Buyers are often surprised when we quote 18 to 20 weeks for an outsourced electronic design project. But when you understand that failing is a big part of the process, you can start to see why it takes so long. More importantly, you can predict whether the quoted lead time is realistic and achievable.
This lead time is typical for a moderately complex product in a commercial, industrial, or medical system. It includes circuit design, printed circuit board layout, and a working prototype.
When we get a request for quote (RFQ), our engineers spend several days studying the requirements and brainstorming solutions. If we can see at least one promising approach, we send a proposal. We will be fairly confident that it will work… but we won’t know for sure until we test it.
Weeks 1-3: Circuit design (the fun part)
Designing the circuit takes only 2to 3 weeks. This is the fun part. It is challenging and creative. There is no one “right” approach for any function, only some common approaches, with different advantages under different circumstances. Experienced engineers are more likely to choose an approach that starts them down the right path. Look for designers with experience in circumstances similar to yours, including market and technology (power, analog, etc.).
From this starting point we evaluate myriad tradeoffs: key performance requirements, cost, component availability, reliability, space limitations, manufacturability and more. Here, even the most experienced design engineers benefit from collaboration with other engineers. Formal and informal team input can save a designer from spending too much time developing what would ultimately be the wrong approach. Look for an engineering team with a culture of collaboration.
Component selection is a big part of circuit design. This gets easier with experience, as an engineer builds a mental library of familiar components and their real-world performance. The most effective engineers also avoid sole-sourced parts, know which parts are affected by shortages, and make sure substitutes are available. Look for a design partner who can demonstrate they understand this.
When the schematic is finished, we have a pretty good idea what it will do. We run simulations on areas we’re not sure about. We have a formal design review with the full engineering department. But to see what will really happen we need to lay out the board, build some units, and test them.