Author: Robert Footitt

Ilkeston lad through and through!

Outsourcing Electronic Design Projects

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electronic-design

electronic-design

Electronic design projects usually use a group of software tools in the design of electronic systems including integrated circuits, printed circuit boards and electronic products from appliances to weapons. Suffice it to say that the technology is a crucial component of the manufacturing process across diverse industries.

But not every company has the capability in technologies, manpower and resources to undertake projects on their own, thus, the necessity for outsourcing. In itself, outsourcing has several benefits including tapping into the proven technologies, manpower and networks of the third-party provider and enjoying the desired results, which translates to excellent value for the money. Then again, outsourcing has many pitfalls wherein anything and everything can go wrong – and in sensitive projects involving electronic design, something going wrong can quickly become a nightmare.

The benefits of outsourcing design projects will then partly be determined by the quality (i.e., experience and expertise, reliability and reputation) of the engineering firm hired for the purpose and partly by the quality of coordination each party has with the other. Start asking for references for the best engineering firms in the industry and then make your choice from the shortlist after careful consideration of their suitability for the project.

Companies offering electronic design projects for outsourcing should be aware of three dangers in the process. First, the lack of familiarity between the two parties specifically in their operations will hinder the design process in so many ways – the right results may not be delivered in the right time to the right person, for example. Your company may not be familiar with the engineering firm’s processes in design projects and vice versa.

Second, the lack of preparation on the part of the company outsourcing the design work will jeopardize the entire project, too. Keep in mind that the company must have a project plan including detailed functional specifications before the project can be handed over, so to speak, to the contractor. Otherwise, mistakes will abound and reworks will be necessary, which will add to the overall costs – truly, something that any company will want to avoid.

Third, the lack of a written agreement (i.e. formal contract) can result in several disagreements, if not lawsuits. Intellectual property rights (i.e., who owns what part of the project) are thorny issues that every company outsourcing its electronic design projects must be aware of.

When any of these things manifest themselves, both the company and the contractor will have to deal with a wide range of issues. Think of incorrect results, inappropriate specs, and innumerable reworks, which are relatively mild in comparison with stolen design ideas, industry espionage, and violations of intellectual property rights.

Fortunately, these are issues that can be avoided with careful planning even before the electronic design project is outsourced. Do your homework on the specs for the project and the contractor for it. Work with the contractor on every aspect of the project so that mistakes can be detected and resolved early on. Get the terms and provisions of the project in writing.

How Mechanical Design Will Always Be Relevant

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Mechanical Design

With the modern age becoming increasingly digital, one of the questions we at RF3 Design Ltd is whether the mechanical design work we do is getting less in demand. This isn’t at all the case, for a couple of very important reasons. Today we’re taking a few minutes to tell you why good old fashioned hardware will never die out:

Mechanical Design: Analogue Machinery in the Digital Age

Mechanical Design DerbyIt’s likely that you’re working much more with digital equipment these days, but the fact remains that without good old fashioned mechanical design, our lives would be vastly different – and much more inconvenient – than they are.

It’s worth remembering that without their mechanical parts, your digital tech wouldn’t exist. Everything from the processor that works as the brain for every piece of electronic equipment to the accelerometer that tells your phone whether it’s being held portrait or landscape is a part of mechanical design. Almost every single industry sector there is has essential machinery in a full analogue state – from the handyman’s drill to the life-saving diagnostic equipment in your local hospital.

There are also many places in which digital tech can be cheaper, quicker and easy to use – but still doesn’t perform as well or just doesn’t feel right. There are many professional photographers, even those young enough to have always lived in a world where digital photography has always been the industry standard, who continue to use film because somehow it just looks better. As we posted last month, many music production studios use equipment which should, by now, be archaic, because it simply creates sounds more appealing to the human ear that digital counterparts can.

Also, don’t forget that every piece of digital technology – the laptop or desktop computer that you keep in the office, the tablet you have to keep you informed when you’re on the road, and the phone you use when your children have “borrowed” your tablet to watch Spongebob or Dexter, were all created on a production line by mechanical robots.

We need it.

How Bad Electronic Design Invented Rock n Roll

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Musicians are weird. Back in the early days of electrical music amplification, the aim of amplifiers was to increase the volume of instruments without adding or taking away any tone. Vacuum tubes, or valves, we used. These glass tubes waste energy by creating both light and heat – they also changed the tone of the instruments. Theoretically speaking, this is an example of awful electronic design. It was thought of as a terrible problem until the birth of rock music, which actually took the inaccurate tone amplification, or ‘distortion’, and sought to not only utilise it but extend it. Guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townsend of the Who and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin were pioneers of distorted guitar tones. By the time component manufacture caught up – transistors and integrated circuits, or ICs, developed in recent decades can reproduce the actual tone of an electric guitar very accurately – rock music had become so dependent on valve tone that valves are still used in guitar amps – and, indeed, vastly preferred over transistors.

How Inefficient Electronic Design Makes Rock Records sound Awesome

Electronic DesignThe strange thing is that it’s not just rock guitar amps which use valve technology. Every professional recording studio will use valves in their production hardware – even computer based genres like house, trance and sample-driven hip-hop. This is because specialist music production hardware such as compressors (which reduce the dynamic between loud and quiet signals) and graphic EQs (which boost some frequencies and reduce others) simply sound better when valves are introduced. Something about this inefficient – and, by now, archaic – technology appeals to the human ear that modern transistors, ICs and software doesn’t. There’s no scientific reason why this is the case, but industry experts and casual listeners all seem to agree – a vacuum tube is the best sounding form of amplification there is.

The lesson learned here? With a little creative problem solving, you can make your technological limitations work to your advantage.

Using Electronic Design to Further Your WiFi

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electronic Design

It seems like the ultimate First World Problem – WiFi speeds and reach don’t always match our expectations. However, especially in the business world, speed and efficiency are the lifeblood of your organisation, and can make the difference between a good working environment and a very good working environment. At home, strong, broad WiFi signal can mean fewer arguments – the kids can stream media, Skype, download and browse to their heart’s content all at the same time, while you relax with your tablet or laptop elsewhere, winding down after a hard day. Compare this to rows over usage, speeds, and having to listen to complaints of slow speeds and limited range. The electronic design of new tech means that gadgets are available to tackle even the most demanding household’s WiFi needs – let’s have a look at how it does so.

How Good Electronic Design Keeps You Surfing Quicker

Electronic DesignThis image shows how most people see their human needs according to Maslow’s scale. It is of course mean as a joke, but it does point out how important WiFi is to our society. Electronic design behind a range of boosters, amplifiers and extenders means that you can browse quicker and further from your wireless router thanks to the following factors:

1. Premium Components

That free router you got with your broadband package probably isn’t of the highest quality, especially from smaller broadband providers. Especially for budget packages, your router will have been manufactured as cheaply as possible, which means the cheapest components were used in the router’s circuitry. Premium routers available from computer stores will offer much better range and speed because they use the best components.

2. Research and Development

The reason that premium manufacturers’ products are more expensive is because they need to offset their R&D costs. This involves the company paying electronic specialists to research new technologies, components and techniques to create better products. When the ‘copycat’ brands bring out cheaper variations, it’s because they’ve simply copied these premium brands’ products – which is why they’re always released some time after the premium brands.

Electronic Design in a New Product – RF3 Design Derby

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Electronic DesignA new electrical product can have everything going for it – strong marketing, little direct competition, and a good visibility campaign, but if its electronic design isn’t absolutely perfect, then the product could be victim to faults, unnecessarily expensive components, or heat and power problems which can cause a product to fail. Electronic design is essential to make sure that an electrical product can be produced as cheaply and is as economical with its power consumption as possible.

Electronic Design – Simplicity and Innovation is Key

There have been many cases of product competition in which electronic design is responsible for sinking one product and making the other successful. Let’s have a brief look at two battles:

Power Consumption: GameBoy vs. Game Gear

Once upon a time, Sega was a powerful enough hardware producer that its MegaDrive system competed comfortably with Nintendo’s SNES console. However, its handheld game console, the Game Gear, could not compete with Nintendo’s GameBoy console for one main reason: its massive power consumption. It required 6 AA batteries, which would deliver only 3-5 hours of gaming. Although the Game Gear offered features the GameBoy didn’t – a full-colour, backlit screen, for instance – the GameGear was too expensive to run, and disappeared while Nintendo’s handheld range is still going strong with the DS and 3DS range of handheld consoles.

Lack of Processing Power – iPhone vs Blackberry

The iPhone range has a lot of flaws – its constant refreshing and repackaging of hardware has led many people to be very skeptical about buying one – but iPhone sales vastly beat RIM’s BlackBerry range. This is because, at least until recently, BlackBerry phones simply couldn’t compete with iPhone’s processing abilities. Inadequate electronic components brought the BlackBerry range to the brink of extinction – however, RIM’s new range appears able to compete. Time will tell.

Put simply, with a little better electronic design, BlackBerry may never have been threatened with extinction and we still might be using Sega hardware. Don’t let your products be the victim of bad electronic design!

RF3 Product Design Derby – Why You Buy an iPad Every Year

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Derby Product Design

Here’s a shocking statistic; if you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of people who bought the highest model of each version of Apple’s iPad on launch (including the Mini varieties), you’ve given the company $5833 –  around £3600. That’s quite a lot for a product that can’t do anything even the most basic modern laptop can do. So – why do you keep buying the new version of the iPad every year? RF3 Product Design Derby are on the case to show you how this blend of design and marketing work to lighten your wallet so effectively.

RF3 Product Design Derby – Why Design and Marketing Go Hand in Hand

product design derbyThe old product design adage is that “if companies spent as much on their products as they did on advertising, they wouldn’t need to advertise”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Without Apple’s masterful marketing campaigns it wouldn’t be able to even attempt market dominance against Google, Samsung and Amazon. However, by using masterfully selected product placement in TV, movies and music videos, as well as minimalist, humanist advertising, inspired in no small part by founder Steve Job’s famous “reality distortion field” – a mix of laser-like business acumen and Jedi mind trickery – Apple has established itself as a true market leader, able to command retail prices in excess of 150% of its closest competitor.

Brand loyalty plays a big part – by keeping its advertising tone aloof but accessible to the everyman, many people who don’t know much about technology simply bought an iPad because that’s what they saw advertised on the telly, and have staunchly stuck with a brand they know and are comfortable with.

But isn’t the iPad 2 – only 2 years old and still in production – good enough? Why did you buy the iPad Mini, and then the iPad Air when it came out recently?

By increasing the quality of the points on its tech every year – an upgrade from an iSight camera to a FaceTime HD camera, for instance, or the A6 chip to the A7 – makes the increase in spec tantalisingly effective, as well as the fact that, since last year’s tech still commands a decent resale value, you don’t have to put up the whole price of the new gear.

Smallish but technically substantial, regular updates – that’s how you can really milk your market without leaving them feel swindled.

Dignity and Disability Products – How Product Design Helps Disabled People

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Disability Design

Creating disability products presents a unique set of challenges, not least of which is making sure that the products designed make the target customer’s life easier while maintaining their dignity. The advancement of education, science and technology has meant that people with special requirements can keep their independence. Disability aids generally fall into two categories; mechanical and electronic.

Mechanical Disability Products

Disability ProductsThese products are often very simple, serving a specific purpose. The prime example is the Helping Hand – a simple extending grabber which allows people in wheelchairs to reach and carefully move items around their home and work. There couldn’t be a simpler concept – squeeze the trigger and two prongs move together – but there are quite specific design points to consider in order to make sure the end users’ needs are fully satisfied. Materials used, resistance in the mechanism, and extra features like extendability all need considering as they could mean the difference between a product dominating the target market, or making a financial loss.

Electronics

Electronic disability aids can range from the relatively simple – a panic button in wardened accommodation, for instance – to the incredibly complex, such as a dialysis machine or similar life-saving medical equipment, which can cost millions. All of them are designed with the dignity of the user in mind. Medical equipment is created to serve its purpose in as comfortable and unobtrusive a way as possible, even when the functions they serve are complex.

Unless disability aids take care to maintain the dignity of its target audience, the chances of its success on today’s saturated marketplace are extremely low. When designing these products it can be easy to become blinkered by simply solving the problem in the design brief, but it’s important to take a step back and consider the target audience as a person – both morally and commercially.

How Apple’s Product Design Made Steve Jobs Billions

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Product Design

Think of a technology brand.

You’re thinking of Apple.

RF3 Product Design Derby Analyses Apple

Product Design DerbyApple’s product design and marketing have become textbook examples of how companies need to operate. Their marketing plans have become tech startup companies’ Bibles, and Steve Jobs has passed into business legend. But how did they do it?

Let us count the ways.

1. Leadership

Steve Jobs may have been ejected from the company by Apple’s board of directors in 1985 due to conflicts, but a close brush with bankruptcy led them to install him as acting CEO. Under his leadership, Apple started turning amazing profits by 1998. Under his watch, Apple created designer technology equipment such as the iPod. Microsoft, on the other hand, failed to crack into the market with its Zune products because of a feeling of inferiority and Johnny-Come-Lately imitation by the public. Had Microsoft come up with the idea first, who knows how different the portable music player landscape would be?

2. Design Identity

As soon as you pick up an Apple product, you know where it’s from. Uniform use of the Myriad Pro typeface, a ubiquitous colour and material uniform in all of its laptop and desktop products, and strict design laws mean that you know exactly what any Apple product is without even having to think about it. Other laptop, desktop and music player manufacturers can only dream of such brand awareness.

3. Clique Appeal

It’s difficult to get in with the cool kids, but through product placement in movies and TV, clever advertising (their “Get a Mac” ad campaign was a sweeping success due to localisation in the US and the UK with household-name celebrities) and slightly aloof pricing, Apple managed to become the cool brand when compared to the stodgier, geekier competing companies.

What to Take Away from This Article

How can your own company benefit from Apple’s example? Better and more modern aesthetics? Smarter advertising? Better leadership?

We’ll leave you to ponder these questions. Best of luck!

Getting Started with Mechanical Design

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Mechanical Design

The Process of Mechanical Design

Mechanical DesignMechanical design is a complex task. It’s quite surprising how much creativity is required – sometimes you’ve got to think very originally to successfully design the mechanisms needed to solve the problem your product targets.

Designing mechanisms is, in many ways, the bread and butter of good product design – it’s the basis from which the entire plan of attack is based, including marketing, pricing, and manufacture. Good mechanical design leads to profitability and can help give products a reputation for reliability and style – bad mechanical design can lead to a products’ total failure, and even ruin companies’ reputations.

Three key terms every mechanical designer should remember are:

1. Simplicity

If a product’s mechanical design isn’t as simple as it possibly can be, then it isn’t good enough. Not only should a product be as simple to manufacture as possible to keep labour and component costs to a minimum, but a simple mechanism is far less likely to fail or wear out than an over-complicated one.

2. Profitability

The entire point of product design is to make money. If your product is absolutely perfect for its purpose, but so highly priced that few can afford it or – even worse – it only breaks even or even makes a loss per unit sold, then it’s not a perfect design. A compromise of quality and affordability must sometimes be struck to make sure that a product can survive in today’s saturated markets. Of course, quality is always important – in an ideal world, all products would be amazing quality – but high prices on products has driven many a company out of business. Don’t let it be yours.

3. Ease-of-Use

Of course, this is more of a guideline than a proper rule – some products such as IC chips, medical or industry equipment, and some software packages have to be intensely complex to serve their function. However, some of the most successful products – the Grabber disability aid, some toys, most household items – are successful because of their simplicity. Modern fat-reducing kitchen grills are nothing more than curvy hot plates on an angle, but they have replaced pan-frying for many families because of their simplicity (and extremely clever marketing).

We hope you’ve found this interesting! Good luck with your own designs!

Product Design Derby News Round Up

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Product design Derby experts like to keep on top of the latest news in product design from across the globe. Product design is an important process in any design, it helps determine solutions to products that perhaps aren’t as effective as they should be, and enables a better product to take it’s place. We have curated the latest news in product design so you can keep up to date.

 

Product Design Derby
Product Design Derby

Sleek, innovative product design transforms the personal breathalyser into a classy fashion statement

A fantastic breathalyser has been designed called AURA. AURA offers a contemporary and sleek looking gadget that uses the very best electrochemical fuel cell sensor technology so you know it’s reliable. This design is hoped to catch on to make people more aware of responsible drinking.

Read the full story here

 

Is design still about making things?

A really interesting read on how the patterns in product design are changing in todays modern society. Designers are still creating beautiful products, but there is now a bigger focus on creating products that are designed to help those in healthcare, and those in need, to help make lives easier.

Read the full story here

 

Apple announces the iPhone 5c: 4-inch Retina display, plastic design, available in five colors

Of course we couldn’t forget to mention the new release of the Apple iPhone 5c. Apple have always lead the way with many of their products and it’s fascinating to see how much buzz and social media interest there is when a new product is released. Watch the video from Jony Ive, who is leader of design at Apple.

Read the full story and watch the video here

London Design Festival: the next big five

With the London Design Festival about to kick off, the Guardian writes about the next big five up and coming designers to look out for. Mainly focussed on furniture and fashion product design, but it still showcases some great talents.

Read the full story here

We hope you found these stories interesting. Product design Derby is always on the look out for the latest news and developments in todays society.