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Expanding efficiency with rapid prototyping

Posted: 21 Jan 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Electronics design  rapid prototyping  unified design  design process 

Douglas: Can rapid prototyping be seriously considered for reducing development time and costs, and more importantly, expanding market position?

R&D departments worldwide are reevaluating where their productivity can be increased and design costs reduced. Managers are turning towards new design strategies that can be incorporated to boost productivity and focus back on exploring and experimenting.

Electronics design is perhaps even more of a necessity in the current business climate of hiring freezes and reduced operating budgets. The various ways of performing rapid prototyping are suddenly getting a fresh look.

Can rapid prototyping be seriously considered for reducing development time and costs, and more importantly, expanding market position? It's a good time to take this idea on another road test.

The idea of prototyping has been in the industry a long time, and it hasn't exactly been a push-button process. First, the disconnected nature of most EDA tools in the industry has resulted in a myriad of differing types of design data that must be waded through, organised and managed.

Then there are the vast amounts of revision files from doing simple product variations. Complicated software configuration management systems are often needed just to manage it all. Creating a working prototype and the inevitable design re-spins usually results in a process that takes too long and is ineffective.

Instead, let's consider what can be done with a more unified design perspective and rapid prototyping. What can be done when engineers are allowed to explore innovation instead of just managing complexities, using a single design environment and data model, start to finish, for their product creations? Can it become a more automated process?

This search turned up some compelling results. Here's one example, a designer of high-end audio systems and multimedia products. When they adopted a design process based on a unified environment linked to a rapid prototyping development board, it resulted in layout times for PCBs that went from one month to days, and design throughput that doubled.

Investigating why rapid prototyping was so successful in this instance underscores the importance of considering fresh ways of thinking about what is required to get a design to manufacture sooner.

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