Rapid prototyping to meet time-to-market. Remy Lörtscher on the cost-optimised customisation of embedded solutions
In today’s fast-living era, time-to-market is a crucial and important decision factor between success or failure. Increasing functionality and high quality requirements lead to more complex embedded hardware and software. This drives up the development effort (time and money). The fact, however, is that we get less and less time, money and personnel. Especially in more complex applications such as defence, railways or maritime, prototypes are inevitable. To design a final product can be costly and most of the time, the first prototype is not the last prototype. NRE costs are not freely available.
What can be done?
Ideally the same electronics and functionality can be tested in the lab in a standard packaging without costly custom housing or specific connectors of a final prototype.
MPL has developed and successfully commercialised this approach over the past few years.
Since 1985, MPL has been developing and manufacturing embedded systems and solutions in computing and network for tough environments, the highest reliability requirements and with long-term availability. Over the time, the application areas have broadened; it’s the same electronics but each application area uses or needs different packaging and connectors. An important know-how of MPL is the capability of customisation for a standard product to the specific needs and flexibility.
A customer tests MPL’s solution (embedded computer board, embedded server, switch, firewall, etc) from the standard product portfolio to verify the functionality and feasibility. The standard solutions are generally available from stock, therefore a test can start immediately.
During the feasibility check, a customer often sees that additional requests that should be developed. This can be specific connectors, integration of additional features or footprint limitations.
With this procedure, the costs as well as the necessary time can be reduced to a bare minimum. Time-to-market is being optimised. The customer benefits from the experience of the company’s products and integration knowledge and gets his own specifications in the standard product. The company has many customisation examples of a standard product. It can be the functionality of the product or simply the packaging or type of connectors.
With this process, the capability and procedure, the costs and development time, is reduced to a minimum. The first prototype is electrically and functionally equivalent to the final product. The customer meets his functional specification already in the lab product.
A Way Out of the Cost and Time Dilemma
With the functional prototype, the requirements from the user’s point of view are clarified and the most critical design decisions are secured. The core task of the prototype is then fulfilled and the actual development can begin in parallel during the verification process. The word ‘rapid’ in prototyping plays a special role because different variants can be implemented quickly, and anything that’s unclear can be resolved immediately.
Remy Lörtscher is CEO of MPL