing soldiers to experience realistic scenarios in a virtual world, improving their decision making and readiness for combat situations.
The Reskube offers a simple solution providing access to both continuous power and uninterruptible internet connectivity for itself and any connected devices during a power outage. It’s sleek and portable design means that it can be used in a wide range of settings from powering a home office to life saving medical equipment. This intelligent device has the capability to detect and resolve issues before they become a problem.
With our friends at Bang Creations delivering the mechanical design, we were brought on board to design and build the system architecture and support the product through regulatory certification. We worked closely with Bang to ensure the electronic system fit the custom enclosure without compromising on quality and performance.
Designed with critical remote workers in mind the Reskube gives users the confidence to work from any location without fear of disruption. Outside of the home, Reskube maintains continuous operations during outages for small sites such as retail stores, construction sites, doctor's surgeries, and primary schools, ensuring that critical systems and equipment remain operational. Additionally, it offers the added benefit of remote monitoring and management. In global regions where power outages are commonplace the Reskube offers a source of reliability and resilience in an environment with unpredictable connectivity.
Bristol & London based company, Switchee Ltd developed a smart thermostat solution aimed at reducing energy bills in social housing. The intelligent device learns the routine of the household, detects when the house is not occupied and turns the heating on or off accordingly. The device allows valuable data to be gathered remotely reducing the requirement for complex interaction or configuration from the user.
Switchee approached Cubik for help with the development of the software drivers which allow the operating system to communicate with the hardware. This quickly evolved into a larger scheme of work that incorporated the printed circuit board (PCB) design, prototype manufacture and firmware development.
Switchee is the first internet-connect device in social housing. It delivers real-time data that gives housing providers the insights and tools they need to proactively support residents and manage homes.
With a Switchee device installed, energy efficiency can be optimised on a case-by-case basis reducing energy waste, lowering heating bills and cutting carbon emissions.
There are many reasons why an electronics development project might run into difficulty. When a project hits the brakes not only is it frustrating, but it can also incur additional costs, be time consuming to get things moving and can impact your reputation.
Some of the main reasons a project might run into difficulty include:
There are also lots of technical reasons a project might run into difficulty, including poor design optimisation (not designed for manufacture), incorrect components, poor craftsmanship, lack of focus on performance tolerances and unexpected regulatory considerations.
When things start to get messy, there are some simple things we can do to get a project back on track. The first step is to carry out a full evaluation of the project and the design specification to identify the root cause. Once identified we can resolve it and take the project forward.
Whilst we are happy to get a struggling project back on track, we feel for customers who have lost time and money. There are several things that can be done from the beginning of a project to minimise future problems.
The key take aways here are to invest time, money and focus from the start to save issues, failure, and large oncosts later.
If you’d like to discuss your project call 0117 244 3000 or get in touch via our Contact Us form.
On Thursday 10 February, Managing Director, Paul Mullen, visited the Southern Manufacturing and Electronics Show where he placed a £65,000 order for a Fritsch PA520 pick and place machine with Blundell Production Equipment.
Shaking hands with Blundell’s Area Sales Manager, Keith Gummer, Paul handed over the purchase order for an investment in Cubik’s future.
The Fritsch PA520 is a modular pick & place system that supports a large range of components including chips, fine pitch components and Ball Grid Array’s (BGA’s) and can handle the most complex tasks. It can place up to 4,000 components per hour and will increase Cubik’s PCB output by approximately 50%. Intelligent software and up to 200 kitting slots means changeover times will be minimised, increasing productivity for small batch manufacture.
The new pick and place will add a third production line to Cubik’s manufacturing capability and will join its brother machine, the Fritsch PA510, in our manufacturing line up.
Speaking about the investment, Paul said:
“The Fritsch PA520 places components onto the PCB with great accuracy and speed over manual or older technologies. The acquisition of the new machine will enable us to give our customers a better price point, without compromising on quality.
We’ve bought with Blundell before but after two years of restrictions, it was good to get back out on the trade show circuit, hand over a PO and shake hands on a deal”.
Held at the Farnborough International Exhibition Centre, the Southern Manufacturing Show is becoming one of the most popular engineering shows in the UK calendar, bringing together organisations from across the engineering sector.
It is impossible to jump straight into product development based solely on the ideas in your head. Diving straight in could mean that your project ends up taking much longer than you want it to which could incur additional time spent and costs. By taking time at the start of a project to understand what you are trying to achieve you can identify any potential risks, snags, or areas where more research is required, and put measures in place to negate the effects.
Over the course of the development, it may be necessary to consider different aspects of the product which may require writing different types of specification.
Product Requirement Specification
Before you get started, it is important that you and any key stakeholders have an in-depth knowledge of the product you want to create, the need it solves and the desired functionality. This is where you get into the nitty gritty of what your product can do, what it looks like, who the end user will be. At this point, you must clarify the scope of the project, desired timelines, and the key priorities if this is important. It may also be worth capturing costs, for example, what is the expected end user price as this may set the design direction and the available choice of parts that can be used.
The design specification is essentially a blueprint from which your product will be developed. In normal development the full Product Requirement Specification may not be met in the first round. Often a cut-down version of the full product will be produced first, maybe a prototype version to investigate some of the project challenges or a “Minimum Viable Product” approach may be taken. It is essential that the specification for this version is produced and understood by the stakeholders.
A design specification outlines how you are going to address the technical problem(s) you want to solve, by designing and building a solution for it. The design specification usually includes:
The aim of a design specification is to aid in the critical analysis of the problem that the product is trying to solve and the proposed solution whilst also communicating priority, effort, and impact.
Why is the design specification important?
The design specification is a vital early step in the development process. It forces you and the development team to examine your product before going straight into the design or build where certain aspects may get overlooked.
A detailed specification provides clarity which results in a streamlined process and, ultimately, helps keep the project on track.
The development team is often made up of people from different areas of the business. The design specification provides an efficient way to communicate the project design between the development team and key stakeholders. It also gives designers and manufacturers something to refer to throughout the process to avoid losing sight of the original vision.
The design specification is essential in managing complexity and preventing feature creep by setting out the project scope and limitations from the outset.
Once the development cycle has been completed, it is important to measure the success of the development. A well-developed specification is a great way to be able to measure success. The product can be assessed using the specification as the reference. For example, if the specification states “the battery should allow the unit to operate for 24 hours” this would be easy to confirm and measure the success, partial success, or failure of each of the points of the specification. This is a great way to assess failure constructively.
The specification is an essential tool in product development and is often overlooked, forgotten, or simply not considered. Cubik consider a good quality specification to be the route to successful product development.
Got an idea for a product, but aren’t sure what to do next? Our team can help you organise and develop your ideas into a strategic plan of action. To get in touch, call 0117 244 3000 or submit a contact us form.
Following our article in December regarding CE & UKCA marking, the UK Government have amended some aspects of the requirements, in particular the date which ends recognition of the CE mark in the GB market. We have updated the article to reflect these changes.
Since 1985, manufacturers have been required to affix a CE mark to certain products to allow them to be sold in Great Britain (GB) and Europe. In the electronics industry, this process is well trodden as almost every product needs to be CE marked. But what happens when we are no longer part of the European Union (EU)?
From January 2023, manufacturers of all applicable products sold in Great Britain must affix the new UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) mark.
If the product is going to be sold in Great Britain, the EU and Ireland, the CE mark must also be used meaning most products will be marked with both CE and UKCA marks.
Manufacturers will be given a transition period to allow them to evaluate their products requirements, obtain the appropriate documentation and make the necessary changes. From January 2021, manufacturers have been able to use either the CE mark or the UKCA mark. From January 2023 the CE mark will no longer be recognised in Great Britain.
So, what does this mean for your product?
If your product was self-certified and tested to the Harmonised standards you may not need to retest it, but you will need to generate a UKCA declaration and amend the technical file. Information about the standards to which your product has been tested should be stated on the Declaration of Conformity.
Cubik Innovation have extensive experience in the field of product compliance testing and documentation. Alongside our network of partners, we are well placed to help transition to the new legislative requirements. If you need help to ensure your product meets the new standards, get in touch.
The rapid development of biometric security technology has led to an increase in biometric systems being used for physical access control. In this article, we explore what biometric security is, how it’s used and look at the pros and cons of this increasingly popular technology.
What is biometric security?
Biometric security uses metrics and measurements to verify an individual based on their unique human features or characteristics. These can be broken down into two different types of identifiers:
Physiological: These analyse the composition of an individual to verify their identity. Physiological biometrics includes fingerprint recognition, facial recognition, finger geometry, iris or retina recognition, vein pattern, voice recognition and DNA.
Behavioural: These analyse the unique ways in which individuals act such as typing patterns, mouse, and finger movement, walking gait, gestures and even social media and website engagement patterns.
Types of biometrics security and authentication
Humans have all kinds of unique characteristics that can be used as a security tool:
DNA: Probably one of the most well-known biometric identifiers, DNA is used in law enforcement to positively identify a criminal or prove a person’s innocence.
Fingerprint recognition: Fingerprint systems analyse the locations of the dermal ridges or “minutiae” on the pad of your finger.
Facial recognition: Using an image of your face, special software analyses measurements and points on your face such as the distance between your eyes, to create a facial signature.
Optical recognition: Like a fingerprint, a person’s iris pattern is completely unique. But whilst your finger pad contains between 60-70 points of reference, your iris contains over 200 points of reference making it an excellent way to verify identity.
Vein pattern: Growing in popularity, this process works by scanning through your finger to detect the vein pattern beneath.
Voice recognition: Biometrics aren’t just limited to physical attributions. Using a stored sample of a fixed passphrase, voice recognition software analyses tone, pitch, and frequencies to identify a match.
How is it used?
Biometrics are used to answer two slightly different questions about a person:
Biometric identification: This requires a centralised database that allows biometric comparison to match and positively identify an individual. For example, DNA stored on a law enforcement database.
Biometric authentication: This compares biometric data to validate authentic stored data. A good example of this is a fingerprint login on a smartphone. Every time a user logs in, the device checks their fingerprint pattern against the data stored in the phone to verify identify. Biometric authentication does not require a centralised database and instead uses data stored within the device.
Who uses it?
Historically, biometrics have been used by global authorities for a wide variety of reasons such as border control, military access control and law enforcement. But as we become more reliant on our devices to access our personal data, the demand for biometric security to become more mainstream has increased. And big companies have listened with millions of smartphone users now using fingerprint and facial recognition to access devices and applications.
As a result, there are many different sectors that use biometrics as a form of identification:
Law enforcement: Police and other law enforcement agencies use biometric systems to support criminal investigations and includes criminal ID solutions such as fingerprint recognition and palm recognition. Live facial recognition, which gives the ability to perform facial recognition in a crowd, has become increasingly popular and is gaining interest in public security.
Border control and travel: A biometrics passport, or e-Passport, contains an embedded microprocessor chip that holds biometric data and is used to authenticate the identity the passport holder.
Building access: In recent years, there has been an increase in the usage of biometric solutions for granting access to building such as places of work, schools, and hospitals.
Mobile access and authentication: Both Android and iOS devices have added biometric security features. Apple were the first to take the step with fingerprint recognition but have since gone on to develop ‘FaceID’. In the coming years, it’s expected they will incorporate FaceID with the traditional login or passkey to create and 2-factor authentication process.
Advantages of biometric security
Disadvantages of biometric security
How easy is it to integrate into device development?
There are many options available commercially that provide access to biometric authentication, especially fingerprint and iris recognition. Complete modules are available to provide read and authenticate functionality, some of these can be connected to a remote database to provide rudimentary biometric identification.
In addition, there are several software modules which can be combined with off the shelf readers to produce sophisticated systems with minimal effort.
Security now goes hand in hand with digital and device development for good reason and as you can see from the list above, there is a wealth of choice when integrating this in your device. The best solutions need careful consideration from a user’s point of view and to help promote a level of trust with your product or process. This technology space continues to evolve as sensor technology develops but it will remain a key part of device interaction.
If you’ve got a project you’d like to discuss, call 0117 244 3000 or complete our contact us form.
International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is a campaign that raises the profile of women working in engineering roles and draws attention to the career opportunities that are available to women and girls in an exciting industry. Now in its 8th year, the campaign has gone global and celebrates the outstanding contributions from women engineers throughout the world.
This INWED we are celebrating Design Engineer, Shannon, who joined Cubik in 2014 as the business’ first apprentice. Shannon had a clear idea of what she wanted to do when she left school and was determined not to let anything stop her from achieving her goals. Seven years on, she is now a fully qualified Design Engineer and a deeply embedded and valued member of the Cubik Innovation team.
Shannon comes from a long line of engineers. Not only do her parents work within the engineering industry, but both of her Grandads owned engineering companies – Brunel Pattern Making which was dissolved in 2018 and Coppermill Engineering in Bitton, Bristol which is now managed by Shannon’s Uncle.
Growing up, Shannon took a keen interest in her family’s work and was always eager to get involved wherever she could. As a young child, she spent a lot of time with her Grandad stripping and rebuilding his Norton motorbike, before moving onto an MG BGT.
“Being able to help my Grandad with his motorbikes and car was amazing. I’ve always been pretty hands on when it comes to working on projects or doing jobs and never minded getting my hands mucky”.
When the time came to start thinking about life after school, Shannon knew that she wanted to follow in her family’s footsteps and turn her passion into a career. But, despite her natural creative flair and early experience of the industry, she found there were several barriers in her way:
“At school I was told that I wouldn’t be able to get into engineering without going to University, which I didn’t want to do. Being told I couldn’t do something just gave me even more drive to do it. It’s not always been plain sailing, but the knockbacks I’ve received just made me more determined to prove people wrong”.
Whilst working at her local rugby club, Shannon mentioned to a friend that she wanted to pursue a career in electrical engineering and was introduced to Cubik’s Managing Director, Paul Mullen. Paul and Shannon hit it off straight away but at the time Cubik was not looking to take on an apprentice.
Determined not to take no for an answer, Shannon offered to do a week’s work experience at Cubik in addition to her school’s work experience scheme. Paul was so impressed by her work ethic, he accepted her offer and Shannon spent a week at Cubik HQ working alongside our engineers and completed her first PCB build. A week later, Shannon was offered our first apprenticeship.
For the first two years of her apprenticeship, Shannon split her time between the office and college where she studied for the Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering before moving on to achieve the Higher National Diploma (HND) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. She then went on to complete several NVQ units and achieved an NVQ Level 4 Extended Diploma in Engineering Manufacture.
At the end of her apprenticeship, Shannon was offered a full-time role in Cubik’s Production department where she perfected her craft before realising her goals and integrating into the design team. As a Design Engineer, Shannon specialises in PCB layout and 3D modelling:
“I am a creative person which means that some things just come naturally. I take great pride in making sure 3D modelled enclosures are aesthetically pleasing, tracking on PCB’s is neat and tidy and, where possible, I like to make sure component placement is symmetrical and equally spaced. I guess you could say I am a bit of a perfectionist.”
If you’d like to find out more about Shannon’s route to becoming a Design Engineer, read An Interview: Cubik First Apprentice.
To find out more about some of the fantastic opportunities available, visit the Women in Engineering Society website.
We are delighted to announce that we will be exhibiting at the Engineering Design Show (EDS) Reconnect.
EDS Reconnect is a brand-new virtual event that showcases the latest in cutting edge technology, projects, and innovations across the engineering industry. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to put physical events on hold, EDS Reconnect turns the traditional trade show into a virtual hub of innovation.
The event will take place online on Wednesday 31 March and Thursday 1 April 2021 and is free to attend. Delegates will have the opportunity to visit exhibitors’ virtual booths where they can book 1-2-1 meetings and interact directly with the teams via messaging and video call.
The show will also feature a comprehensive programme of keynote speakers, case study-led presentations and interactive panel sessions which address some of the key challenges and opportunities facing the UK engineering sector.
Cubik Innovation made its debut at the EDS in 2019 at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry and we are thrilled to be able to return as part of the EDS Reconnect.
This year, we’ll be joined by our partners from The Product Partnership (TPP), Amalgam Modelmaking and Realise Design, who will have their own virtual booths, making it a full house at this year’s event.
If you have got a project you would like to discuss, are looking for someone to manufacture your product or simply want to have a chat, visit our booth. Our team of experts will be on hand across the 2 days to talk you through what we do and how we can help.
Find out more about EDS Reconnect and register for your free place.
Are you interested in reshoring your electronics manufacture but need to keep manufacturing costs in check?
Recently we have seen several companies move their electronics manufacture back to the UK. As we covered in our previous article, some products lend themselves to UK manufacture. But some techniques that are often applied abroad do not work in the UK due to labour cost.
One example is the good-old soldered wire. In China, for example, it is quite common to solder a flexible wire directly to a PCB and is usually carried out by hand. Manual operations like this are obviously possible in the UK but are often not cost effective. Adding a simple wire to PCB connector could reduce the assembly cost because the connector is machine assembled, rather than hand assembled, and the reduction in labour time offsets the additional parts cost
In “low-cost” countries, the Bill of Materials (BoM) is scrutinised during manufacture cost-down and, where possible, is cost reduced. This is often achieved by removing parts such as wire to board connectors and replacing them with direct soldered connections. For UK manufacture, a different approach must be taken.
One method that Cubik has used successfully is to add separate, costed lines to the BoM for machine time and labour time (often called touch time), per process step. By organising the BoM by cost and reducing the most expensive lines we are forced to review the manual processes which will likely lead to a reduction in touch-time. Adding connectors into the BoM can then be considered based on cost.
In addition, a design iteration focussed on optimising the product design for UK manufacture should not be ruled out. Design fees can be expensive, and you may also need some additional compliance testing, but this cost could be offset against the unit price benefit. There may also be an opportunity to fix any other issues at the same time.
So, to reduce costs in the UK:
Whilst there are sometimes benefits to sending electronic products abroad to be manufactured, evolving methodologies in the UK, together with the key advantages of keeping your product close to home, means that UK manufacture is a viable alternative.
Over the past 3 years we have seen several companies move their electronics manufacture from the Far East and other “low-cost” countries, back to the UK. Surely this cannot be competitive, can it?
We recently carried out a cost comparison on a batch build of 2000 assemblies. Our UK cost was around 25% higher than that obtained from a Chinese partner, excluding import duty. That is quite a difference, isn’t it? So, why are some companies looking to build in the UK rather than exporting manufacture to another country?
After speaking to customers who have reshored their electronics production, the reasons are clear:
It is difficult to find an overseas manufacturer who is interested in producing less than 5000 units.
Customers that have returned their manufacture to the UK have seen many benefits which can offset the lift in unit price. It is these benefits that are leveraging the return to UK manufacture. It is true, there are some products that do not lend themselves to manufacture in the UK. Low cost, high volume consumer products can be difficult to manufacture competitively in the West, but many products do not sit in this category. Industrial and professional electronics are less cost sensitive, are generally produced in lower volume and are great candidates for UK manufacture.
So, what are the benefits of manufacturing locally?
There are a few tricks that can be applied to reduce the cost of assemblies in the UK. We will look at these in more detail in our next article.