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Product Development for Electronics and Hardware: Planning for Scaling

Manufacturing multiple PCBs along a string of panels


You’ve gone from napkin sketch, to validation, to prototyping. You’ve maybe secured funding or even have a few sales under your belt. Now you’re looking to scale. It’s perhaps the scariest point of any electronic designer’s journey—the diving board in the deep end, if you will. It’s not enough to know many businesses have jumped and proven themselves able to swim because you also know so many businesses have failed. That’s enough to make you look for the lifeguard!

Fortunately, planning your product development process from the hardware design phase is more than possible. But how do you navigate the deep end in such questionable water conditions? As long as you are wise about a few basic concepts (or swimming techniques), you’ll be more than capable of taking a dive right in.

Design Validation and Predicting Your Product Development Process

As quickly as I glossed over this in the first sentence, I strongly feel the urge to reiterate the validation stage. Validation of your product is a critical aspect at any stage of your business and is no different when you’re considering scaling.

As you likely completed in the early stages of your design, validating a problem-solution fit early on will assist in your validation of a product-market fit. Once you answer the question of “Have I actually designed something that solves a problem?” you’ll naturally have to come to the question of “Do people actually want what I’ve designed?”

This exercise is simply to allow you to see which segment of the market your buyers are likely to come from. Once you know where your buyers are, you can then understand their purchasing habits, likes/dislikes, favorite first date spots, and more. This can have tremendous influence on early/future design changes or variations, aesthetic determinations, and even help you predict the potential unintended ways your product will be used.


Design meeting at a table with schematics and three individuals

Prepping your design for manufacturing can save you headaches down the road.


Preparing to Jump: Design for Manufacturing

Many designers will get through the prototyping stage with confidence and the belief that, so long as a prototype is in their hands, then it must be design for manufacturing (DFM). Unfortunately, this is not the case.

This is, again, something that should be practiced as early and often as possible, especially if you are looking to scale. Obviously, there is a difference in making five devices compared to 5,000. At mass production scale, even the smallest nuances will add up to huge deficits (or, in better cases, huge profits).

One way to prepare your design for manufacturing is to understand your manufacturers’ capabilities, their challenges, their business. This means that early supplier engagement is a must. Call or contact a few potential manufacturers and discuss not only prototyping but also production at scale. This will quickly give you an idea of what manufacturing issues you will be facing when you approach the diving board of scaling.

Even during the validation stage, it’s simply not enough to show a great prototype to folks to gauge interest if you can’t manufacture it. Get a design that’s ready for manufacturing, then continue the validation.

Additionally, gaining knowledge of any peripheral manufacturing constraints, such as their supply chain, reliability, and cost, are all going to further your confidence in a DFM ready product.

SPICE Validation and Product Scaling

Even the basic SPICE validation will ensure that, from the beginning stages of your design, you’re going to be producing a board that is securely capable of performing the functions you want it to. However, at what point can you comfortably ask for more?

Whether it is designing-to-cost, productivity optimizing, design vulnerability prediction and reliability maintenance or optimizing yield from your design proposals, your SPICE simulator should be there to help your iterative and innovative product development process as well as integrate flawlessly with your PCB editor.

After you are firmly settled with your device being DFM ready and beyond validated, your first instinct might be to press that “go” button on the whole operation. However, take it from me: having patience and controlling your release batches will ensure that any unexpected or unanticipated problems do not damage an entire campaign’s worth of product.

Issues will arise, customers will provide feedback, and revisions will need to be implemented. This is simply the world of electronic and hardware products. So when you are looking to scale, consider slowly giving yourself ample room and foundation enough to manage a hiccup here or there.


Business meeting to discuss product development process for electronics and hardware

Maintaining supplier relationships can make our break a shaky scaling operation.


Planning out your product development process can be quite difficult as a designer. You have to accommodate for many facets of design and user intention. Even things as seemingly straightforward as color redesign or rebranding for product growth can become difficult tasks when taking your entire audience spectrum into consideration.

If you find yourself designing a product beyond its initial capabilities or thinking about how you can scale your production capabilities, Cadence’s suite of design tools will be sure to provide the modeling, analysis, and simulation you need to be confident. With the OrCAD PCB editor, you’ll have all you need to swim the English Channel of product development and more.

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts.