Are you ready to delve into the world of electronic hardware design? As an electrical engineer, you will create the electronic components and systems that power our everyday products. From consumer electronics to medical devices, automotive systems, aerospace and defense applications, industrial automation, and renewable energy, electrical hardware design plays a massive role in our lives. In this article, we will learn about electrical hardware design use cases, potential challenges designers may encounter, and the tools required to become a competent electronic hardware designer. So, let’s get started!
What is Electrical Hardware Design?
Electrical hardware design entails Creating a comprehensive schematic or diagram that depicts the physical architecture and connections of electronic components and systems. In addition, the procedure involves the creation of electrical circuits, selecting suitable parts, and integrating them into a system that meets specific performance requirements.
Use Cases of Electrical Hardware Design
The following are the areas in which electrical hardware design is applicable:
1. Consumer Electronics:
Consumer electronics are the most common use case for electrical hardware design. Electrical engineers play a crucial role in designing the electronics that power these products, from smartphones to smart home devices to gaming consoles. Electrical hardware design impacts everything from the performance and reliability of these devices to their safety and compliance with regulations. For example, electrical engineers must design circuits and power supplies that can handle high-performance computing demands while ensuring that the device is safe and compliant with regulations.
2. Medical Devices:
Another significant application for the creation of electrical hardware is medical devices. Electrical engineers create the electronics that power these devices, allowing them to carry out essential medical functions, including imaging equipment, surgical robots, and pacemakers. Medical gadget reliability and safety are of utmost importance, and proper electrical hardware design is essential to ensure these devices work as intended. Electrical engineers, for instance, must create circuits that can precisely monitor and react to physiological signals while ensuring the device is secure and compliant with rules.
3. Automotive Systems:
Electrical hardware design is crucial in the field of automotive systems as well. Electrical engineers create the electronics that power these systems, allowing them to carry out essential functions in everything from engine control systems to driver assistance features to infotainment systems. Safety and reliability are critical in automotive systems because any malfunction or failure could have detrimental effects. Everything from a vehicle’s emissions and fuel economy to the occupant’s safety and comfort can be affected by the architecture of its electrical hardware.
4. Aerospace and Defense:
Another application field where electrical hardware design is crucial is aerospace and defense. Electrical engineers create the electronics that fuel these systems and give them the ability to carry out essential functions in satellite communications, missile guidance systems, or aircraft avionics. Reliability and performance are crucial in aerospace and defense uses, and electrical hardware design is essential to ensure these systems work as intended. Electrical engineers, for instance, must create circuits that can endure high temperatures, shock, and vibration while ensuring the system is secure and compliant with laws.
5. Industrial Automation:
Electrical engineers design the electronics that power these systems, allowing them to carry out essential functions in everything from manufacturing robots to process control systems to power distribution systems. Reliability and efficiency are critical in industrial automation apps because downtime or inefficiency can negatively affect output and revenue. In addition, the electrical hardware architecture can affect everything from these systems’ power consumption and efficiency to their safety and regulatory compliance.
6. Renewable Energy:
Electrical engineers create the electronics that allow these systems to collect, store, and disseminate renewable energy, whether in solar panels, wind turbines, or energy storage systems. Efficiency and dependability are essential in renewable energy because any energy loss or downtime can affect the system’s viability. The electrical hardware architecture can impact everything about these systems, including their productivity and output, as well as their safety and regulatory compliance.
Electrical hardware design is essential in the development and implementation of Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. The integration of different components such as sensors, microcontrollers, communication modules, and power management circuits requires careful consideration to ensure the device’s proper functioning. Electrical hardware designers need to consider factors such as power consumption, data transfer rate, sensitivity, accuracy, and communication range when designing IoT devices. Sensors are responsible for collecting data, microcontrollers process the data, communication modules allow the device to connect to the internet, and power management circuits ensure the device operates within the specified voltage range.
Potential Challenges when Designing Electrical Hardware
There are numerous difficulties that designers may need help with when designing electrical devices. The following are a few of the most typical problems:
1. System-level Requirements
Electrical systems can be intricate and comprise several subsystems, each with its own needs. Customers or end users usually define the system-level requirements, including functional, performance, and legal requirements.
Electrical hardware designers must thoroughly grasp the system architecture, subsystems, and individual components to meet the system-level requirements. To achieve the intended functionality and performance, they must ensure that every element complies with the needs and functions flawlessly as a unit. When building the system, the designers must consider aspects like electricity consumption, heat dissipation, and electromagnetic interference (EMI).
2. Component Acquisition
A further difficulty in designing electronic hardware is finding the required parts. Multiple vendors frequently help obtain electronic components, and each has its own wait times, costs, and stock levels. Furthermore, the market for electronic components is continuously changing, with the introduction of new elements phasing out of outdated ones.
Therefore, electrical hardware designers must study the electronic components market and keep up with the most recent technological trends to meet this challenge. Additionally, they must build relationships with dependable vendors and have backup strategies if a component stops working. Finally, the designers must also closely consider the cost of each element and balance it against the system-level requirements.
3. Computer Design Requirements
In addition to meeting the system-level requirements, electrical hardware designers must ensure that their designs meet the computer design requirements. This encompasses elements like EMI, heat dissipation, and power consumption. These requirements are fundamental in designing embedded systems since they usually have constrained power and thermal budgets.
Therefore, designers must meet the specifications for computer design to overcome this challenge and use specialized tools and methods to optimize their designs. These tools can include thermal and power usage simulation tools and EMI analysis tools for locating and reducing possible interference.
4. Life-cycle Support
Once an electrical hardware design is complete, it must require support throughout its entire life cycle. This necessity includes activities such as manufacturing, testing, and maintenance. However, life-cycle support can be challenging due to component obsolescence, changing regulatory requirements, and the need for ongoing testing and validation.
Therefore, electrical hardware designers must consider life-cycle assistance when creating their systems to overcome this difficulty. This action will entail choosing components with wide availability and a long lifespan and designing the system to be simple to manage and upgrade. In addition, the system must continue to meet the desired performance and usefulness, so the designers must stay current on regulatory requirements and frequently test the system.
5. Design Culture
The design culture encompasses the company’s general design ethos, communication and collaboration procedures, and design methodologies. In addition, an influential design culture can facilitate innovation, while a weak one can inhibit it.
Companies must cultivate a strong design culture promoting cooperation, innovation, and ongoing development to meet this challenge. This step may entail creating clear communication channels, supplying designers with training and development chances, and promoting the application of best practices and standardization.
6. Business Model
Finally, the business model can also present challenges in electrical hardware design. These are factors such as market demand, pricing, and competition. Electrical hardware designers must ensure that their products are available at a reasonable price while still providing the desired functionality and performance.
To overcome this obstacle, businesses must closely examine consumer demands and market trends to create goods that satisfy the market. Therefore, they can involve conducting market research, getting a firm comprehension of the competitive environment, and making pricing plans that balance profitability and cost. Companies also need to ensure that their designs are competitive in terms of both material and manufacturing expenses.
Tools for Electrical Hardware Design
Many tools are available to assist with the electrical hardware design process, making it easier and more productive for designers to complete their work. The following are some of the most typical tools used in the creation of electrical hardware:
1. Elecdes Design Suite (EDS):
Elecdes Design Suite (EDS) is a software program created especially for electrical engineering and electronic design. It offers schematic capture, component libraries, and automatic wire routing tools for making electrical and electronic systems. In addition, EDS can produce a few records, such as the Bill of materials (BOM), wiring lists, and cable schedules.
In addition, EDS is an effective instrument for designing electrical hardware because it accelerates design and lowers error rates. By automatically routing wires, it prevents short circuits and other problems and ensures they have the correct routing. Additionally, designers have access to various components thanks to EDS’ component libraries, which improves precision and saves time.
2. Siemens Software
Siemens offers software tools for designing electrical hardware, such as Solid Edge Electrical, specifically for creating electrical hardware, and NX Electrical Routing, a tool for routing electrical wires and harnesses. These software tools offer creators a variety of features, including automated routing, 3D modeling, and schematic capture.
Schematic capture, electrical design rule checking (DRC), and wire and harness design are just a few of the many tools offered by Solid Edge Electrical for electrical design. Additionally, it has a collection of electrical symbols and parts that can change shape to fit specific design specifications.
NX Electrical Routing is a 3D tool for routing electrical wires and harnesses. It gives designers the tools to make electrical cables and harnesses, change them, and automatically route them through 3D models. Advanced features like wire flattening, which enables designers to view and alter cables and harnesses in 2D, are also present in NX Electrical Routing.
3. Wire Cutters
You often require wire cutters to trim and strip wires when designing electrical components. There are diagonal cutters, needle-nose forceps, and wire separators among wire cutters. The diagonal edge is a wire cutter for severing wire and cable. They cut wire with minimal force and can cut it up to a specified gauge.
The function of needle-nose pliers is to manipulate and secure the wire. They are typically helpful in areas inaccessible to other instruments.
Wire strippers help remove the insulation from electrical wires. They are available in various diameters and can separate wires of multiple gauges.
Pliers are versatile instrument that is applicable for a variety of duties in the design of electrical hardware. They help grasp, bend, cut, and strip wire. There are numerous varieties of pliers, such as needle-nose pliers, lineman’s pliers, and slip-joint pliers.
Needle-nose pliers have long, pointed jaws. They help grasp and bend the wire in confined spaces.
In addition, these pliers have a cutting edge, a gripping surface, and a crimping surface. They help in cutting, removing, bending, and shaping wire.
On the other hand, the slip-joint pliers have adjustable jaws. In addition to grasping and bending wire, these tools can also cut and strip the wire for easy conduction.
Electrical hardware design also necessitates screwdrivers to tighten and loosen electrical component fasteners. Numerous types of screwdrivers are available, including flat-head, Phillips-head, and Torx.
A flat-bladed screwdriver is a variety of screwdriver with a flat head. They help in tightening and loosening single-slot fasteners.
Phillips-head screwdrivers have unique cross-shaped blades. They also help tighten and loosen cross-shaped slotted fasteners.
On the other hand, Torx screwdrivers have a star-shaped blade with six points. Frequently, they assist in tightening and loosening fasteners on electronic components and other precision equipment.
The use of hammers to drive nails and other fasteners into electrical components makes them valuable instruments for electrical hardware design. Various varieties of hammers are available, including claw hammers, ball peen hammers, and mallets.
Claw hammers have a flat, serrated face and a curved limb for extracting nails. They often help drive nails into timber and other materials.
Ball peen hammers’ flat faces and spherical peen distinguish them from other types. They help in shaping and forging metal.
Mallet blades comprise rubber or plastic, utilized frequently for pressing and shaping delicate materials.
7. Torpedo Level
A torpedo level is a small, compact instrument for ensuring that electrical components are in their precise location at the correct level. Typically, it helps determine the height of electrical receptacles and conduits.
Torpedo levels are available in various diameters and can be magnetic or nonmagnetic. Magnetic torpedo levels adhere to metallic surfaces, which is ideal for developing electrical components.
8. Allen Wrench Set (Hex Set)
A set of small, L-shaped Allen wrenches, also known as a hex set, helps secure and loosen hex bolts and screws. These bolts and screws are common in electrical components such as circuit boards and electronic enclosures.
Allen wrench sets typically consist of high-strength steel or other durable materials in various sizes.
9. Tape Measure
A tape measure is indispensable for designing electrical circuitry, as it measures distances and dimensions. There are a variety of sizes and lengths of retractable and nonretractable tape measures.
When not in use, retractable tape measures retract into a compact case, making them simple to transport and store.
10. Contactless Voltage Tester
A non-contact voltage tester is a device used to detect the presence of electrical voltage without making direct contact with the electrical component in question. This tool is essential for the design of electrical hardware, as it ensures proper wiring of elements and that no hazardous electrical currents are present.
Typically, non-contact voltage testers emit an audible or visible signal to indicate the presence of electrical voltage. They are simple to use and provide accurate readings, making them indispensable instruments for the design of electrical components.
What You Will Require to Become a Competent Electronic Hardware Design Engineer
You will need various technical and soft skills to become a competent electronic hardware design engineer. The following information explains some of these skills:
1. General programming language skills:
Since programming is crucial in designing electronic hardware, having a solid grasp of programming languages is essential. Furthermore, as an engineer, you should clearly understand the programming fundamentals, and you will need to create and comprehend code. Designing and creating electronic hardware and troubleshooting and resolving any issues that may emerge require the ability to read and write code.
In addition, proficiency in programming languages like C, C++, Python, and VHDL is necessary to create and develop electronic hardware. For instance, while C and C++ are essential to build embedded systems based on microcontrollers, VHDL is vital for creating digital circuits.
It takes original thinking and creativity to develop solutions to problems when developing electronic hardware. This demand necessitates the ability to think imaginatively and create unique solutions that meet the project’s requirements. Therefore, creativity is essential for building new goods or improving existing ones.
Moreover, your creativity will enable you to identify original approaches to problems, which could lead to superior designs and improved performance. Creativity can also help in the creation of products that are more appealing and user-friendly, which can increase their marketability and competitiveness.
3. Circuit board design skills:
The circuit board design produces the actual layout of electrical hardware, including the positioning and routing of components. For a skilled electronic hardware design engineer, using PCB design software, comprehending the various types of components, and knowing how to optimize the design for manufacturability, cost, and efficiency are all necessary.
The physical layout of electrical hardware requires knowledge of PCB design programs like Altium, Eagle, and KiCAD. In addition, making high-performance electronic hardware requires understanding circuit board design concepts like power distribution, signal integrity, and thermal management.
4. Communication skills:
A competent electronic hardware design engineer must have excellent communication skills to enable effective communication with team members, stakeholders, and customers. Communication skills include clearly articulating technical information, listening to feedback and ideas, and collaborating effectively.
Additionally, effective dialogue is crucial when presenting and explaining designs, resolving problems, and cooperating with others to complete projects. Writing concise and straightforward technical reports, necessary for capturing the design process and conveying the design to other team members, is another aspect of communication skills.
5. Soft skills:
Soft skills refer to interpersonal abilities like collaboration, leadership, time management, and problem-solving. These abilities are necessary for productive project management and effective collaboration with co-workers, stakeholders, and consumers.
Soft skills such as ingenuity, resilience, and adaptability can help engineers overcome obstacles and develop innovative solutions. In addition, strong relationships with co-workers and clients can result in more successful projects and job opportunities, so soft skills are crucial.
6. Engineering design expertise:
Engineering design expertise entails comprehending engineering design principles and using them to create electronic hardware goods. These skills include material, manufacturing, and design concepts.
Engineers capable of designing electrical hardware must use CAD software, carry out calculations and simulations, and comprehend the drawbacks and trade-offs of various design options. Additionally, they must easily spot possible issues and risks and work to address them while designing.
7. Critical thinking abilities:
These skills include the capacity to evaluate various options, analyze material, and come to well-informed conclusions. In addition, critical thinking abilities are crucial for assessing the viability of different design choices, spotting risks and issues, and choosing the best strategy to address design issues in electronic hardware design.
Troubleshooting and determining the underlying causes of issues are also critical thinking abilities. A competent electronic hardware design engineer must provide an adequate answer to a problem using logic to determine its root cause.
In conclusion, designing electrical hardware is a complex process that requires a wide range of abilities, resources, and information. To create electrical hardware that meets the desired performance and reliability criteria, it is imperative to possess the skills of evaluation of various design alternatives, analysis of materials, and well-informed judgment. However, anyone can grasp the required knowledge and equipment to become a proficient electrical hardware creator. Use your creativity, communication skills, and critical thinking abilities to develop a design that meets all system-level requirements while keeping up with the most recent technological trends and components.