Successful Endeavours - Electronics Designs That Work!

How Green is my iPhone?

Have you ever wondered just how green an iPhone really is?

Well today’s blog post was sent to me by Dr Marc Dussault, The Exponential Growth Strategist. It’s an Infographic taken from DailyInfographic.com. At Successful Endeavours, we’re always interested in recycling and sustainable technologies and solutions. You will have seen some of that is past posts on how to be greener with the Electronics Design including Electronics Design for Green Manufacture? , Green Electronics Strategies – Reduce Power While Awake and Green Electronics Strategies – Sleep Saves Energy .

For this post we will use the infographic to specifically look at how GREEN the iPhone 4 is versus the iPhone 3G from the perspective of the production, use and disposal of the phone.  Some key figures I noted or calculated are:

  • Production Emissions are 57% of all emissions in the iPhone 4 product lifecycle
  • 58.9% of the weight of the iPhone 4 is in materials that are easily recycled
  • Packaging Reductions save 14% in transport fuel

The Packaging Reductions are an excellent example of simple things we can all do to save on emissions. And Apple offer a full recycling service that is aimed at being environmentally friendly which is also a great thing to put in place.

Electronics Manufacturing Energy

The area that stands out for me is the energy that is consumed in production of the iPhone 4. This is not an iPhone 4 specific problem but a general problem for Electronics Manufacture. If we want to talk about Green Electronics, then this has to include not just the product we use and the Electronics Waste and Recycling / WEEE, but we also have to get to the point where the Production Emissions, the energy to produce a product, is way less than the energy to use the product. This is a huge issue for Battery Operated Products, such as the emerging Electric Vehicle market, where the Production Emissions for just the battery can be close to half of all the Production Emissions.

Enjoy the infographic from the dailyinfographic Keeping it Green.

How Green is the iPhone 4

How Green is the iPhone 4

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile at Ray Keefe. This post is Copyright © 2011  Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

Making LEDs

There are a lot of processing steps that go into the Electronics Manufacture of a Light Emitting Diode or LED. OSRAM have released a video showing the processing steps that go into making an LED.  Check it out below.

The LED increasingly becomes the light source of choice for most lighting applications as we look to Reduce Energy Use and our Carbon Footprint.

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile at Ray Keefe. This post is Copyright © 2011  Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

What is so good about Low Power Electronics?

If you read my last post, you would have noticed that this has the potential to reduce overall Power Requirements.  Up until now,  only Battery Operated Devices have really cared about Power Consumption.  If you could plug it into a wall outlet then all was OK unless you were consuming more power than a standard circuit allowed.

Today, things are different.  Climate Change is a global concern and reducing the Carbon Footprint for a product is important, regardless of what sort of power it consumes.

If we can reduce the Power Consumption of an appliance by 50%, then provided it’s Electronics Manufacture does not add that back again, we have a net Carbon Footprint gain.  In fact, if we can do this across all products then we will meet our Global Carbon Reduction target of 50% by 2050 with this strategy alone.

How to reduce Electronics Power Consumption

This is not a new topic, and much of what I present here represents the combined experience of the Electronics and Embedded Software industry.  Here is the short list:

  • reduce the Supply Voltage for Microcontrollers, Microprocessors and CMOS Circuits in general
  • use Sleep Modes and keep the Wake Periods as short as possible
  • replace High Power Consumption Devices with Low Power Consumption Devices
  • replace high utilisation Digital Filters with Analogue Electronics equivalents
  • replace Polled Operating Modes with Event Driven Operating Modes
  • use Low Power Smart Peripherals that Wake the rest of the System only when required
  • reduce the Time To Wake and the Time To Sleep
  • optimise the Software Execution Flow
  • use Energy Harvesting
  • Remove power from sections of Electronics Circuitry when not in use

There is overlap and interdependency between these but that is a good starting point.

Next I will start look at specific examples.

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

 

Electronics Development and Success

Hello again,

A couple of posts ago in Electronics Manufacture Shines in Melbourne I said I would explain the origins of our company name.  Many have suggested that Successful Endeavours sounds more like a personal coaching enterprise or a business that handles products by people like:

And the list could go on for a long time.

While I do hope we motivate and encourage our clients to improve their results, we assist them by undertaking activities such as:

Electronics Development Activities

  • Electronic Circuit Design
  • Electronic Circuit Simulation
  • Analogue Electronics
  • Analogue Design
  • Printed Circuit Board Design
  • Printed Circuit Board Layout
  • Electronic Prototyping
  • Electronic Testing
  • Embedded Software Design
  • Embedded Software Development
  • Embedded Software Coding
  • Embedded C
  • Embedded Software Debug

 

Development Statistics

The name came from some industry statistics on the success rate for Product Development.  You can read more details in Reducing Electronics and Embedded Software Product Development Costs and I will summarise here:

  • 80% of embedded development projects fail in someway or another
  • Embedded software is 80% of the cost of an embedded development project
  • Embedded software is responsible for 80% of the delays and shortcomings

 

Successful Product Development

So it seemed to me that many Product Development Projects are unsuccessful endeavours.  I wanted to change that.  We have a success rate significantly better than all the industry norms. Our short USP ( Unique Selling Proposition ) is:

We Make Stuff Work

That’s it.  The details are complex but the philosophy is simple.  So for me, Electronics and Embedded Software Development should be a routinely Successful Endeavour.  And so the name Successful Endeavours was chosen.

I am passionate and committed to assisting Australian Electronics Manufacturers who want to keep making their products in Australia.  Made In Australia is what we are pursuing and we are focusing on this segment.

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

 

There are a lot of news feeds running this story.  Here are a few:

Timeline ABC News
IEEE Spectrum
National Geographic
Business Journal

And when the Internet first began, no-one knew what we would be doing with it today.

This has happened to a lot of other technologies.  Low Cost Electronics and Low Power Design that can be Battery Operated has made many thing possible such as mobile phones, portable computers including netbooks, notebooks and laptops; portable media players, MP3 players, PDAs and the list has just begun.

But where is it going?  Realistically, you need a few things to come together and the environment and carbon footprint considerations now sit alongside the more traditional requirements such as:

  • Low Cost Electronics Manufacture
  • Low Power Electronics Design
  • Design Tool Productivity improvements
  • Electronic Design Automation
  • Increased Processing Power per milliwatt (mW)
  • Embedded Software of immense complexity and flexibility
  • Flexible circuits
  • Transparent Electronics
  • Compact component size
  • Reduced Polluting and Increased Recyclability and reuse

Vernor Vinge looked into what might become of this in his book Rainbows End which I recommend as a good read and full of well thought out ideas about how augmented reality might operate including concepts such as  wearable computers, gesture recognition, graphic overlays, the equivalent of doing a Google search on any object in your field of view, and other ideas like that.  It is set 20 years from now.

The most interesting for me was the way work was conducted in the future and how much advantage there was in having 100,000 people as affiliates on a program.  Pay is based on royalties for contributions.  You choose what you join and contribute to.  Your income directly reflects the product of your contribution and your negotiated royalty rate.  A large company has 3 direct employees and everyone else is an affiliate on one or more programs of work.  This produces phenomenal synergies.

It will be very interesting indeed to see how much of his vision matches the future.

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

________________________________________________

National recognition for local Casey Business

OK, I couldn’t resist that blog title or this headline.  It isn’t often you get a chance to say something like that.  If you hadn’t heard yet, we are finalists in two categories in the EDN Innovation Awards for 2009.  Melbourne is the Electronics Manufacturing capital of Australia and we are based in Berwick which is administered by the City of Casey .  And we are also members of the Berwick Chamber Of Commerce.

Successful Endeavours in the NEWS

The Casey Weekly Berwick has just done an article on Successful Endeavours that also covers the EDN Innovation Awards we are finalists for.  You can check it out here Electronics Whiz Wired For Success.  And as a bonus, you get to see what we look like.

Electronics Manufacturing

Our aim is to turn Australian Electronics Manufacture into Low Cost Electronics Manufacture through improving the total cost of a product throughout its life cycle.  This is not a quality reduction process.  Quite the opposite.  Getting the product right so it doesn’t fail and does do what it is meant to do is one of the things necessary to reducing cost.

Located on the outskirts of Melbourne we primarily serve Melbourne based Electronics Manufacturers by providing them with Electronics and Embedded Software Development services that save them up to 70% compared to traditional linear Product Development.

So how do we do that?

Firstly, there are a few blog posts you can refer back to that will fill in some of the details.

Successful Product Development

Australian Electronics Manufacturing

Low Cost Electronics Manufacture in Australia that competes favourable with China is feasible.  Ignoring the trade offs discussed in the links above, the steps to take are:

  • Identify the primary priority – is it time, cost, performance?
  • Reviews costs – all the costs – see the last link above if you are sure what they all are
  • Reduce Cost through redesign to remove unnecessary labour and to streamline manufacture
  • Implement
  • Deploy
  • Monitor and correct as required

Written like this it sound simple, and conceptually it is.  Where it gets lost is in the assumption that it can’t be that simple.  But there aren’t any hidden traps in this process.

We have had a few queries about how we came up with our company name, Successful Endeavours. Next post I will reveal all.

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

________________________________________________

So what is Niche Electronics Manufacture about?

Well, Niche implies it is aimed at a small and specific market segment rather than a large and universal segment.  Some examples might help here:

  • specialist medical devices or patient sample handling equipment – see Vision Biosystems
  • Very Early Smoke Detecting Apparatus = VESDA
  • in wall cable tracing equipment – Aegis Trace All
  • active RFID with long battery life, distance and unique ID – Protrac iD
  • ultra low power mesh networking transceivers intended for battery operated telemetry – GreenPeak
  • corrosion protection data logger – Borgtech CPL2
  • cyclist indicator lights worn on your wrists – Safeturn
  • medical training simulators – Medisius Epidural Simulator

I have been involved in all these areas and some of these are for projects I worked on or even ran.

So having looked at some examples, why do I think we should be excited about Niche Electronics Manufacture in Australia?

I touched on this briefly in an earlier post that addressed the question of Low Cost Electronics Manufacture in Australia Can We Compete?

I believe the answer is YES!  But we must be smart in how we go about it and we have to play to our strengths.  I see these as:

  • highly skilled technical workforce
  • world class software developers and embedded systems engineers
  • good levels of capability and automation in PCB assemblers
  • we like winning and overcoming challenges
  • we don’t immediately do things the same as everyone else
  • we have been doing this for a fair while now in spite of there being little government support or industry assistance
  • a smaller Low Cost Electronics Manufacturer can be agile and tightly connected to their customers

So the challenge is actually a marketing one and not specifically a Product Development issue.  But once you have the opportunity identified, then there is no reason we can’t do it here.

Low Cost Electronics Manufacture in Australia makes good sense if you approach it the right way.

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

________________________________________________

When it comes to selecting a microcontroller for Electronics Manufacture, the field to choose from is quite large.  And while there is no one right answer to this, there are some basic steps to take to ensure you are using the right core component in your latest Electronics Development Project.

For this post I will walk you through how we go about this process.  As I said earlier, there usually isn’t one right answer but this will give you an idea of the process we use.

The first priority to determine is which of the following is critical:

  • power consumption
  • speed or processing power
  • peripherals
  • cost

This is how we go about the selection process:

If it is Power Consumption that is most critical, then we go for the TI MSP430 family.  These have been designed from the ground up for low power with good processing ability.  They also have excellent ADCs and they are fast at 200kSPS.

If it is processing power you want, then the ARM Embedded Processors are great value.  They are 32bit and most need dual power supplies but they really deliver when its comes to performance.  They also come in a wide range of flavours with peripherals to suit a plethora of applications.  We particularly like the offerings from Atmel SAM7 and NXP LPC2000.

If it is peripherals, then it depends on the level of performance and if there are any specific applications.  For automotive you will often want a LIN or CAN peripheral and the processing power will depend on whether it is a simple ECU, Body Computer or Engine Management Unit.  If it is networking you want then you can get away with an 8 bit processor for some tasks but it is hard to beat an ARM MCU with on board ethernet controller.  For this selection criteria, carefully map out what you need and the performance required then look at the secondary factors such as processing power, power consumption and cost.

For cost, we like the Atmel AVR processors.  These are also our work horse 8 bit processors.  And they also have a good range of peripherals, on board EEPROM as standard, and good power management capabilities.

Now let me also make one other point about cost.  It’s not just the component cost, but the complete cost equation.  So development costs, part costs, manufacturing costs, and product life cycle support costs.  Although there are other parts out there that have lower unit component costs, we find the overall cost to be very good with these MCUs.

So that is a very cursory look at the process of selecting a microcontroller.

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

 

Today we look at one of the Project Priorities Perspectives in action.  This was a case where performance was the most important factor and so minimising cost or time to market was a lower priority in the this Electronics Manufacture project.  In this case the PCB and electronics were Manufactured In Australia.

We were developing a wireless Data Logger product.  We selected 802.15.4 as the wireless protocol but did not need the interoperability of ZigBee.  A key issue here was Battery Life.  One use of the product was as a device left in the field and collected after 1 to 6 months.  The actual time interval depended on the use.  Since we have the client’s permission we can share details of the project and the product with you.

The product is a Corrosion Protection Data Logger and the client is Borgtech.  The first version is the Borgtech CPL2 and it is on the market today.

Some key product features made it a little tricky as an Electronics Design Project:

  • inputs must withstand lightning strike impulses.  This equated to 5KV for 2 seconds according to the local standards!
  • wireless connection for both convenience and also as an OH&S safety measure
  • 6 months battery life
  • 60dB rejection of mains frequencies at 50Hz and 60Hz
  • 10MOhm input impedance
  • a good profit margin

Don’t worry if you don’t understand what all the details mean, I wanted to show how we used the process to identify the best approach rather than go further into millivolts and microwatts.

Technically, this project was quite a challenge.  And a classic niche marketing example as well.  My initial approach was to minimise the production component cost and look at ways to meet the other objectives.  But it didn’t take long to realise that battery life was going to be the hardest challenge here.  I was able to use digital signal processing techniques (software) to meet the mains frequency rejection but the power requirements meant we were never going to get 6 months battery life and the radio side also contributed to that problem.  I’ll concentrate on the filtering problem.

Analogue Electronics to the rescue

Normally we have been removing electronics components and replacing them with software to save on product cost.  But this time, the priority was performance and not cost.  So I added components instead.  Below is a schematic representing the front end of the product.

schematic

Analogue Electronics Schematic

For those interested, this is a twin T filter.  It is a notch filter that takes out specific frequencies.  If you want more details then post a comment and I’ll add them.

The great thing about this is that it doesn’t use any Battery Power.  Unlike the software solution which uses the whole power budget on its own.  So from the batteries perspective, it is FREE!  It did cost some design effort and did add some production cost but the battery got off lightly.

So here is how the priorities played out for this project.  To get the performance, it cost a bit more and took a bit longer.  The outcome was the right product at an acceptable price point and in a market with growing demand.  Powerful stuff.

Now we did have to do a lot of other stuff to deliver this product so that it met every one of the design objectives.  It also delivered on the client’s expectations and met the cost target too.  It helped a lot that Borgtech understood their market and were able to guide us when making the decisions about priorities.

In practice, we make decision like the one above every day.  Going left at the right time when everyone else is going right can deliver outstanding results. Marc Dussault refers to this as antimimeticisomorphism.

Next I want to look at going the opposite way to the path we took for this project.  This is a case where cost is king and performance must be good enough but is not the primary priority.

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

 

This continues our review of the Project Priorities Perspective.  See the Project Priorities Perspective post for the concept behind this and Time and Cost versus Performance and Time and Performance versus Cost for a look at those trade offs and how they affect Low Cost Electronics Manufacture in Australia.

Here is a visual view of this set of electronics manufacturing trade offs:

projectpriorityperspectivelogocb

Project Priorities Perspective – Performance and Cost versus Time

The previous two perspectives looked at cost and performance and their effect on the other priorities.  This one looks at time.  Time is a two edged sword.  It is easy to spend but hard to save.

Here are some of the trade offs that affect time:

  • if you spend more time, you can get the unit cost down or the performance up
  • if you reduce features or performance you can have it quicker
  • if you spend more time you can often select and use less expensive resources
  • to get it quickly, you usually have to buy in either IP or specialised expertise
  • being later to market usually reduces your profit
  • being early to market usually increases your profit
  • doing it right the first time saves time
  • increasing production automation decreases production cycle time

So this is more straight forward than the other perspectives.  To get it faster, you have to either reduce features and performance, or buy in specialist IP or expertise.  And if you can wait longer, then you have more choices for how you go about it and can either increase the features, improve the performance or reduce the cost.

So this wraps up this very cursory look at the Project Priorities Perspective.  It is a powerful tool that is easy to apply and can dramatically improve your results.  The key, is that it makes you think about the priorities and what outcome you are really after.  At the end of the day, if you aren’t clear about your outcome, then you don’t have a basis to plan or succeed.

Next I will be looking at some practical project tips for increasing profits and some surprising ways to improve performance.  And you have probably already worked out that you can apply it more than just Electronics Manufacture in Australia.  You have, haven’t you?

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.