The development of an electronic product is by no means simple. It can be an overwhelming task. The design and development process consists of several stages, beginning with a concept for a commercially viable product all the way up to full-scale industrial manufacturing. More often than not, a product does not get past this initial concept stage largely due to limited design resources and lack of technical expertise. This is where ACS Design comes in; helping clients take a product from conception to production-ready. “We help our clients get their products and concepts to market. We know what it takes to get a product designed, tested, and manufactured from the ground up,” says Gurley.
In most cases, clients already have some areas of expertise on staff. Here, the ACS Design team fills in the gaps necessary to get the product to market. The company has been extremely effective with their clients in hardware and software development for very demanding projects during their course of operations. Their comprehensive expertise in product development, responsiveness, clear communication, and their ability to meet the scheduled time-frames make them stand out among design houses.
“Though we are engaged with several clients at any one time in various stages of design, we try to make each client feel as though they are our only client. Moreover, some design houses get the initial design done with the ‘A-Team’ and then as the project wears on, it gets transitioned over to the ‘B-Team’ and the project flounders and just doesn’t get finished. At ACS Design, you always get the ‘A-team’ and we always finish,” adds Gurley.
ACS Design uses cutting edge tools such as Altium Designer and SolidWorks to reduce design iterations. Tools like these provide efficiencies like the use of clients’ 3D mechanical files to create a PCB with full 3D components. The company can then ensure that the clients’ PCB has a complete 3D design and clearances can be fully checked before going to prototype. “We can even export the 3D PCB design to STEP file format such that the client can import it into their favorite CAD editor,” adds Gurley.
The Approach: Design, Test, Manufacture
The success that ACS Design has garnered in their limited time in operation has been possible due to the customer-centric approach that the company takes. After an initial conversation with a client regarding the technical and functional characteristics of the required product, ACS Design builds a proposal that adheres to their desired specifications.
Once the design stage is completed, a prototype is built and tested to ensure the device meets customer and regulatory mandates—UL certification, CE mark, and FCC certification. After testing, any changes due to client requirements updates or testing failures are rolled into another prototype of the product and the cycle repeats. During the design or test iteration process, negotiations are initiated with a contract manufacturer for full-scale production. Post which, ACS Design changes over to a support role to ensure a smooth transition of the product to full-scale manufacturing.
We ensure that our client’s requirements are met from a regulatory compliance, software, hardware, and engineering standpoint
In November 2016, an established solar company contacted ACS Design to develop a product. The ACS Design team simply followed the approach of comprehending their requirements and delivered a competent solution. “The company already had a mature and unique fixed-tilt solar product and was looking diversify their product offerings to include a single-axis solar tracker product,” states Gurley. As ACS Design delved into the company’s requirements during the initial consultation and while deliberating over all the details while they worked with the solar company, Gurley came across another requirement that the client had. “They wanted to install wireless weather stations out on the solar field such that they can obtain information such as wind direction, speed, outside temperature, and snow-drift. Further, they also wanted the system to upload the data wirelessly to the cloud for monitoring,” he says. It was too big a project for the limited human resources that ACS Design had and thus initially seemed impossible to complete. However, Gurley collaborated with a company possessing complementary software capabilities to realize the client’s software requirements while ACS Design concentrated on the electronic hardware elements.
To further demonstrate the capabilities of his firm, Gurley cites an instance where a client approached ACS Design with a product that was being produced by a manufacturer in Asia. Earlier, the client had contacted the manufacturer and made requests for modifications to the product. The manufacturer failed to deliver an acceptable design and the client turned to ACS Design for help. However, rather than modifying the existing design, the team suggested a new product from scratch. This purpose-built design provided increased value to the client as they would then have more control over the specifications and quality of the finished product. The re-envisioned product far exceeded the client’s expectations of the initially proposed modifications.
Their Future and Ours
ACS Design is constantly expanding their portfolio of in-house services. “But, only where it makes sense,” stresses Gurley. Take for instance, PCB assembly. There is an entire industry that provides this service for a reasonable fee when compared to the overhead of trying to provide this service in house. However, one example of recently added services is environmental testing. ACS Design can now test the product over the full range of operational temperature in order to mitigate failures in the field. Traditionally, this would have to have been sent to a third-party for a sizable fee and impact to schedule. ACS Design also provides limited FCC pre-scans. These pre-scans, combined with years of experience, provide a good idea about how the device will perform before being sent to a third party for formal testing; saving the client time and money. Future plans include further cutting time and expense by expanding regulatory pre-compliance elements such as Surge and ESD testing.
"We know what it takes to get a product designed, tested, and manufactured from the ground up"
ACS Design also provides value to their clients by aiding in the selection of contract manufacturers and defining the roles, responsibilities, and job requirements needed to empower their own organization. “We find this really valuable to our clients since our ultimate goal is for them to succeed. They then realize that we’re not just in it to bill them for hours.” ACS Design does not follow a “one size fits all” approach; instead, they are flexible with designs and materials. The company will help refine requirements throughout the development stages as many clients have dynamic needs that vary from their initial thoughts. ACS Design has completed a multitude of electronic designs and served clients from multiple industries. “We believe in keeping it simple and producing an elegant design at the same time,” concludes Gurley.