Featured In

PCB Design Software – Which One is Best?

Article Technical Rating: 7 out of 10

There are numerous software packages available for designing printed circuit boards (PCBs), too many in fact.

That being said, there are three PCB design packages that are the most popular: Altium, Eagle, and OrCad.

For a struggling hardware entrepreneur developing a new electronic product or even for a freelance engineer just getting started, all three of these packages are probably prohibitively expensive. Launching a new product is already rather expensive without also spending thousands of dollars on just design design software.

Read the rest of this article

Home Automation with an Arduino – A Basic Tutorial

Article Technical Rating: 6 out of 10

From controlling the room lights with your smartphone to scheduling events to occur automatically, home automation has taken convenience to a whole new level. Instead of using mechanical switches, you can now conveniently control all the devices in your home from your fingertips.

However, that comfort comes with a rather expensive price tag.

For instance, a normal LED bulb costs $1-$2.  The Philips Hue smart home kit is available for $130 with each bulb costing $30.  Wemo Smart plugs that allow any electrical device to be controlled from your smartphone start at $30.

Read the rest of this article

Linear and Switching Voltage Regulators – An Introduction

Voltage regulators are an essential part of most electronic hardware products. The function of a voltage regulator is to provide a stable voltage on the output of the regulator while the input voltage can be variable.

Voltage regulators can be generally classified as linear or switching.

Linear Regulators

Linear regulators can be thought of as variable resistance devices, where the internal resistance is varied in order to maintain a constant output voltage. In reality, the variable resistance is provided by means of a transistor controlled by an amplifier feedback loop.

Read the rest of this article

Teardown of an Internet of Things (IoT) Wireless Device with Bluetooth Low-Energy and ZigBee

Article Technical Rating: 8 out of 10

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the hottest areas of new product development. By 2020 it is estimated there will be 50 billion IoT devices.

Since all of the products I design are protected by NDA, I’ve decided to instead show you the details behind a IoT reference design from Texas Instruments (TI) that offers Bluetooth Low-Energy, ZigBee, and 6LoWPAN wireless protocols.

TI has developed a IoT reference design they call SensorTag that’s purpose is to showcase their IoT system-on-a-chip called the CC2650.

Read the rest of this article

Hiring an Electrical Engineer to Develop Your New Electronic Hardware Product

Developing a new electronic product absolutely requires that you hire the right electrical engineer(s).  As with medicine, electrical engineering is a broad field of study with countless specializations.

Not all engineers are created equal. If you hire the wrong designer your project may take twice as long, cost twice as much, and not even work.

Regardless of the engineer you hire, one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and lower your risk is to also hire a second independent engineer to review the work of the primary designer.

Read the rest of this article

How Much Does a Prototype Cost?

One of the first steps on the road to developing and marketing a new product is the creation of a prototype. The cost of a prototype can be broken into two parts: the engineering cost to design it, and the actual cost to produce it.

The total cost of the prototype (assuming an electronic product) usually includes the cost to manufacture the custom Printed Circuit Board (PCB), plus the cost of assembly, plus the cost of the components, plus the cost of the enclosure prototype.

Engineering costs vary greatly depending on the product complexity, engineering specialty required, product size desired (smaller usually takes longer and thus costs more), location, etc.

Read the rest of this article

The 5 Steps of Product Development for a New Electronic Hardware Product

 

The new product development process for an electronic product (or any product) is by no means simple. It’s a pretty overwhelming task especially for those with limited resources such as entrepreneurs, makers, start-ups and small companies.

However, the process can be simplified by breaking it down into five steps. The steps summarized below will get you to the point of having a fully functional prototype.

There are many other steps to getting a product to the point of being manufactured in volume and sold to the general public.

Read the rest of this article

PCB Design – The Top 5 Mistakes Made on Printed Circuit Board Layout

Article Technical Rating: 9 out of 10 (very technical)

There are a few mistakes that I see over and over when it comes to hardware design.

More specifically, I see errors with the design of the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) that connects and holds all of the electronic components together.

Okay, lets now look at 5 of the most common PCB mistakes that I see when reviewing other designs.

#1 – Incorrect landing patterns

I’ll start with the mistake that I’ve been known to make myself.  Shocking I know.

All PCB design software tools include libraries of commonly used electronic components. These libraries include both the schematic symbol, as well as the PCB landing pattern. All is good as long as you stick with using the components in these libraries.

Read the rest of this article

PCB Design – Making Your PCB as Small as Possible

Article Technical Rating: 9 out of 10

When it comes to new hardware products many times smaller is better. This is especially true with wearable tech products and Internet of Things (IoT) products.

One of the keys to a smaller hardware product is of course a smaller Printed Circuit Board (PCB).

A technology for reducing PCB size that shouldn’t be overlooked if small size is critical for your product is the use of blind and buried vias. Their use allows the components on a PCB to be packed much tighter.

Read the rest of this article

Bluetooth or WiFi – Which is Best for Your New Wireless Product?

Article Technical Rating: 8 out of 10

There are numerous wireless standards at your disposal when creating a new product. Each choice has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. It really depends on your goal.

In this article we’re going to look at the three most popular short-range wireless standards including: Bluetooth Classic, Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE), and WiFi Direct.

The Need for Speed

If high speed data transmission is the most critical requirement for your product then most likely WiFi Direct will be the best choice. Everyone has heard of WiFi, but few know of WiFi Direct. Although that is changing.

Read the rest of this article