Distribution world – Five steps to project success

Distribution world – Five steps to project successWhat the designer should expect from the distributor. By Stephane Rosa
1) Project origin : End customer order (Your sales guys got it!) New version of an existing device New application
2) End customer/internal specifications: Cost target – You have to deal with a budget. Whether a cost target is stated or not the distributor is bound to commit on a cost reduction proposal. Electrical specifications Power consumption – Power consumption is one of the three key parameters to reduce together with cost and PCB size. PCB size – The FAE should be able to propose a board space reduction within the mechanical specifications. Evaluate the “board shrinks into a component” statement of an Asic solution approach. Regulation fulfilment – Knowledge of regulations is mandatory to properly address a market segment. This involves many parts of the project and must be an important point in added value technical support a distributor should provide. Confidentiality- First condition to build a trustful relationship.
3) Function definition and splitting: Block diagram construction -This is typical designer experience and skill. An FAE with a good general knowledge on typical segment applications can advice having in mind what peripherals or functions are integrated on chips. Hardware/Software partitioning – Usually software solution is preferable because any change in a running project nearly costs zero if it is software. This is a good point to design-in processors with many peripherals. Allocation of resources – An FAE should make an official proposal for cost and time reduction to the customer.
4) Function implementation Proven hardware/software modules – Companies commonly use module libraries where they pick homologated functions used in typical applications. However, it can happen that a module working well for an application can have a bug revealed in another application. Outsourcing – If complexity of designs is too high or time constraints too heavy then some distributors can provide the suitable 3rd party design support. Development time forecast for each function – Tasks at this point are generally assigned. It can be generally very difficult for the customer to match development time planning as it depends on too many internal and external factors. It is important that the distributor gives assurances that they will not create any extra delays for the customer.
5) Choice of components Homologated components – Any non-programmable part needs to be tested internally against typical application requirements (temperature, overvoltage, humidity, etc.). Unless particular price/performance conditions have to be matched, a designer will always select a homologated component to limit unexpected behaviour in the application. Second sources availability – It is always preferable to choose a device that is pin-to-pin replaceable in case of any shortage (allocation, obsolescence, and so on). Any more exotic solution runs the risk of being discarded if it doesn’t give guarantees about availability and possibility to replace. Support for product upgrades – This is more for the high-end parts (processors, DSPs and so on). As soon as an application is in pre-production, designers will be working on a second generation product which is cheaper or higher performance or both. Evaluation – The provision of sample devices with the necessary documentation is crucial. Layout constraints – Any new component to be designed needs to be inserted in a CAD library for PCB layout manufacturing. All component mechanical data, recommended pad layout, to fit available board space and electrical connection geography must be made available by the distributor. Test Laboratories involvement – The device can be tested alone or within the application. Manufacturing considerations – A good project designer will collaborate from an early stage with the manufacturing department. (subcontractor or not). It is then important to provide all documentation on technology assembly of the designed components.
Stephane Rosa is technical director at WBCWeisbauer Components.

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