The Conficio design process consists of three phases; Concept Generation, Prototyping, and Preparation for Production. Each phase works in conjunction with one another to ensure that the process is smooth with all angles covered.
At Conficio, we split the product development process into 3 phases: Concept, Prototype, and Deploy. Each Phase consists of three Stages. Products do not move onto the next phase unless the previous one has been completed.
The concept generation process can be broken down into three stages that combine to create Phase 1: Discover. Concept. Design.
The first step of any project is to determine the requirements of the user and customer. Whilst reviewing this information, our team can start to identify areas of risk and opportunity that will support the concept generation stages. One of the key pieces of supporting documentation from an Industrial Design perspective is mood boards. These should detail what the client prefers but, (almost more importantly) detail what designs the client is put off by.
The main aim of the discovery stage is to determine what information the client has already gained from their journey to date, and to prompt them on what information we require to progress the concept.
There may be specific ISO standards that are required for the product. These will be identified and reviewed with the client to maximise the probability of conformance.
Building on the information gathered in the Discovery Stage, our electronics team and architect will start to determine critical components in the design. These choices will be led by critical requirements.
Once critical components have been selected, a realistic space envelope for the internal components can be defined. This will feed into the Industrial Design Concept Sketches. This process has been vital over the course of many projects and can be used to provide the client with options for the final design. During the Concept Stage, we will review the progress with the client to ensure that the design is progressing in the correct direction. This allows the design to be addressed early in the design process and expectations to be set correctly.
Now that you have multiple concepts for your product, it is time to hone in on the best ones. You can simulate a ’rounds’ system – first eliminating any concepts that look too similar or are out of scope. Keep narrowing down until only you have a small number of concepts that stand out from the rest – try to keep this at a maximum of five best concepts.
The final step in the Concept Generation Process (Phase 1) is to document the information that has been gathered and created during the first two stages. Our team will typically produce three documents for delivery to the client:
The focus is on moving from a paper-based design to a prototype. There are many different types of prototypes that vary based on the requirements for the next iteration of the product. In some cases, this might be a space model, in others, it might be a functional PCB or even a full product prototype that is both suitable for looks and feels like prototypes.
During the Develop Stage, the architecture design document will form the basis of the electronic Design Document that outlines the detail of the electronic design. This forms a bridge between software design and electronics. This allows software engineers and hardware engineers a common place to find details such as ADC scaling factors, Pin definitions and other critical data. The electronics document should start to define the minimum PCB area since the package selection for the given components is finalised.
The industrial design concept progressed to a point where the external structure of the prototype can be 3D printed (although this is not always done). Any high-risk areas will certainly be printed, such as seals in a submersible or floating product.
In order to make PCBs, a schematic and a layout are required. The Detail Stage takes the Electronic Design Document and creates both of these documents. Generally, Software for the embedded devices will start to be developed during this phase. This process takes place on Development Kits and aims to validate the Electronics Design and the schematic that has been created.
The CAD is further refined to ensure that the mounting and UI requirements for the prototype are able to be created. Conficio always considers the final product during this phase and will therefore ensure that, even if the prototype is 3D printed, the design is suitable for injection moulding or the final method of manufacture.
At this stage, manufacturers for the final product will start to be identified to ensure that their design rules are met, this covers both the PCBs and the plastics. It is critical to ensure that these design rules are satisfied to maximise the product yield whilst minimising the component cost.
There will be a gap in engineering between the end of the Detail Stage and the start of the Prototype phase, this is when the PCB(s) and plastics are manufactured. Once Conficio takes delivery of these parts, some are checked for fit and assembled into a first prototype.
As this is the first point when real PCBs have been provided to the software team, the existing software can be ported onto the PCBs and can be finalised. The PCBs are usually set to work by the software team as they develop the code for each individual device on the board and create the system layer.
The final step in the Prototype phase is the Gap Analysis. This is critical to determining the level of functionality of the prototype compared to the goal, be that the full specification or a subset of. There may well be modifications to the prototype that can be made that will allow all the requirements to be met, alternatively a second or even third prototype may be required.
The final phase of the design process is the preparation for production. The following steps outline how Conficio will ensure that the device meets the requirements set out in Phase 1 as well as meeting the relevant standards for CE and UKCA marks. The final phase consists of three stages; Certify, Optimise, and culminating in product release.
The product needs to be put through rigorous testing which will verify, validate and ultimately approve prior to mass production, subject to any final amendments and changes that may be required.
At the start of the certify stage, Conficio undertakes a Gap analysis against the PDS (defined in Phase 1) to determine whether further development is required. This may result in a concession, change request, or further work. The outcome of the Gap analysis is fed back to the client and may require further prototype development under Phase 2 before release.
Part of the verification will include support from subcontractors to carry out a range of tests including EMC Testing, ESD Testing, and IP Tests. The use of Third-Party Test Houses is essential in this stage of work to provide supporting documentation for the Technical File.
After verification and validation, the product moves into the stage of optimisation. This is a variable part of the process where one factor can directly influence or alter another previously satisfactory component. This stage of work often consists of minor changes that are influenced by the final round of designing for manufacture and test. The worst case is that these adjustments may alter another aspect of the design. For example, a change in the electronics could have direct influence on the size or shape of any plastic encasement or housing.
It is important to build on the work that has been undertaken in Phase 2 to ensure that the critical aspects of the design can be manufactured efficiently. Ease of manufacture can reduce the unit cost considerably as production is scaled up.
A product in development will not leave the certify/optimise/prototype loop until Conficio is proud of the work.
The final stage; here Conficio creates build documentation, assembly drawings and the final manufacturing pack. Comprising technical drawings and data, build instructions, and all the test procedures. At the end of the development process, Conficio will support the creation of Tooling and PCB manufacturing setup using either a trusted supplier network or a manufacturer already selected by a client. The initial production build is generally undertaken with the support of Conficio, and will consist of tens of units. Once the suppliers, client and Conficio are satisfied with the build then the number per batch will start to increase as required.