Voler provided component selection and evaluation, prototype and production board design for an innovative webcam design. Voler partnered with a client in finding a solution to transfer the design to an overseas manufacturer that produces the production board inexpensively and with high quality.
Different parts from the webcam design can be used to explain the process of component selection that makes up the design. In a system design project, you are faced with three broad categories of components:
- Leading edge products
- Mature products
- Standard products
With extreme leading edge components, sometimes called cutting edge, you can differentiate your product. These components may be expensive or lack full documentation; however they can provide a leading edge, higher performance or lower cost than your competitors. Careful consideration and risk assessment is required when choosing these parts. There is a risk that you may encounter unforeseen problems in the early stages of the product release. This risk is managed with thorough evaluations and prototype designs.
A couple leading edge chips were chosen on the webcam design. Vimicro is a highly integrated interface chip between the USB interface and the camera, and OmniVision is a leading edge camera chip. These parts made it possible to introduce a very high quality webcam at a lower price point. We provided a proactive solution, managing the critical details with suppliers who were slow to provide the needed information. We followed up until we received their datasheet, a development board, samples and technical support for functionality not documented in their datasheet.
Most of the parts used are mature components. They have commodity pricing, clear documentation, and predictable schedules. The parts usually have me-too performance. For the regulator, a very mature product was chosen. It had the performance needed and is a very reliable, low risk part.
Standard components are those that fall in the middle. They may have some challenges but usually the problems are known and work-arounds or fixes are defined to take care of them. There is some risk when choosing these parts if you are using them in novel ways to differentiate your product. It is critical to prototype to make sure make the new approach works.
This approach was used with the flex board. One innovative aspect to this design was the requirement for the camera to move in and out. A flexible circuit board is commonly used in places where the circuit board needs to bend. Typically you make it bend once and that shape is retained. Inside a laptop you find some flexible circuit boards, which do not move, and once they bend, they remain in that shape. With this design every time you slide the camera in or out the board bends and slides. This required a very rugged, flexible board. Additionally, because the camera chip has to be mounted very precisely with the lens, the camera chip could not move while the rest of the board was bending back and forth.
A hundred microns difference in how it is mounted to the lens will change the focus noticeably. The flexible circuit board was designed with a rigid part where the camera chip is mounted. The flexible circuit board is not cutting edge technology. It is used in many of our everyday products like laptops and cell phones. However there are unique requirements that have to be well thought out and tested.
At Voler, we provide a one-stop shop for high quality product development, including assistance with the selection of the components and design of the boards. Our design team prototypes and evaluates parts to manage risk that will avoid unplanned, unhappy surprises at the end. We considered chip maturity, availability, manufacturability, features and pricing when selecting components for the webcam system. Innovative products require a mix of components. Voler provides strategic insight and careful design rigor through prototyping and evaluation to the component selection process. Our careful design results in huge increased savings for our customers. We catch problems before they cause high-cost revisions and delays in manufacturing. The correct choice of components can save the entire cost of our services for a high volume part.