Thomas Instrumentation firmly believes in the need to fully test hardware before moving a design into production. To uphold this belief and ensure our final products are the best, we urge customers to invest in the prototyping phase of a project. Upon the validation of the prototypes and the approval of the client, the product is ready to be put into mass production. Our prototyping service typically comes in the following two forms:
Proof of Concept
These prototypes are manufactured several different ways depending upon the complexity of a design and the portion of circuitry that requires testing. At times, we have customers who do not want to invest a lot of time and money in a project concept that may not work for their intended application. In these cases, we develop a simple prototype that performs only the most basic functions to prove the customer’s idea. This type of prototype can be anything from a simple breadboard circuit to a modified version of an in-house production board.
Many times our engineers will create these prototypes for themselves before committing a piece of their design to the official schematic. This allows us to tweak the design as needed before we send away for official hardware. Doing this shortens the time to market, but it is only cost effective to simulate smaller products or portions of a design. Some of these internal engineering prototypes are also used to demonstrate new forms of technology to our customers for use in their products.
These prototypes are manufactured for us by a board production house with a quick turn-around time. They are typically a small quantity of 3 to 10 boards and are the first batch created from our PCB Gerber files. The prototype boards are run through our standard production process which serves to verify our procedures for this product. If there are any problems with the process, we correct them at this time.
Once complete, the prototypes are subjected to thorough testing which typically includes checking for heat issues, ESD/noise issues, software bugs, faulty operation, and survivability of the board to power surges. At this point, we also look for potential future problems such as whether or not connectors could be plugged in backwards or into the wrong place. We try to limit the likelihood of human errors as much as possible. If the prototypes have survived testing, we typically send a few of the boards to the customer. This allows the customer to perform their own sets of tests and verify the product fits into its final enclosure.