Designing & Manufacturing Custom Fabricated Electronics

As an entrepreneur and electronics design engineer, I have often been approached by individuals with great ideas but little understanding as to what it takes to bring that idea to market.  I have my own personal product line of boards and assemblies which started as an idea but unlike most I was able to make them a reality.

This blog is the start of a multi-part series that may help other entrepreneurial engineers when approached with a design idea.  It is based off of my experiences in bringing my own products to market, but the lessons learned are just as valid when dealing with a potential client with an idea.

Part 1:  The Idea

At this time in my career, I was a starving consultant.  I had many successful designs at this point of my own and my product line was just beginning to take off, but it wasn’t self sustaining as of yet.  A gentleman contacted me with a great idea, and to be honest I thought it was pretty cool.  It was an embedded system controlling a few industrial solenoids, a propane powered pump, a wireless short bust data modem, and a few other bells and whistles.

Requirements in this clients mind were:

  • Battery operated
  • Battery would recharge when the pump was running
  • A LCD display with buttons for status
  • All solenoids would be 12V and under 1A
  • All major components must be off the shelf, believing that this would reduce cost and allow for ease of assembly and substitution if necessary
  • The development had to be bid as a complete project, not as an hourly contract.

These requirements seemed simple enough.  Not too complex.  Knowing what existed in the marketplace for common components, I didn’t see any major issues.  I recognized the need for a custom piece of electronic hardware, but mostly as an interface to the solenoids and the pump, nothing overly complex.

After a couple days of research and crunching the numbers, I came up with a proposal based off of these white board sketches and conversations.  It was accepted.

Coming Soon-  Part 2:  Reality Check 

Brett Davis serves as the lead design specialist and staff writer at PCB Solutions.   As an Electrical Engineer, Brett has over 100 electrical designs from conception to production to his name and has his own company X-Pin that creates, designs and reengineers products for a host of pinball applications.  Brett’s rich history and experience as a Printed Circuit Board designer at HP (designing HP Inkjet products) gave him the resume to help our customers’ design electronics that can be successful in the market place.

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