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Electronic Design, Development & Consulting Services
Specialising in the design and development of embedded systems, we serve as a "behind-the-scenes" resource, helping you to turn your ideas and concepts into creative, innovative products and systems. Our design and development services are offered as a turn-key solution which is favoured by small companies with limited resources, whereas large companies appreciate this approach as they can get a fully qualified device, custom designed in accordance with their requirements...quasi, off-the-shelf. Covering a broad spectrum of topics and interests, each of the individual design steps is also available as a stand-alone service.
Design & Development Services
Concept & System Specification
We create concepts for upcoming customer projects, developing and comparing alternative solutions an important source of information which contributes significantly to subsequent decision making and implementation by enhancing the amount and quality of information available.
We also create, based on your requirements and, if available, the results and success factors identified in previous concept studies, a detailed system specification which fully describes the solution to the problem(s) that need to be resolved.
We perform all the tasks required for the development of hardware, ranging from analogue and high-frequency (GHz) circuits to digital technology, including today's microprocessor controlled systems. Analysing the system requirements, we create a detailed hardware specification complete with calculations, schematics, layout and the associated production documents, test specifications and test plans. In addition to the pure electronics, we also offer design and development of the associated mechanics and housings.
We design, implement and test software for embedded systems and technical software for PCs running MS-Windows (XP, Windows 7) or Embedded-Linux. The programming languages used are chosen based on the requirements of the project, e.g.
- C, C++ and C# (with company internally developed software framework for medical projects)
- Win-API, Linux
Determining which technology will provide the best long-term value and meet your project and business needs requires clearly defined requirements and a deep technical understanding of what is available. We have an established process to help guide you through the complex task of selecting and implementing a new technology, be it software, hardware or services.
We help you to choose the most appropriate technology for the project in relation to the initial outlay, development and production costs as well as the associated risks and benefits, taking in to consideration:
- functional and technical requirements
- potential for improvements
- technology road map
Careful layout with respect to the system, the technology and possible manufacturing issues, is absolutely essential for successful production as well as being one of the central processes for successful miniaturisation, regardless which type of build-up technology is chosen. Art of Technology uses carefully selected, state-of-the-art layout tools with standard interfaces for the design process as well as the production chain, which combined with our integrated reviews ensures the highest layout quality.
The diverse requirements of projects and the various capabilities of individual manufacturers make the choice of components a critical factor to the success of any project. As such, extremely careful selection of components is an absolute must, as this influences the entire product design and life expectancy in terms of reliability, manufacturability, availability and performance.
The choice of manufacturer depends upon the technology involved, the volumes and quality level required, location, complexity, stocking and schedule requirements of the project...not to mention any special preferences or wishes you, the customer, may have.
More often than not, a very close co-operation of various manufacturers or service providers is required, in order to satisfy the variety of project requirements. We organise and support the entire production process, starting from the initial selection of manufacturing services, from our external network of highly qualified manufacturers, up to and including ongoing volume deliveries.
From Prototype to Volume Production
We assume responsibility for organising the production of prototypes using (wherever possible) the same manufacturer for the volume production to reduce learning curves, build confidence and quality levels, allowing feedback from the prototype manufacturer, any enhancements or cost reduction opportunities (identified during testing) to be incorporated into a re-design of the device during the industrialisation process to achieve the "best-fit" for mass production.
Together with our network of mechanical engineers, designers and manufacturers we can provide single piece, small, medium and large volume solutions. In summary, we manage the entire volume production and delivery of the devices (or assemblies) directly to you, in accordance with your requirements.
Key Elements of our industrialisation process
- design for manufacturing (consideration of design guidelines for pcb assembly)
- production concept (means of production, production processes, sequence optimisation)
- process qualification (process FMEA, risk management)
- design for cost (registration, component & supplier selection)
- design for test (consideration of design guidelines for testing and test concept)
- design for quality (process validation, product qualification)
- pilot series production (traceability, normative requirements, document management)
Test & Qualification
We also provide (on request) comprehensive test systems, establish test procedures and test plans, designing and developing project specific test equipment including hardware and software which helps to ensure complete documentation and consistent traceability for individual manufacturing locations, as well as across multiple manufacturing sites.
We can also
- control off-the-shelf PC measurement cards
- programme automated test stations in NI-LabWindowsTM or C++
- prepare data processing and storage in MS Access / MySQL
- provide external installation and training on request
Concept Studies are the phase of project planning that includes creating ideas and considering the pros and cons of implementing those ideas helping to minimise the likelihood of errors, manage costs, assess risks and evaluate the potential success of the intended project. In general, a concept study includes:
- analysis of available information, definition of objectives
- development of variations, determination of automation level
- budget levels for investment, staffing and operating costs
Technology Studies focus on costs, time, size and any environmental requirements that may be applicable, technology studies are used to evaluate the best choice of technology or technologies to be used in a project or system.
Technology studies often start with a workshop intended to combine the customer’s knowledge of an application with the first ideas from Art of Technology. The goal of the workshop being to precisely define the intended application and all partners to the same level of understanding.
Design Reviews can be a significant success factor for time-critical projects with "get-it-right-first-time” demands. Our established Review Process is linked to a “bug-tracking” tool which allows transparent and continuous handling and tracking of identified issues, as well as documentation of corrective actions.
Designs that are consistently subject to review enable latent errors to be detected and corrected at an early stage, with minimal impact on costs which ultimately results in fewer re-designs, less re-works and potentially significant savings in terms of time and costs, while helping to improve overall quality. Reviews can be held at any time and help to minimise internal conflicts as the external reviewer, being free of internal relations or commitments, is able to adopt the neutral role of referee. Reviews allow:
- demonstration of alternatives
- identification and control of critical Issues
- independent evaluation of work completed
You have an established R+D team, or a long term co-operation with an external design and development house, and are basically satisfied with their work. However, you now want to develop a new product or application, maybe even introduce a new technology and you need to make sure that your existing team hasn't become blinkered, e.g. “we've been doing it that way for years!”.
Here's where Art of Technology can help
We can provide you with an independent "no-strings-attached" second opinion about the work being done by your internal team or external partners, supplying tips and hints on the components and technologies being used, as well as identifying possible pitfalls in production and even alternative designs.
Fast professional help for projects at a critical phase, where time schedules, goals and success are becoming increasingly uncertain. We can provide you with engineering support and people for the routine or maintenance tasks, enabling your team to concentrate on the core activities of the project, e.g.
- problem & system analysis
- new expertise and ideas
- technical project management
- comprehensive & objective status reports
- support with documentation & certification
- additional personnel (when required)
We provide advice and assistance throughout the certification process, including the certification of medical devices, from the first steps (especially for start-ups) all the way through to certification by the appropriate certification body. In co-operation with the Notified Body, we provide coaching to define the steps required for product development. Art of Technology helps you to:
- create, organise and improve development processes and documentation in accordance with required standards and relevant medical requirements
- establish your own certified quality system based on our documentation system for design, development and verification, which is available in the form of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's) and can be provided as templates.
Our documentation service is where you task us with reviewing and updating your existing documentation (quality, production or engineering) adding missing information or sections, as required. Starting with an existing device or assembly with inadequate or basic documentation, we can create or re-create (via reverse engineering) complete documentation enabling further development, re-design, post production or replacement of obsolete components. In each case, we can help to:
- create and maintain necessary documentation
- prepare templates for non-existent documentation
- organise missing information required
As an independent design house, we have established a network of manufacturers in Europe, Asia and America, enabling us to supply prototypes, small and mass production volumes at the quality level required, e.g. ISO9001 and ISO13485 (medical).
We plan and accompany on your behalf the complete manufacturing process starting with the selection of appropriate manufacturer(s) or if preferred, we can set-up and manage production at the manufacturer(s) of your choice. Especially for small companies, or where a complex production set-up may be required, we can organise the entire production straight from the design stage.
We can support you with:
- selection of the appropriate manufacturer(s)
- verification of the production chain
- management of the entire production process
The key to optimising costs lies in the consideration of the overall system, in order to avoid the negative effects of keyhole optimisation. We can help you to reduce costs (and improve your products) using our tried and proven optimisation process, via
- standardisation at component level
- reduction of production complexity
- optimisation of production testing
- overall size reduction
- adapting design to standard manufacturing processes
- adapting design to standard processes of selected manufacturer(s)
- improving product serviceability
- optimisation of the product platform
Support for Start-Up Companies
New business ventures often lack detailed electronics know-how, requiring either a turn-key development or specific support it the form of engineering or consulting services. In particular, we provide assistance during the design of the first prototypes, with the key functionality necessary to convince potential financial partners of the feasibility of a project.
Taking the overall system into consideration, we help to identify which features are needed for the functional prototype. Important here is to recognise that, in most cases, it is essential to postpone the “nice-to-have” extras to a later re-design, in order to keep initial costs down to an affordable level.
We also provide ongoing support throughout the development phase up to and including industrialisation, with designs optimised for manufacturability and testability for small, medium, large and very large production volumes.
Support for Universities
Educational institutes are sometimes unable to manufacture research-specific electronic systems, as the documentation needed may be fragmented or incomplete, especially if the person responsible has left the university. This can be further compounded when the focus of the institute is not electronics, as the system may be limited to a quick build without a clear, traceable, reproducible system design. In such situations, we can re-design the electronics to industrial standards, including
- hardware design using industrially available components
- layout of industrially manufacturable prints
- optimisation of assembly processes
- improve or create documentation
The result being a design that can be manufactured in volumes from a few pieces to a few hundred for the institute itself, or indeed to sell to other institutes or research organisations.
Research Projects, Semester of Thesis Work
We are happy to assist universities that need an industrial partner (in the area of electronic design and development) to support research projects, semester or thesis work.
Technology Partner for Investors
We have been supporting young entrepreneurs with great ideas (but a lack of electronics know-how) for several years, either with turn-key developments or the specific engineering and consulting services needed. In particular, we provide assistance during the design of the first prototypes, with the key functionality required to convince potential financial partners of the feasibility of a project.
On-going support is available throughout the development phase, up to and including industrialisation with designs optimised for manufacturability and testability for small, medium, large and very large production volumes. We can also help with business plans and preparation for certification, providing people if required to act as temporary project managers and technical directors.
Although system miniaturisation is normally associated with ASICs, this is only one of many possible approaches. Evolving from the «EUROPRACTICE» project, we have an in-depth knowledge and extensive experience with system miniaturisation and High Density Packaging technologies (HDP). Based on the needs of project in question we use the most appropriate combination of techniques, methods and technologies, e.g.:
- System upgrade
- System partitioning
- Repartitioning of electronics and software
- Technology selection
Hardware & Software Co-Design
The introduction of increasingly powerful processors and algorithms allow certain hardware functions to be transferred to software (e.g. filter, DC-AC converters) and on occasion even improved (e.g. better resolution by oversampling).
This close interdependence of hardware and software requires special care and attention to system design, taking into consideration boundary conditions and various factors such as processing power, distribution of tasks, power consumption, space requirements and achievable performance.
Firmware for Embedded Systems
In contrast to PC-based systems, embedded systems have very limited resources available to them; often being based on small controllers or processor-based single-chip systems they tend to suffer from limited computing power and only token memory, making it difficult to develop software on a PC and transfer it unchanged to an embedded system.
Another special requirement is the support required for low power modes such as sleep or power down which are used to optimise energy efficiency in these typically battery-powered devices. With our years of experience, we can draw on a wide selection of proven and tested basic routines, functions, modules and controllers to tailor solutions to reflect the abilities and needs of your system.
Linux is increasingly being used as an operating system in complex embedded systems as it has some great advantages when compared to other systems, e.g. widest choice of supported platforms, fast integration of new features and supported technologies... and it's free!
Art of Technology can support you with embedded Linux by:
- creating a device tree tailored to the hardware
- writing kernel drivers for accelerated hardware accesses
- adjusting boot loader to product's platform & requirements
- optimising boot loader, kernel and file system for size and speed
In addition to the development and adaptation of sensors we have, in collaboration with our customers who often bring in-depth knowledge of the application and specific medical expertise, developed electronics required for the sensors (e.g. EEG logger, strain gauge, temperature) and created algorithms for the measurement data which are then integrated into a complete sensor or measurement system, e.g.:
- new sensor techniques including extensive testing and clinical trials (e.g. non-invasive glucose measurements), followed by refinements and adjustments of methods until qualification and certification achieved
- biomedical sensors and measurement methods for physiological parameters (e.g. pulse, blood pressure) and other vital health parameters
- non-invasive measurement of blood pressure, glucose, pulse (on the wrist)
- sensors to detect or measure trace gases, moisture, pressure (e.g. medical implants)
- multi-sensor system to detect helplessness (monitor people at risk)
New devices for diagnostic and surveillance of bodily functions provide more comfort, safety and improved daily life for patients. However, design and development of these complex devices is becoming more and more challenging. Art of Technology’s services for medical devices and implants include:
- System design and development for in-vitro diagnostics
- Medical devices and active medical implants
- Support with clinical studies and certification
Our design, development and verification processes in accordance with GAMP fulfil medical guidelines and guarantee a smooth design process from first prototypes to volume production. ISO13485 certification and broad knowledge of hardware, software, sensors and algorithms, combined with experience from successful projects makes Art of Technology an ideal partner for your medical applications.
Cryptography is a core element of security systems, protecting the data to be transmitted and ensuring the integrity of the data transferred and the systems involved. Careful design, skilful task distribution and the use of cryptographic methods and protocols provide an acceptable level of protection and compatibility with established and standards, for even the smallest of systems.
We offer support for the design, adaptation and implementation of cryptographic algorithms specifically for small embedded systems with micro-controllers and systems connected to embedded systems.
Energy management is one of the key issues in the development of electronic systems, especially in mobile, portable and wearable devices where the optimal use of energy is extremely important. Such devices are often powered by batteries which are not only one of the main restrictions in the miniaturisation of a product but are also directly related to the runtime of a device, which should always be as long as possible.
Batteries are typically specified by three main characteristics: chemistry, voltage and specific energy (capacity, i.e. the discharge current a battery can deliver over time), with products which require long runtimes using batteries with a high specific energy, whereas products such as power tools use batteries with a high specific power (loading capacity). With our many years of experience we can help you with the design and development of your product and various types of power supply, e.g.:
- Battery power
- Wireless energy transmission
- Power over Ethernet (POE)
Extreme & Harsh Environments
We have developed a number of products and devices with special requirements for use in extremely demanding environments where high reliability, redundancy and remote maintainability take on a special level of importance, as the system cannot be accessed directly or without significant investment in cost, time and effort, e.g.:
- active medical implants (e.g. inside the human body)
- extreme temperature cycling & thermal shock (e.g. in the mountains)
- high g-levels, mechanical shock & vibration (e.g. space applications)
A potentially explosive atmosphere exists when a mixture of flammable substances, i.e. air gases, vapour, mist or dust combine in a way that can ignite under certain operating conditions.
In many industries the manufacture, processing, transport or storage of combustible materials may lead to the creation or release of such substances into the environment. In certain areas such as the chemical and petrochemical industries, the transport of crude oil and natural gas, the mining industry and milling (e.g. grain and granular solids) this can result in serious injury to personnel and extensive damage to equipment.
To guarantee the highest possible level of safety the ATEX directive requires equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres to be designed and manufactured to minimise the occurrence and limit the severity of accidental explosions with product manufacturers being solely and ultimately responsible for the conformity of their products to the applicable directives by:
- ensuring conformity of products to the Directive (providing for certificates of conformance)
- designing and constructing products in accordance with the essential safety and health requirements
- following the procedures for the assessment of the conformity of the product
Contact us if you need support designing your electronics to comply with ATEX directives.
GPS Data Logger (OEM)
Use of standalone products in the form of car navigation systems, portable navigation devices and smart phones have established themselves as part of our daily routine. However new applications are driving the demand for custom devices. Unfortunately low volumes and relatively high costs associated with the development of a complete GPS system are somewhat cost prohibitive. Using our extensive knowledge & experience of GPS systems, we have developed an OEM GPS Data-Logger as a standard module.
This module can be modified for a fraction of the cost of a full system development to satisfy the majority of requirements using different power sources, sensors, actuators, communication interfaces, or even as a display as part of a semi custom solution. To obtain a quotation for your semi-custom GPS-Data-Logger, please complete the following enquiry form.
Solderable Memory Module (SMM)
An elegant solution for industrial and medical applications providing a compact memory module with an electrical SD / MMC interface which is soldered directly onto a printed circuit board. With it's small form factor of 24 x 20 mm2 and a pitch of only 1.27 mm, it is significantly smaller than a standard SD / MMC card, has less demands on board design and can be used wherever space considerations are critical.
SMM is the ideal choice for embedded systems in extremely demanding applications and environments and with its controlled Bill of Material (BOM) problems resulting from hardware and firmware changes to the NAND Flash controller are now a thing of the past. Customised functions such as password protection, emergency deletion etc. can also be realised.