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Posts Tagged ‘Electronic System Design’

A Case For Electrical and Eelectronic Measurement

In Design Methodologies, Education, Embedded Systems on October 23, 2012 at 12:36 AM

Perhaps one of the least emphasized part of university education in electrical, electronics or computer engineering is related to the field of electrical and electronic measurements. Electrical measurements generally involve measuring current, voltage and resistance. In an embedded systems that has sensors, such measurements can play a critical role. The output of these sensors are converted to either current or voltage before further processing in software or hardware. Not only to test such a system but also to design it properly, it is important to understand the basic concepts of measurement like accuracy, repeatability, resolution, instrument error, instrument noise, capacitance of cables, probe resistance, instrument calibration etc. I had my first real experience with some really tough measurements to be done on an OC192 board for a telecommunication application while trying to debug some issues. I must say that while we place a lot of emphasis on software and hardware design issues, it is also important to consider the measurement side of the story in order to test if  the software and the hardware are working properly. Measurement concepts like instrument calibration, sensitivity and timing are very important in a test set-up. Sometimes, we miss out these things resulting in a mismatch between requirements and implementation.  Keithley’s Getting back to the Basics of Electrical Measurements is  good for introduction as well as for refreshing one’s basic knowledge.

Learning Electronic Product Pricing

In Design Methodologies, Education on July 19, 2012 at 4:14 PM

Do you ever wonder about how pricing for a product is done? In simple terms, the retail price has to be greater than the raw material cost. To this, one has to add manufacturing, marketing and some other costs (like labor etc.) depending on the industry segment. While there are different pricing models like the software pricing model, capital asset pricing model etc. in different market segments, in order to get a feel of how pricing is done in electronics industry, one could start with a teardown analysis and BOM (bill of materials) analysis of a product. The IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis Service is a nice place to start. It shows teardown analysis of various electronic products in the market. The BOM cost (plus the expected manufacturing cost) generated from this analysis can be compared with the retail price of the device. This can give some insight into the product strategy being followed by the product company. Of course the actual BOM cost is expected to be slightly lower when volume production is taken into account.  An analyst/engineer can further analyse the BOM  to provide insight on component selection. Was a particular component chosen because of price or performance or a long business relationship between the product company and the component company or any combination of these? My earlier post “Electronics Engineering through Real World Examples” focused on the design aspects of a product. This post adds the product pricing issues to design considerations. The two posts should be seen to complement each other. Sometimes, a design engineer may not get a component of his choice because a similar component is already being sourced from another supplier (because of various reasons including company legacy)  and its details are already available in the internal component database maintained by the company. The two components may differ a bit in their performance, package, PCB footprint etc.  and the design engineer has to use his/her skills to workaround this issue. If you subtract the sum of BOM cost and manufacturing cost from the retail price, you can think of the remainder as the sum of marketing cost and profit per piece of the product. If you further do a little bit of study on money spent on marketing of the product and its sales volume, you can come up with a reasonable estimate of the profit earned per piece of the product. Of course, I have simplified the analysis a bit to give a reasonable understanding of the pricing methodology.  In a more complicated model, for products where technical support is required, there could be a “support cost” built into the pricing model. I will leave it to you to dig further into pricing models if you are interested.

Electronics Engineering through Real World Examples

In Design Methodologies, Education on May 5, 2012 at 11:46 PM

How much can you learn from an electronic device/equipment? Quite a lot! If you know its purpose and you have a basic understanding of its intended area of application, you can figure out quite a lot about the internal details of the device by simply looking at it. Once you have managed to crack open the device and expose its internals, you can learn quite a lot about electronic system design. Not only will it enhance your practical knowledge, it will tell you a lot about how actual real world products are designed, manufactured and packaged. Design is not everything in the real world. There are manufacturing and packaging considerations too. A product has to appeal to its intended consumer. The Electronics Engineering Video Blog hosted by David L. Jones is an excellent resource on learning by tearing down devices. As an example, I would recommend to watch the teardown of Zoom H1 Audio Recorder here.