Technology is growing at an impressively exponential rate leaving past innovation as a distant memory. Electrical design has evolved over the decades from using scratch paper, to draft schematics, to the use of CAD software. The original automobile was essentially a horse and carriage that transformed into a gas powered vehicle that travels at speeds that could never be achieved by horse.
The engineering design process, on the other hand, has been the same for ages and has not changed and probably will never. The engineering design process is a simple 8 step procedure that requires the utmost efficiency to proceed properly. Any delay in the process severely affects the total time to complete the engineering design process. Let’s do a walkthrough of the design process and the steps required for any company to proceed properly.
1. Identify the Issue
2. Identify the Criteria and Constraints
3. Brainstorm Possible Solutions
4. Generate Solution
5. Explore Possibilities
6. Select an Approach
7. Build a Model or Prototype
8. Redefine the Design
Steps 1 through 6 require little more than researching and exploring possible options. Building a model or prototype requires a physical or virtual model to represent your ideas. Electrical engineering design software can either make, or break, the entire process. Let’s take a look into what difficulties arise for those who didn’t have the advanced features of today’s CAD design software for their engineering design and how it affects the design process.
The handmade diagrams age
The original wiring diagram was simply a crude graphical diagram with every component visually represented on drafting paper. This allowed the engineer to see the outline of the entire design and how they are interconnected. Typical wiring diagram notation, common today, was not well developed during the late 1800’s and most components visually looked identical to the actual part.
A wiring list was a handwritten document that gave instructions of pin locations and its connections. This will generally show an input pin number, signal, to the output pin number, connector. Handwritten wiring list was all electrical engineers had before modern computing technology.
The digital age’s progression has developed CAD software, with advanced features, to help aid electrical, or mechanical, engineers in their design process. The development of CAD programs has even made virtual modeling for components much easier than traditional old school drafters making blue prints. The age of the drafting components, via drawing, was replaced by today’s 2D/3D Computer Aided Design software.
The age of User Experience - smart CAE software that helps avoid errors
With that brief look at some of the methods used in the past engineering design, it is beneficial to note that CAD features are still developing around the idea autonomy. Companies are trying to make the user experience as painless as possible by creating software that doesn’t only help draw the project, but also understands it and uses this knowledge to advise the user during the design and even avoid design errors by warning the user or disallowing the action. These new softwares don’t even allow short-wire connections, they can automatically forbid connections when the wire gauge is incompatible, they understand the concept of how much a wire can bend (before breaking), they integrate with mechanical software solutions to allow for 3D wire-routing and much, much more. It is a good idea to look into the different software on the market and the strengths and weakness that each possess. Remember people strive to progress further and develop better methods and tools for making the engineering design process better. Last thing you want is the old horse and carriage software, when there is a perfectly good, better, Ferrari on the market.
Errors and faults in any CAD software can severely affect the time schedule for any project resulting in unwanted delays. Making sure that your software is top of the line in the market can reduce your chances of running into some of the most commonly encounter design issues. These issues can lead to the following for the companies.
1. Products are frequently late to market
2. Longer development cycles shorten product life span, reducing profitability
3. Extra time for prototyping due to troubleshooting increases product cost and lowers profitability.
4. Inefficient product development process leads to missed/delayed schedules, lowering customer satisfaction
5. Late to market products allows competitors more opportunity in market share.
These issues can easily be remedied with having the best possible CAD software that effectively aids in decreasing product development time and increasing its overall efficiency. Having to troubleshoot software defects to make deadlines is not company responsibility, but the manufacturer of the CAD software utilized for its customer. Having ineffective software will only hurt the product development cycle and reduce company productivity. Making sure that you have the best CAD software for making your product development more efficient is the best advice I can offer. The last thing you want to do is to back track through development and reuse the first wooden wheel for transportation, or stone tablets for documenting design, and not expect it to hindering your productivity.
What are you thoughts on the progression that electrical design has taken over the years? Has advanced technology and CAD software removed the stress of design, or made you feel a little bit lazier?