Electronic Product Design

Tuesday, 16 February 2016 00:00 Written by

Start-up Considerations

15-02-16 start up 200Start-ups are everywhere, covering every continent, powering fantastical ideas, merging services and ideas into goodness-knows-what. But not every idea makes it to market. Not every start-up booms, many do not make to their first year – let alone the first iteration of their amazing, world-changing, market-disrupting product.

What you do following the ‘Eureka’ moment can be the difference between boom and bust.

The Idea and The Review

You’re sure your idea is a world beater, and you’re ready to run into the streets, take pre-orders, begin a viral marketing campaign, re-mortgage the house, and sell your children.


Before you do anything that involves spending money, take time to review your idea, and if possible, include someone with at least some knowledge of the market you’re trying to enter. Be that experience with electronics, hardware design, product marketing and/or sustainability, you’ll quickly grasp an idea of your chances for success. Hopefully you know an individual capable of constructive criticism who’ll help you expand your idea, rather than give you a flat-out ‘no!’

Your review process should also consider the following:

  • Why are you doing this? Other than helping you to an early retirement, what will your product deliver for your consumers? What makes it special?
  • Identify your minimal viable product; is there a market waiting for you to walk into, or are you going to fight for consumers?
  • Price your product as far as possible to understand the margins you’ll be working to, and this can include how much it will cost to build your brand. Engineer obsessed with functionality? It won’t matter how functional it is if you cannot sell them.
  • Consider where your funding will come from? Private backer? Angel investor? Crowd-sourced? Each form of finance has its own benefits and pitfalls; understanding them will make a huge difference to you.
  • Pick your co-founders carefully, if required. Friendships can easily be destroyed in the business environment. Make sure you know what you’re doing, where you’re thinking of going, and how much you trust the other people.

Proof of Concept

Considered all the angles?

If you’re still on the path to product release with your start-up team, you’ll now need to consider a Proof of Concept, also considered the first prototype. Investors of nearly any form will be eager to see your idea actually working, or at least very close to a working version. Be that sitting on a workshop bench, or in your garage, it pays to focus on delivering a Proof of Concept that can demonstrate exactly what your start-up believes in.

Depending on the complexity of your product, and your own electronic product design knowledge, it may take you some considerable trial and error to finalise a working Proof of Concept, though once you’re there, you can begin considering a functional prototype.

Functional Prototypes

Functional or working prototypes generally have a similar form, fit, and function to the final product you’d like to manufacture for market. Functional prototypes can come in many forms, and if you’re working on a budget (highly likely), most of the work will be completed using rudimentary electronics and 3D printed materials, but enough to attract people to invest in your idea.

Throughout the functional prototype phase, you should be considering how all of these components will come together in a volume manufacturing situation, or if you will continue to bespoke build products for each of your consumers. Either way, take a good note of construction time, cost, and anything you believe exemplifies your process, as you’ll need to consider the ‘design for manufacturing.’

Design for Manufacturing

Component selection. Processing parameters. Functional test systems. Ease of assembly. High yield. Low cost. These are all things to consider during the functional prototype phase, but once you’ve finished prototyping, it is back to the numerical drawing board, and you’ll begin isolating specific design aspects for completion in a single environment, or if your entire product can be manufactured under one roof.

Other considerations should include reliability testing: drop, humidity, and temperature tests, as well as shipping tests to assess sustainability in distribution (and what effect your packing may have on the product).

Briefly Rounding Up

This month we’ve looked at:

  • The Idea and The Review
  • Proof of Concept
  • Functional Prototype
  • Design for Manufacturing

If you’d like more information on what to expect during the initial days of your electronic product design start-up, check back next month for:

  • Supply Chain
  • Certification
  • Manufacturing
  • Further Testing

And perhaps some other small tips, here and there.


Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / freedigitalphotos.net.

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