ELECTRONIC DESIGN SERVICES
“It’s hardware that makes a machine fast. It’s software that makes a fast machine slow.”― Craig Bruce
The iLumTech electronic design team can offer you a comprehensive range of electronic design solutions and services along with our full and continued support. Starting with advanced hardware design and the design of various types of software, to the final combining of them together with a pinch of synergy added in, we are able to provide the system level design of a vast array of customer defined electronic products and solutions. All stages are checked and verified during various in-house tests, which we can also offer as independent services. Furthermore, we can assist you with our professional review of your own designs at any stage of their development. Our personal approach and high level of expertise throughout the whole process of transforming your idea to a professionally formed functional prototype, or any derivative of it, ensures you and your product will be first on the market.
Analysis of customer requirements
The identification and analysis of customer requests act as the primary input for the development process. Precise request definition from the customer is of vital importance both at the beginning and throughout the entire project.
KEY COMPONENT SELECTION
The overall cost and complexity of a device depends mainly on key component selection. The ratio between those parts needed for the hardware, firmware and software of the product are put in place during this phase of development.
The functional schematic of a solution is based on chosen key components, supporting blocks and the analysis of customer needs. Schematic define the complexity and final cost of a developed solution.
PCBs are designed based on a functional schematic with consideration also given to mechanical factors. The design is strongly influenced by forecasted production quantities, based upon which appropriate PCB manufacturing technologies are selected. Electrical safety requirements also have an impact on the design rule check.
A prototype is an integral part of the development process as it is the first real substantiation of your vision. It also acts as the base for demonstration of functionality and subsequent corrections and price adjustment of the product. Several prototypes can be prepared during development.
DOCUMENTATION & VALIDATION
One of the primary outcomes of the development process is the technical documentation of the product. This enables customers to run serial production as well as being a requirement for product certification.
Finalisation of the development process is marked by the product entering serial production. This is based on the aforementioned technical documentation and requires that the product first receive appropriate certification. We also offer you the possibility to continue with the manufacture of your device or product at an attractive price level.
TUNABLE WHITE CONTROLS
ADVANCED LIGHTING CONTROL
AMBIENT CCT LIGHT SENSOR
INTELIGENT LED MODULE
DC POWER LINE
Programmable components are used in almost every electronic product found on today’s market. Even if only a trivial logic function is requested, a microcontroller unit (MCU) is usually chosen to be used instead of discrete components such as diodes, transistors or operational amplifiers. Firmware development requires close cooperation with the customer, especially when dealing with user interfaces, in order to design the device functions according to customer wishes. We have been dealing with firmware design for several years, and we have expertise mainly in ST Microelectronics architecture (both 8 and 32 bit cores). However, if required, we are able to work with manufacturers such as Microchip, Atmel, NXP, or any other. We have tight partnership with all the big MCU players on the market and their vendors, which gives us direct access to the latest technology available. Firmware design is closely connected with hardware design. Therefore, the two processes often start parallel to each other, which considerably shortens development time. The timeline that is required for professionally done and thoroughly tested firmware design depends on the complexity of the desired product. For instance, a simple switching function that depends on user input can be done in weeks, while the development of a network with tens of nodes communicating with each other will take months. In order to optimise development time we have at our disposal a library of various ready-to-use solutions such as PWM control, analogue measurements, buck/boost regulation, communication interfaces (UART, I2C, SPI, etc.), communication protocols (DC-PLC, USB, DALI, TCP/IP, DMX, etc.) and others. To achieve the creation of efficient and safe firmware we are using the standard MISRA C:2012 during the design process.
FIRMWARE SOLUTION ANALYSIS
The analysis of a firmware solution is a fundamental step in the final design. It results in the estimation of hardware requirements, MCU selection and a flow chart. Customers are required to provide a list of features they expect the firmware to incorporate, based upon which the firmware designer will decide if it is suitable to use an MCU. If so, the designer will go on to provide an analysis of the solution including an estimated memory size and details of any peripheral units that may be needed, such as communication interfaces, pulse width modulators, timers, analogue measurements, etc., as well as the size of the required MCU (the number of pins). The next step is to select a suitable MCU. At this point, the customer may request that a particular manufacturer be chosen. The final step is to prepare the firmware flow chart, which simply outlines the firmware solution, similar to the schematics of a hardware design.
Complete firmware design for prototype device
Once the firmware solution has been analysed and all subsequent output prepared, the next phase is to design the firmware itself. This will result in a functional prototype that can be tested and all corresponding documentation. Firmware design can be compared to PCB routing in hardware design. The firmware designer uses ready-to-use functional blocks or creates completely new ones and then defines the relationships between the blocks. The outcome of this stage is functional firmware tested on a real prototype. Full documentation is now prepared, which includes source code, any necessary software tools and a comprehensive description of the design.
Full support and maintenance of firmware for serial production
There is a world of difference between firmware designed for a prototype device and that needed for serial production. For production, it is necessary to also take into consideration the workflow needed for the programming of devices. We can either provide device programming within our own facilities or prepare for you a programming tool that you can use in your own production facilities. It is common that, during the first months of use, some ‘bugs’ will appear, and you may also have ideas about how to improve the product. For this reason, we are also happy to correct and update firmware according to your needs and desires.
Software is the most important part of an overall system design as this is the only part the customer really sees. There are hundreds of thousands of software programs on the market that can do almost anything you could desire, yet, these programs are so diversified and specified that it is near impossible to find one that does everything you need in one package, necessitating the creation of something precisely tailored to your needs. Our software design engineers have extensive and wide-ranging experience in the design of all types of software. We are able to design software for any PC or portable device platform and can provide truly tailored solutions for any kind of control software in cooperation with our hardware and firmware designers. Our quality outputs are characterised by their usability, portability, maintainability, reliability and security. Using smart programming approaches, we are able to develop qualitative software solutions within very short timeframes. Furthermore, we use proven design patterns to ensure best practice and rapid development. Alongside this, we use the Unified Modelling Language (UML) to allow us to combine techniques from data, object and component modelling. We also use refactoring to make future modifications updates easier and faster to implement.
Software brings added value to a product when it precisely meets customer needs, and can, if appropriate, be controlled and set-up remotely. Its effective design and operation will minimise hardware requirements and maximise performance.
Labware is a specific kind of software that automates operations in laboratories or in industry applications, controls machines and measuring instruments, and acquires data and process it. Our solutions are based on the LabVIEW development environment, which enables short development cycles, user-friendly GUI design and a large number of libraries for data acquisition, data processing, data generation, mathematics, statistics, etc. LabVIEW (Laboratory Virtual Instrument Engineering Workbench) is a development environment for a visual programming language from National Instruments. It is widely used for instrument control, data acquisition or industry automation. Another advantage is that all hardware provided by National Instruments is supported by LabVIEW and using this hardware, the development cycle is even shorter. LabVIEW-based applications are very useful in data acquisition, where data acquisition systems can be controlled via PC or can run as stand-alone applications. A large number of various measurement devices from different manufacturers can be integrated into the data acquisition system very effectively, making data processing a particular strongpoint of LabVIEW. A large set of functions for data processing and mathematical analyses enables fast implementation of the application. After acquisition and processing, data can be easily exported to reports. A very interesting option is connectivity with databases. To control fast processes, FPGA-based devices from National Instruments can be programmed by LabVIEW with outstanding performance. For industrial automation, LabVIEW offers machine control and machine vision. Another noteworthy possibility is the development of LabVIEW device drivers. With all these features, we are offering complete turnkey solutions for fully automated customer defined measurement and process units.
Data acquisition systems
Data acquisition systems are responsible for measuring and sampling electrical or physical quantities and their consecutive processing. A complete data acquisition system is composed of sensors, measurement hardware and a computer with programmable software. Such a solution is powerful, flexible and cost effective.
Automatic measuring systems
Automatic measuring systems are useful when large numbers of electrical or physical quantities need to measured, necessitating the use of many different data acquisition devices. It is possible to synchronise the functions of all devices using a programming environment. The basic steps involved in this synchronisation are the setting of hardware parameters, acquisition of data, evaluation of that data and the creation of a measurement report.
Instrument control and device driver development
Device drivers act as the software interface with the hardware device and should contain all the functions implemented within the device. The main purpose of the driver is to create a higher-level application without requiring that users have detailed knowledge of the device hardware.
Data processing, mathematical analysis and storage
Data acquisition is the term used for the process of manipulating data in various ways in order to obtain meaningful results. These manipulations include mathematical calculations, signal processing and report generation.
Machine control and vision
Machine vision is a technology used for automated inspection of and within industrial processes to achieve higher product quality. Other uses include the control of production processes and industrial robots. Machine control and vision ensures high industrial process throughput and reduced production costs.
Complete turnkey solutions (fully automated customer defined measurement and process units)
Complete turnkey solutions can be realised in one project. The project includes the hardware, firmware programming of the designed hardware, development of a device driver to act as the interface between the hardware and higher-level application and development of the control application.
Electronic design review
Electronic design is not always a simple task. The performance of an electrical device is influenced by many factors such as the selection of components, their combination and placement on the PCB, routing on the PCB, interference from the environment, ambient temperature, and many other factors. There are some basic principles that you can learn but the real master of electronic design firstly needs to be experience. Problems connected with electronic design are likely to repeat; therefore, you do not have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ because we can solve the problem with you and save your time. Our team consists of highly-experienced hardware design engineers who are available to help customers build high-performance and reliable systems. We can help you to create custom designs based on experience and knowledge. Such support includes the provision of reference designs, detailed device and system design rules, design reviews and general advice. Integration support is aimed to provide customers with direct access to our engineers who can provide immediate assistance during the integration phase of a product. Typical problems faced are configuration, connection, system performance and general system behaviour issues, although we are here to help with any problems that may arise. Thanks to our well equipped, ESD protected laboratory we are able to quickly test and diagnose the source of a problem. Our long-term partnership with component manufacturers allows us to consult your difficulties directly with their application engineers, thus rapidly shortening the time needed to find a solution. Our engineers have a great amount of practical and real world experience that they are open to share with customers. We can also provide support via an email hotline, the phone or face-to-face consultation.
Inspection of electronic designs during the development process can uncover potential weak points and risk areas, which should be treated carefully by a responsible and experienced developer. During the electronic design review, we provide the results of our extensive knowledge and expertise. This will considerably shorten the development process as well as help designers avoid problematic or clumsy solutions. Based on the advice we offer during consultation, the development of electronic devices will proceed in an optimal way thanks to the use of already proven and tested design blocks.