Successful Endeavours - Electronics Designs That Work!

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property, or IP as it is abbreviated, is a very important topic. So what is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property

The diagram above shows some examples. Here are some more examples of Intellectual Property that specifically apply to the Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development:

  • Patents
  • Copyright
  • Industrial design rights
  • Plant varieties
  • Trademarks
  • Trade dress
  • Trade secrets

Copyright applies to things such as:

  • specification and requirements documents
  • reports
  • source code
  • schematic designs
  • PCB layouts
  • Bills of Materials (BOMs)
  • Product assembly and test instructions
  • source code
  • this blog

So a lot of the value created in a new Product Development project is bound up in the Intellectual Property generated.

Why this is important, is that many individuals and companies that offer Product Development services do not give you Intellectual Property Rights to the product you paid them to develop for you. We have picked up quite a few projects over the years where this lead to a toxic relationship between the client and the developer and they needed to go elsewhere.

Protecting your Intellectual Property

To protect your Intellectual Property the obvious steps are:

  • Have a non-disclosure agreement in place prior to sharing any information with another party
  • Ensure all staff and contractors have signed a non-disclosure agreement
  • Check out patents early. Both to determine if you might be able to patent, and also to make sure you aren’t violating anyone else’s rights.
  • Although Copyright vests automatically in Australia, do use Copyright notices
  • Make everyone clear on what you Intellectual Property Policy is
  • Register designs and trademarks
  • Also purchase relevant domain names

Intellectual Property Policy

A question we are often asked is “What is your Intellectual Property Policy“?

Here is how we handle IP including our own which we can license into your project to save both time and cost:

  • IP developed for you is owned exclusively by you and not used for any other purpose
  • IP provided by you is owned by you and only used for the purpose it was provided for
  • we will not share anybody else’s IP with you without their prior permission
  • we will not share your IP with anyone else without your prior permission
  • the non-exclusive license to our background IP is a single purchase at an agreed price and can be leveraged across multiple products
  • where improvements in our background IP become available, they can be incorporated into your product and only the modification cost applies
  • we regular sign non-disclosure agreements and even have one of our own you can use if you don’t have a suitable one yourself

And the last part is usually about how we charge for all this. The are specific costs associated with generating your exclusive IP for a product. Where variants are then designed, only the adaption or variation cost will be incurred. So for instance, changing from one NB-IoT vendor’s cellular modem to another modem from another vendor will only cost the PCB changes and code modification costs and would be expected to be substantially less cost than the initial implementation.

Another way to put all this, is that if you pay for it, you own it without any encumbrance.

Our aim is to ensure your success so it doesn’t make sense to make it difficult for you to own and exploit your own Intellectual Property.

And a little humour to finish off.

Copyright Humour

Copyright Humour

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Electric Vehicles

A lot of focus is going into Hybrid and All Electric Cars. Tesla being the most well known example though there are many other successful players in this market. However the Electric Aircraft or Electric Plane or E-Plane is moving along a bit slower.

E-Planes

At its core, the E-Plane is a harder design challenge. You have to address a lot of different issues at once and many are in direct contradiction with each other. A short list of top competing requirements is:

  • weight versus range versus battery size
  • safety
  • cost
  • compliance and regulation

So lets look at some examples of how it is going.

Siemen’s EFusion.


EADS E-Fan

Randall Fishman’s Electric-Powered Ultralight

Elektra One – D-MELN


LH-10 Ellipse


Airbus E fan


EnerDel


Pioneer Commercial Electric Plane: Yuneec E-430

And the latest kid on the block, SunFlyer.

So this looks like it still has a fair was to go before large scale commercial adoption is possible. However we have definitely reached the point where short range and ultralight E-Planes are both technically and financially ready for market.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Electric Vehicles

This is a post I started 6 years ago and decided not to publish. Since then things have changed a lot so here goes.

The History of Electric Vehicles

The Electric Vehicle has been around for a long time. The new push to Electric Vehicles is mostly being pushed by the belief that they will reduce carbon emissions. This really depends on where the power comes from, how efficient the motors are and how well the batteries work. Most studies prior to 2011 have shown that unless a substantial amount of the power comes from renewable energy then it is likely the Electric Vehicle will generate more pollution than a petrol vehicle.

Electric Vehicles began a long time before the petrol vehicle was the norm and even way before Vanguard made the first mass produced Electric Vehicle in the 1970s.

Vanguard-Sebring Electric Vehicle

Vanguard-Sebring Electric Vehicle

 

Although details vary, 1828 is generally regarded as the date of the First Electric Vehicle and Anyos Jedlik put together a small scale model decades before the modern combusion engine cycle was invented. And the challenge was the same then as it is now, the battery. The History of Electric Vehicles is also the History of the Battery.

Jedlik Electric Car

Jedlik Electric Car

So what happened to the Electric Vehicle?  The challenge today is still the same, the Battery. We really need a better solution. Which is where my original post stopped.

Guess what? It seems to have happened.

Tesla et al

So enter Elon Musk and Tesla Motors. His purpose is to take petrol off the road so they have done some pretty innovative things including opening up their patent database so anyone can use their technology with their permission.

Tesla

Tesla

And of course Nissan, Toyota, Honda and many others are putting Electric Vehicles front a center in their product lines now.

With improvements in energy density storage and reducing costs for high capacity batteries we are approaching a time when Battery Electric Vehicles are the better choice for the environment, even when charged with electricity derived from fossil fuels. Studies show that there are more Emissions from the manufacture of a Electric Vehicle, but this is made up for in 1 year of operating emissions improvements and over the course of the Electric Vehicle’s life, Global Warming Emissions are halved. This assumes a 50mpg (US based study) petrol vehicle is used for the comparison. This equates to 21.3Kpl or 4.7L/100Km so this is as realistic comparison with a high efficiency petrol or diesel vehicle.

What a big different 6 years makes.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

So how are Hydrogen Fuel Cell based cars progressing? Calculations are that it will be roughly 3 times less efficient that a Battery Electric Vehicle. And extracting the H2 also requires energy. So H2 is an energy storage source. It is hard to store and manage and so the infrastructure costs are also high. So it is hard to do. The plus is that you don’t consume any fossil fuels in the process if you use some of the new solar based extraction mechanisms so although there are big drawbacks, there are also big benefits. The following video covers the territory well including some commentary from Elon Musk toward the end.

Let’s look at another perspective which is more optimistic.

So the infrastructure just isn’t there. So it looks like Battery Electric Vehicles are still the way to go. But the advantages are big enough that the debate will continue. And it is interesting that we have multiple fuel types in use simultaneously including Petrol (gasoline), Diesel, LPG, Alcohol, Battery Electric, Hydrogen, Biodiesel, compressed air, coal, wood and others.

The big advantages for Hydrogen are:

  • longer operating range than battery alone but not as much as petrol/diesel/LPG
  • no harmful emissions when running, the same as Battery Electric Vehicles and a big improvement over petrol/diesel/LPG

Time will tell. I should put a diary entry into my calendar for 6 years time and do another comparison.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Meet the Winners

Tonight was the Casey Cardinia Business Awards 2017 and the winners have been announced.

Business and Professional Services Award

  • Ideas Ministry

Environmental Sustainability Award

  • Beaconsfield Dental

Health, Education and Wellbeing Award

  • YMCA Casey

Home Based Business Award

  • Tour Local

Hospitality Award

  • Cannibal Creek Vineyard

Manufacturing Award

  • Powerplants Australia

New Business Award

  • Davey Marine

People’s Choice Award

  • Twisted Sista Upper Level Fountain Gate

Retail Award

  • Emerald Village Pharmacy

Social Enterprise Award

  • Waverley Industries

Tourism Award

  • Safir Tours Pty Ltd

Trades and Construction Award

  • POWERPLANT Project Services Pty Ltd

Casey Cardinia Business Awards 2017

Casey Cardinia Business Awards 2017

We were finalists in 2 categories. No wins this year but I was particularly pleased to see The Ideas Ministry win the Business and Professional Services category and PowerPlant Project Services who took out both the Trades and Construction category and also Casey Cardinia Business of the Year.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Satellite Internet

There are many areas of the world where Internet services are not readily accessible. One of the ideas for providing poorly services areas with Internet was g

Google’s Project Loon which used high altitude balloons.

But there are also Satellite Internet contenders. Theses were nicely covered by recent blogs at CIS 471 and I’ve picked out some essential bits of information.

Boeing

Boeing Satellite Internet Plan

Boeing Satellite Internet Plan

The image above shows Boeing‘s plans to cover the earth with 2956 satellites. You can read more at Boeing’s satellite Internet project.

SpaceX

The next company is SpaceX who are also involved in rocket and satellite design. They are looking at 4425 satellites in low earth orbit.

SpaceX Satellite Back Haul

SpaceX Satellite Back Haul

SpaceX believe that they can speed up Internet Back Haul by reducing the number of router hops required. The example above shows 5 space hops (including up and down) replacing 14 conventional hops. You can read more at SpaceX satellite Internet project status update.

OneWeb

And OneWeb are looking to provide Global Internet access, especially to the developing world.

OneWeb Transceiver Footprint

OneWeb Transceiver Footprint

They plan to use beam steerable techniques to allow frequency reuse and clean hand off as the satellites move overhead. And at seriously fast data rates. You can read more at OneWeb satellite Internet project status update.

What I found very encouraging is the degree to which BoeingSpaceX and OneWeb are collaborating and cooperating in order to make sure that they can coexist and all provide effective services. This included adjusting planned orbital heights and frequency usage.

So great to see another example of just how much Collaboration can enable opportunities, even when the collaborators look like competitors.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Doug Engelbart

There are lot’s of people who have done enormous service to the world through their inventiveness and willingness to share with other. A good example is Dennis Richie who I gave a tribute to in 2011 and who gave us the C Programming Language, one of the most used computing languages even today.

Doug Engelbart holding an early computer mouse

Doug Engelbart holding an early computer mouse

I recently came across Doug Engelbart who passed away 4 years ago and is responsible for inventing many of the ideas behind modern computing including:

  • Father of the mouse
  • Videoconferencing
  • Hyperlinks
  • WYSIWYG word processor
  • Multi-window user interface
  • Shared documents
  • Shared database
  • Documents with images & text embedded
  • Keyword search
  • Instant Messaging
  • Synchronous Collaboration
  • Asynchronous Collaboration
  • and much more

The Mother of all Demos

The Mother of all Demos was a 90 minute presentation he put together in 1968 to demonstrate, for the first time, some of the above inventions. Below is a video with selected highlights.

This was the beginning of Interactive Computing and a critical breakthrough on the way to the Graphical User Interface and eventually the WIMP (Windows, Icons, Mouse, Pointer) Operating System concepts.

You can read more about his contributions at:

The First Mouse

And now for a look at the First Mouse. This one predated the 3 button version used in the Mother of all Demos.

Again I am very grateful for those who have gone before us and shared and collaborated so freely that we might all benefit together.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

What is a Prototype?

A Prototype is done in order to explore some aspect of a new opportunity without having to fully commit to it yet. Prototype has a number of potential meanings including:

  • the original or model on which something is based or formed.
  • someone or something that serves to illustrate the typical qualities of a class; model; exemplar:
  • something analogous to another thing of a later period:
  • Biology. an archetype; a primitive form regarded as the basis of a group.

So a Prototype is either an early model or a smaller scale development to test a new idea.

Why Prototype?

So for engineering, we Prototype to reduce risk, and we learn from Prototypes to improve the likelihood of project success by being better informed for the next round of design. So a Prototype is a core Product Development Process Risk Management strategy.

Product Development Process

Product Development Process

A Prototype can also reduce other risks such as financial risk or market risk and isn’t always done for technical risk reasons.

Financial risk can be managed by breaking a project up into a series of stages and only committing funds to a stage when its predecessor has been successfully completed. A Prototype is often done ahead of a major block of Product Development to test whether the technical approach is likely to succeed and provide early warning of unexpected problems or interactions.

Market risk can be managed by trialing a new product idea with a smaller group of candidate customers to gauge their acceptance of the product. This has to be well managed however as history has shown that this approach, especially in the case of focus groups, can often just elicit the outcome the company hoped for and not a real example of how the market will react. Just look at all the failed Coca Cola new flavour launches.

And of course, technical risk can be managed by making Prototypes that implement the highest risk features as early as possible. We covered this in Improving Product Development.

A Prototype can often be used during Engineering Analysis in order to evaluate the effectiveness of different options for addressing the Requirements. This is covered in Electronics Design Process.

Successful Endeavours Development Process

Successful Endeavours Development Process

And then having designed a product it is normal to build a Prototype to ensure the final solution works as expected. This manages the risk that production tooling might need rework or even redesign.

How to Prototype?

This depends on the problem you want to solve. For this section we will focus on technical risks. A Prototype is very useful to allow you to measure some essential elements of the final product without committing to a final solution. So you can explore:

  • modelling a problem and simulations
  • noise and interference
  • power consumption
  • performance versus cost (compare several different prototypes)
  • responsiveness
  • system resources required
  • hardware versus software solutions
  • temperature rise
  • materials properties
  • shape and usability / ergonomics
  • fit (especially PCBs in mechanical housings)

And the list can go on. The key is to determine where the risk is and manage that. In Project Management Pre-preparation we looked at using a Prototype to reduce both technical and financial risk at the same time. In this case, other developers hadn’t been able to produce a working product so the client had a clear risk to manage. And our approach was to make a jig that allowed us to explore the sensing that was needed and get real data to then analyse and develop a solution. The same jig allowed the solution to then be tested before we designed the Electronics PCBs and Embedded Software needed for the final product. And the client was able to authorise each next level of expenditure with confidence based on us having delivered against the requirements for the previous stage.

Simulation

Simulation

And of course, 3D Printing for Electronics has enormously expanded the possibilities for mechanical prototypes by allowing anyone to quickly build and test the fit of objects together. It is also a viable option for low volume manufacturing.

3D Printed Spacer

3D Printed Spacer

3D Printed Spacer Fitted

3D Printed Spacer Fitted

 

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Australian Manufacturing PMI

The PMI, or Purchasing Manager’s Index, is a measure of whether a sector is growing or contracting. Growth is above 50 and contraction is below 50. So here is the last 12 months for Australian Manufacturing shown visually.

Australia Manufacturing PMI 2016-2017

Australia Manufacturing PMI 2016-2017

This is a continuing trend since mid 2015 and a really good thing for the overall Australian economy.

And to top it off, the growth in Australian Manufacturing in August 2017 was the highest since 2002. So really kicking some goals this year.

You can read more about it in:

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Tech Schools Project

In Schools of the Future I wrote about the Victorian Government Tech School initiative which is intended to augment existing High Schools with a High Technology facility that is a shards asset for the all the schools in the area. The intent is to improve Australia’s digital readiness, STEM adoption and aid schools to prepare students for Jobs of the Future or the Industries of Tomorrow (or even today in many cases).

The Casey Tech School is expected to open in 2018 with construction under way now. I am one of the industry directors and keen to see the project achieve its fairly ambitious targets.

One of the lines I like from The Dish is “This is science’s chance to be daring”. For me, the Tech School Project is “Education’s chance to be daring”. And certainly offer a huge opportunity for Innovation in Education.

The Yarra Ranges Tech School has been up and running for a while and a big help to the rest of the projects as we are all able to learn from their experience. They recently interviewed me on careers perspectives and have provided a copy of the edited video for our own use. So here it is.


Tomorrows jobs will be created by the workers, not companies“. Ray Keefe 2016.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Voltera V-One

The Voltera V-One is a PCB Prototyping system from voltera.io. And we just got one having put in a pre-order in April 2017. So we made the default “Hello World”project to make sure it works. And it did. Now the first serious assignment is making a single sided PCB with 8 channels of 3rd order active low pass filtering on it. Although it can do double sided PCBs there are extra steps so I started with single sided and we will run a few jumper wires to stitch the GND and VCC nets together. Everything else I was able to route fully through on the top layer. You can watch it in action below.

And this is the design it is printing. Below is the schematic for 2 of the low pass active filter channels.

Active Low Pass Filter Schematic

Active Low Pass Filter Schematic

The layout that was then converted to gerber plots (only needed the GTL top layer) and printed. You can easily see where I allowed for the jumper wires. The ones on the left are GND and on the right are VCC.

Active Low Pass Filter PCB

Active Low Pass Filter PCB

This technology is the equivalent of 3D printing for circuit boards. But wait, there is more. You can use any substrate so this can print on glass or a flexible medium such as Kapton. And it is worth noting that it is a printer and so can handle more than just conductive ink. You can also use it as a general purpose printer. It will even dispense paste on standard HASL finish production PCBs so you can do stencil free reflow of standard PCBs.

They are also working on a milling attachment and we plan on getting that as soon as it is available.

Voltera V-One Review

Here is a review put together by Andrew Walla, one of the staff here at Successful Endeavours. I’ve added a few comments of my own so here it is.

Voltera V-One Pros

  • Voltera have done an exceptional job with the software user interface and look and feel of the product. In much the same way that the Arduino platform makes embedded microcontroller technology accessible to the masses, I feel the V-One does the same for PCB prototyping.
  • The printer has everything you need to get started to print your own ‘Hello World’ project. Batteries are included.
  • The printer allows you to fabricate single layer PCBs in less than a day, even on unusual substrates such as glass or flexible polymers.
  • Double sided PCBs are supported. There are extra steps such as drilling the through holes after curing the first side then aligning the second side then print and cure. A simple double sided PCB could also be done the same day. You manually fill Via holes with paste so they plate through.
  • The printer accepts standard PCB file formats (GERBER) and doesn’t appear to have any difficulty reading them correctly.
  • The printer allows for aligning different designs over pre-existing prints or for double sided PCBs.
  • It also has a paste dispenser so you can lay down paste and then hand load components.
  • The heated bed, used for curing the conductive ink, will go hot enough to reflow the paste once you have parts loaded. You can even modify the temperature profile to behave in a custom manner.
  • If you have standard PCBs with HASL finish then they have a specific paste you can use with them and it will reflow those as well. We are likely to make a lot of use of that feature. And the machine is faster at this than printing because the ink curing time is an hour but paste is ready to go the moment it is dispensed.
  • The conductive ink seems to live up to its promised conductivity.
  • And the biggest Pro of all: if you need a PCB today, then you can have your PCB today, as long as it is within the process capabilities of the Voltera V-One.

So lots of positives there.

Voltera V-One Cons

  • Don’t expect this printer to make production quality PCBs for you.
  • It doesn’t support solder masks. Plus that would take up a lot of ink. So you will want to think about whether you want to coat the PCB after assembly with a varnish.
  • And there is a lot more work to getting a double sided board together.
  • You also won’t end up with as neat a result as you can get from production PCBs hand loaded. However the paste dispenser is definitely going to get a lot of use on HASL finish PCBs so we see that as a major win.
  • Because the PCB sits on top of the rails when it is being cured, you can’t run tracks out to the edge of the PCB.
  • We made some cardboard spacers to allow us to position the blank PCB in the center of the bed. Otherwise it can be awkward to get the printing aligned with the PCB. So this is an area that needs improving.
  • And while they do intend to release a milling accessory, it isn’t ready yet. That is also on our “to get” list.

Overall, I have been quite impressed and look forward to seeing what this printer will have to offer in future.

This post was jointly produced by Ray Keefe and Andrew Walla.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

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