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Say goodbye to 'tooling up'

Posted: 19 Jun 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:design innovation  product design  design cycle  innovation 

This latter point is a crucial one. When we take away the freedom to easily explore ideas, the first casualty is innovation.

You then find that it is too time-consuming and too expensive to tool up for each device you want to explore, so you artificially restrict your choices. In doing so, you perhaps miss out on potential benefits that the latest devices and technologies can offer.

The problem here, particularly creating tomorrow's connected designs (which are the ones that people will want to buy) is that you're doing design backwards.

Take a higher level, holistic view of the aims of the entire product design experience. Reassess the design processes you use and how they map into today's technology and your customer's needs.

Forget the hardware
This leads to a few fundamental concepts that challenge the status quo. Forget the hardware and start with the software, where the functionality lies. Remove the constraints the old approach imposes on exploring innovative solutions.

Move to design systems centred on the soft domain, but without any particular allegiance to any particular device, so you have a design sandbox with which to innovate, explore and evaluate your design ideas.

This holistic approach to electronics design lets you explore ideas at a high level, where the underlying hardware complexity is automatically dealt with by a high level of design abstraction.

In such an environment, the required hardware and devices are simply 'plugged in' to the system when needed, so you can remain focused on developing innovative functions in the soft domain.

Now you can remove the cumbersome 'tooling up' process that delays and constrains the traditional design process. By using software layers to disconnect the design from the hardware and devices on which it resides, this single tool environment becomes the centre of the product design process, regardless of the underlying hardware.

Imagine also the benefits of interfacing this single, centralised design system with a 'plug and play' hardware development system that allows you to quickly swap between devices and peripheral hardware at will. Since the matching tool system isolates the design from the underlying hardware, making the core design portable, the overall development system can be independent of device and vendor.

The result is a single, flexible design environment that does not force you to choose hardware and 'tool up' at the beginning of the design cycle. These choices can happen down the track, when the design's functionality has been developed to a point where suitable devices, peripheral hardware and even development boards can be plugged in and explored. In other words, when the design requirements are actually known rather than estimated or worse, guessed.

With this approach, you are working with a single design environment that centres on the vital 'soft' core of electronic product design. Design becomes a holistic process that allows you to consider the entire product and its user experience, exploring different design ideas and technologies on an unrestricted, blank design canvas.

Such a design environment frees you to develop the innovative functionality that leads to unique, competitive products. You can get on with the real job without tool or hardware constraints, using a single centralised system and one consistent design interface.

Tooling up is no longer an issue, design options expand, and the potential to explore new technology is now wide open. Welcome back creativity and innovation in electronics design.

-Rob Irwin, Product Marketing Manager
Altium Designer Tools, Altium Ltd

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