At Voler Systems we specialize in sensors, motion control, wireless, and medical device product design. We love hard problems, good design, good coffee, and cool hardware gadgets. We love to design!
Sometimes the hardest design problems are the most interesting. Here’s how we approach the hard ones.
Understand the problem and the tools
Electronic design is more than just making something work. Successful design means meeting the client’s needs. In a complex design this involves making trade-offs and finding the best balance of components, power usage, and cost. We begin with an in-depth understanding of the client’s business objectives and intended use. Then we apply that understanding through our deep knowledge of analog circuitry, FPGA, microprocessors, and firmware. With this expertise, we can make the design decisions that best align with your goals.
This is how we succeed where other design teams may have failed. A client came to us with a complex medical instrument for liquid biopsies. We applied our deep knowledge of sensors, sensor calibration, and good low-noise-design principles to build a very complex 96-channel platform.
Identify the risks early
Most designers put off any unclear or unknown parts of the design to last. This often leads to unpleasant surprises near the end of the design project. A serious design obstacle may mean reworking parts of the design, wasting time and money. It may even mean abandoning the project, either because it was never feasible to begin with or because it is simply too expensive.
We dig deep to make sure we fully understand the requirements before we start the design, then we address the risky areas first. If some of the unknowns are risky enough, we address them as a separate proof of concept or feasibility study phase of the project, before we even begin the full project.
One such feasibility study helped a company without an in-house hardware team take their hardware product from concept to prototype product quickly and within a limited budget. Voler provided the electronic design including the wireless communication for the project. The project was a monitoring system to assist with maintenance of automatic electronic defibrillators. We ran a proof of concept on a couple of design methods, learned what worked and what didn’t, and saved the customer time and money.
Create a plan
Once we have a clear picture of the project we can quickly create an accurate plan with detailed deliverables, dates, and costs. Our project plans include:
- Problem statement, including the issues and tradeoffs involved with your project based on your discussions with the consultant and our feasibility tests.
- Outline spelling out the project deliverables.
- Information and key decisions that we need from you to complete the project.
- Roadmap of the anticipated project stages and completion dates, so you know how it will all work.
As we progress from concept to prototype, every week we send each customer a spreadsheet (see example weekly status spreadsheet) which shows the cost and schedule milestones, and compares the cost and schedule against those in the plan. We have an internal review meeting each week, and, with any significant sized project, we have a weekly meeting with the customer. The number one question that we address in our internal review meeting is, “What risks are there that would keep us from meeting our plan?” It could be technical risk, schedule risk, or budget risk. We assess those risks and communicate them to you in our reports.
Communication, planning, and honest assessments of our progress are the things that set us apart from our competitors.