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14th March 2024

Scaling up for manufacture

Do you require a review on a complete prototype that’s ready to be scaled up for manufacturing? If so, you’re in luck!

In the next of our product development ‘things to consider’ series we’re looking at considerations when you’re approaching the manufacturing stage.



Get as much right at the start as possible  

At some point during your product development journey, you are going to want a viable proof of concept; and you’re going to want it prepped and ready as soon as possible, for a whole host of reasons – funding usually being the main one.

At this stage of the cycle, while it’s tempting to get the design “functioning for now”, considering things like the physical board design, component costs and component tolerances, will not only save you budget in the long run, but crucially a whole lot of time and effort in that all important race to market.

Here are a few things to think about when you’re getting ready to scale up your electronic product design ahead of manufacturing.



Are you using the right dev kit?

Development kits are great, we’re big fans. All you need (and more) to get your prototype off the ground – what’s not to love?

Dev kits give you all the things you need but they also can give you an enormous number of things you don’t need. You will often find the most cost-effective dev kits come with more bells and whistles than you’ll ever use, because they are usually produced in larger numbers for a much wider audience; and due to economies of scale, sold at a lower price point.

While going for more functionality and at a lower cost initially makes sense, you might want to consider a kit with less.

Opting for a smaller dev kit will help future proof your design for manufacture, not only in a physical sense, but also in helping you choose your components. While a powerful FPGA works great on your dev board featuring it on a smaller design when you start to manufacture, without those economies of scale, could see your costs per unit soar.

If a less powerful (and cheaper) version of a similar processor is a viable option, you should get it in the design now.



Product design is not PCB design

It’s not just the components you’re going to need to watch out for on your all singing and dancing dev kit. Some of these kits can feature six, eight or ten layers of depth… you don’t need us to tell you, they’re not likely to be needed – or to fit into your final encasing.

By considering the aesthetic design, you can start to think about “cheapenating*” every part of the product.

We’re talking about a whole host of things here, the layout, the space, test points, the final components you’re going to need on your board… again you’re going to want to consider all of these things before you venture too far down the road.

Because back tracking on design and component selections later, will certainly cost you more in the long run.



Do you have the humans ready?

Scaling up for manufacturing requires not only a scaling up of physical resource, but also in people.

Aside from any engineering design work you might need to make sure your board is ready; you’re going to want to check your final product is fully tested and meets compliance. It’s essential to do some due diligence ahead of manufacture and for that you’re likely to need some help.

But the biggest people resource businesses overlook is usually customer support.

It’s a common problem we see, all of a sudden you’ve gone from a limited amount of product out in the world, to suddenly a lot of product out in the market. Even the best designed device is going to need supporting. Yours will be no different.

To keep your customers happy – and coming back – and to maintain your reputation, you’re going to need a level of customer support.

If you can afford to, we’d always recommend undertaking a limited launch which will give you the opportunity to scale up in a way that isn’t going to sink your ship. A smaller launch will allow a few users to test your product, and allow you to iron out any creases in a manageable way – rather than allowing yourself to be completely bombarded and operations ground to a halt.



(Re)designing for manufacture

We could have written several standalone pieces about designing for manufacturing… but the most common problem we find ourselves solving for clients however is failing components. The most common cause? Tolerances have not been fully tested.

At prototype stage if most things are stacked up in the right direction, when you turn on your device it’s going to work as designed.

However, when you start building these units in the 100’s, 1,000’s and beyond… if the proper testing has not been done, you are not going to be so lucky. This is why your boards have to be examined and rigorously tested by experienced hands, with a fine-toothed comb.

Just a few things to test

  • Running the board at variable limits for tolerance stack
  • Pushing resistors at either end of their tolerance scale
  • Running the board with fresh batteries, low/nearly spent batteries and with batteries put in the wrong way (-because someone is going to do it at some point!)



Do you need to know more?

Hopefully we’ve been able to give you some food for thought.

Yes, gearing up for manufacturing is a complex process which can sometimes be disheartening. You’ve overcome numerous hurdles just to get here and are now faced with a gauntlet of potential new dangers.

Don’t worry, with the right team at your side, you’ve nothing to worry about.

Ignys has an extremely diverse group of talented engineers and between us there’s not a lot of problems we’ve not overcome. If you are gearing your product up for manufacture, reach out (by clicking right here) today, let’s see what we can do to make this all important next step as pain free for you as we can.




*Cheapenating – this is an Ignys engineering term for ‘cost reduction’