The manufacturing of diverse hardware components has always been and will continue to be heavily influenced by hardware design. Having said that, the software presently dominates the process of embedded design, leading some professionals to think about the condition of the hardware design today.
Others are concerned that the platform-based design may make hardware designers obsolete and endanger the craft of the hardware design.
However, many variations are presently created by software difference, and many SoCs and ASSPs are being utilized like black boxes, that have certain hardware experts worried the hardware designers could go extinct.
Some people are also concerned that the industry of hardware design layout may soon be outsourced. Here, we’ll examine hardware design layout and its applicability to the society and economics of the present.
Hardware and Software Resources for Embedded Design
The time required for appropriate software development somehow has grown to account for the increasing burden because today’s gadgets provide more capabilities and features than at any time before.
The amount of man-hours spent on software development has increased dramatically over the past several years due to the adoption of touch screens for user input, cutting-edge graphical displays, including improved integrated control.
What is typical, however, might differ significantly from one project to another as well as sector to sector. For instance, to properly support extremely complex software, a significant military mission would necessitate the use of commercially available off-the-shelf technology.
As a result, it is highly possible that a higher number of software developers than the hardware engineers will be hired to work on this project. The contrast between hardware and software design efforts is going to be significantly different because a good number of consumer electronics devices created today are dependent on the custom-based hardware.
Additionally, it ought to be highlighted that the firmware updates may be used to update software, however it might be challenging or practically impossible to update the hardware which is currently in use. So, to future-proof any technology, additional work and money might be put into making sure the hardware gets optimized right from the start.
Is Hardware Design Layout Still important?
Although it’s true that software would always play a part in assuring the functionality of a particular device, hardware design and performance are still important considerations. For instance, to meet EMC criteria, quicker data processors and bus lines will demand hardware design inputs, improved PCB layouts, as well as other characteristics.
To provide yet another example, consider how susceptible analogue systems, such as sensors and audio signals, are to a digital interference. They must thus be very carefully incorporated inside the hardware like a safety measure.
As today’s electrical components are crammed with greater functionality, hardware designers must be increasingly more practical in the approach to a design idea; the majority of customers need a product which can complete all their everyday chores in a small, portable package.
To stop overheating, damage to hardware, and potential system failure, hardware designers must come up with new and inventive ways to cram more functionality in to the ever-shrinking devices. This will lead to new specifications for packaging as well as heat dissipation puzzles which they would have to solve.
What it means is that, it may be claimed that there hasn’t been a significant transition from hardware into software design. However, the complexity of today’s electronic devices has forced designers to consider a product’s overall design as a component of the entire process of development.
Hardware Design is always going to be Important
In contrast to software, which is useless alone without necessary hardware to operate it, hardware is going to maintain a position inside this electronics business. Therefore, there is presently no black box which can accommodate all product needs. As a result, the demand for and necessity for professional hardware designers really hasn’t decreased through time but rather changed.
Future hardware designers ought to be aware of the needs of its software counterparts as well as collaborate with them to complete difficult designs since performance optimization as well as power consumption would be given more importance.
In conclusion, product design necessitates collaboration between three specialist teams, such as the hardware, software, as well as the industrial design teams for fabricating products which are usable, suitable, as well as desirable for its designed purpose.
Challenges Faced During Hardware Design Layout
There isn’t any “undo” button
The main difficulty, in our opinion, is the absence of a “undo” key to help your work. When these boards are created, there is very little room for revision and adjustment. Obviously, a hole that has been drilled will stay a hole. I wish I could do what firmware engineers do, which is to push fresh releases regardless of when the product was already released.
The hardware engineer corresponds to chess players, always planning moves in order to stay afloat. There are no assurances that a specific prototype run for PCBs will function as intended, therefore the cost could reach ten thousands. There are innumerable mistakes that should be prevented along the route since even the smallest one might ruin the overall design.
Long cycle of development
In particular with regard to software and firmware, the development cycle for hardware is extremely lengthy. Hence, regardless of any faults that are detected, they really aren’t going to be solved quickly.
The stages of schematic design, the layout, Circuit board manufacturing, the assembly, the functional testing, as well as documentation all take place throughout a typical cycle for hardware development, which could last months. A software or firmware engineer might easily have many releases (in hundreds) at that same period which it would take for a hardware layout designer to produce an edition of such a board.
The field for hardware design layout is always developing, making it harder and harder to stay current. Hardware encompasses a wide range of areas, including severe conditions, long distances, high speeds, high power, computing, control (such as motors and valves), and sensors.
Moreover, brand-new subfields are emerging, like neural networks enabling object or keyword detection in video and audio streams. A fresh technology is continually emerging. It is crucial to be able to adjust and integrate novel technologies into designs in order to satisfy the clients’ weight, size, as well as performance objectives.
Choosing the appropriate component could prove to be a nearly impossible task. In Digikey, one resistor could have hundreds as well as thousands of different possibilities. Someone needs to be capable of quickly narrowing the alternatives down and choose the most appropriate component. This choice is made simpler if one sticks to the exact components for an extended period of time, however the designer would ultimately become outdated and then forced out of their marketplace by the new generation designers.
The days of an experienced engineer knowing all the crucial components by heart are long gone.
Manufacturers today change more quickly than ever before, introducing new goods all the time, retiring older ones, combining, and buying one another. The market is constantly being entered by new firms with cutting-edge technology at the very same time. Companies in the Far East are increasingly competing with cheap components. Because of how quickly things are changing, sometimes such parts don’t really have the correct datasheets. Luck with your design.
The complexity of technology is rising. Back in the early 1990s, it was possible to “learn” the 8051 processor’s complete datasheet. A typical 32-bit microcontroller nowadays has a specific datasheet that is over 2,000 pages long.
What portion of this truly can be committed to memory? You have two options at this point: learn how to do an information search, as well as read quickly. Now, there are so many more details to overlook. Yet, one must be able to comprehend how these components operate in order to customize them for a certain application. Copies of designs seen online as well as in the datasheets should never be made. Regardless of whether it succeeds, no new information or insight is acquired.
We see how this increased complexity affects every facet of the designs. The rest of the board used to be powered by 12VDC, as I recall. It dropped to 5VDC soon after I began and stayed like that for years.
The voltage then decreased once more to 3.3V, and then to 2.5V, then to 1.8V, and now we’re seeing components that only require 0.5V. Nowadays, it is not unusual for such a circuit board to contain many power rails that need to be correctly sequenced in order for such board as a whole to function. The challenge of creating reliable, clean power must have grown. To function properly at high clock rate, trace shape as well as length matching must be carefully regulated.
Achieving cost targets
Many designers take great satisfaction in creating goods of the highest caliber. Sometimes, this runs completely counter to the product’s cost (or other) needs. The designer will be compelled to make concessions in these circumstances. This appears in many forms, such as employing plastic gears in toys instead of metal ones.
Since this budget requires that the expenditure be prioritized, it makes no sense to employ expensive materials and switches in items with the low price objectives.
How long that product is anticipated to remain in demand, for example, might have an influence on the price needed. For all, the product’s uniqueness is not eternal; it will eventually become outdated as technology develops. The same holds true for products; no matter the way or beautifully they are made and constructed, they cannot endure forever. As a result, some people view the potential to save money presented by a product surviving substantially longer than it is desired. As a result, firms frequently aim for expenses that are linked to both the lifespan of the product as well as the psychological obsolescence.
Although the designer has little influence over this, it is still their responsibility to adapt. A huge obstacle might arise when attempting to design a good product and achieve this goal.
Four Elements of the Hardware Prototype
The majority of hardware devices we create typically include four different components:
- a container constructed of metal, plastic, or perhaps another material
- a pcb board, or more electrical parts
- The software, or firmware, of an electrical device
- Software, or the program that runs on a computer or mobile device to communicate with freshly created hardware
Unfortunately, not all these components are present in prototypes. For instance, the only component that would matter in an iPhone cover would be the plastic.
Or perhaps all you want to do is provide an instructional development kit (like the Arduino), in which case a software or case won’t be necessary.
This enclosure design of the hardware typically involves two steps.
The industrial designer of a design company should initially sketch out a number of potential designs for the product depending on the intended purpose. Many industrial designers draw the drawing by hand, although some utilize software.
It could take several designs to make sure your hardware enclosure doesn’t just match your concept but can also be manufactured. Before deciding on anything the customer actually wants, we often create four to five designs to get input.
We may forgo drawing refinement and merely work with the initial sketch whenever a client remains in the early phases of product creation and only need a minimal viable product or basic prototype to examine the use cases. Functionality is now more essential than looks, and introducing industrial design will just make the process more time-consuming and expensive for a person who merely needs it for tests.
A two-step design approach is frequently used to create your circuit board, which serves as the brain of your device. The research as well as development of the product comes first. Some of the goods we develop are completely original and cutting-edge. As a result, it is difficult for us to predict how long it’s going to take to test the idea before attempting to create it.
A demonstration of the idea is the next stage. Working in new terrain typically leads in a specific proof-of-concept which will test the technology and functionality of your product, but it won’t look anything like the finished product because we’ll probably utilize breadboards as well as off-the-shelf electrical components. The POC’s sole goal is to confirm that the idea of the product is possible given current technology capabilities. To obtain a POC, we’ll utilize jumper wires, sensors, microcontrollers, breadboards, as well as other electronic parts.
The software which gives the product life is called firmware. We essentially have to translate the product requirements to code in order to create it.
We have to program such function, for instance, if you’d like a blue light that turn on whenever the device gets connected. An LED can be turned on with relative ease, but if you add 50 more tasks that must be completed in a variety of circumstances, things may get complicated. Furthermore, the majority of programmers are aware of the time-consuming nature of such firmware design issues.
A program which enables the hardware to receive and send information through a connection and present it onto you and in any useable manner serves as the final component of the majority of modern hardware devices.
Typically, this is an application that operates on your PC, as well as the web, and applications running on the phone. For instance, Fitbit transmits your step counts to your phone via a wristband equipped with the microcontroller, battery, and accelerometer. This data is transformed into information that is helpful by the app on your device. To save battery life, you may adjust how frequently the band sends information into the phone using the program.
Consider bluetooth speakers as an example of a device that doesn’t always need a software program to function. You would just require firmware development if that were the case.
PCB design versus hardware design
Numerous engineers and company owners don’t completely comprehend what hardware design is and don’t distinguish it from PCB design.
They will occasionally inquire, “Can you create a PCB for our battery-powered sensor, BMS, as well as data logger?” They actually intend to ask if you can design a hardware for their product having the XYZ functionality.
These questions may be asked often by various IT consulting firms. What distinguishes PCB design from hardware design, then?
How does hardware design work?
Hardware design refers to the process in which the engineer chooses the parts and designs the circuit for every single feature that must be included inside the product. You also perform a preliminary cost analysis of the BOM to ensure that such hardware design will adhere to the targeted manufacturing cost.
Also, you must have a document which describes the specifications for a product or board for this step to be successful.
What Does Schematic Capture Mean?
This is simply a digital version of a circuit that may be used to construct a PCB. There are three components to this stage:
- development of schematic symbols
- designing the circuit and
- doing evaluations
What Does PCB Designing Mean?
There are 4 components to this stage:
To decrease iterations and reviews, certain complicated designs require an additional step of EMI/SI analysis. They include: footprint development, component arrangement, and circuit board layout.
In actuality, hardware design simply includes schematic capture plus PCB design. The information above is presented at high level; perhaps, it was clear and helpful to some.
For those with little expertise in hardware design layout and development, understanding how the entire process operates may be extremely difficult. They believe that if you design a hardware, create a prototype, test it, so it works the first time, everyone will desire this.
Who are Hardware Designers?
It is the job of the hardware engineer or designer to create, test, and construct the hardware systems which are utilized by the computer users. Although several hardware types might well be employed, their fundamental functions are identical. To determine hardware requirements and create product designs, they often collaborate with the development team.
This process of creating and designing computer-related systems and components is known as hardware design layout engineering. Hardware design layout engineering can make any system’s software work smoothly. Many components are thoroughly analyzed and tested during this procedure.
Processors, sensors, as well as circuit boards are some of the several components which constitute the hardware design of a computer system. Hardware design layout engineering includes testing the components in addition to designing them to make sure they function properly.
Software engineers and the hardware design layout engineer might operate in distinct capacities, despite the fact that both professions demand differing degrees of expertise. Whereas the hardware engineer may create different physical structures, the software engineer may design and create software applications.
The time required for appropriate software development somehow has grown to account for the increasing burden because today’s gadgets provide more capabilities and features than at any time before. It is the job of the hardware engineer or designer to create, test, and construct the hardware systems which are utilized by the computer users. As today’s electrical components are crammed with greater functionality, hardware designers must be increasingly more practical in the approach to a design idea. Hardware design layout refers to the process in which the engineer chooses the parts and designs the circuit for every single feature that must be included inside the product. You also perform a preliminary cost analysis of the BOM to ensure that such hardware design will adhere to the targeted manufacturing cost.