Hardware Design by Focus Embedded

Key Points

  • Hardware design no longer happens in a vacuum. It has to be approached with software and programmable logic development in mind.
  • Hardware developers today have to understand firmware as well.
  • The line between digital design and analog design is a fuzzy thing today, so it pays to know both.

Electronic Hardware Design

Once upon a time, new product design and development in the field of electronics was by definition hardware design. Today this isn’t the case. Circuit design – be it analog or digital circuit design – is only part of the equation. An electronic system may include an embedded microcontroller or a microprocessor requiring programming, a field programmable gate array (FPGA) coded in a hardware description language such as Verilog or VHDL, and lots of software in C, assembly language, Java, or any of a dozen other popular languages.
If nothing else, for instrumentation, low-noise analog systems, and high-speed digital design, electronic design is bound also to encompass PCB layout, since the copper and fiberglass of a printed circuit board can be very much a part of the circuit itself at extreme frequencies or extreme low signal levels.
But regardless of the fact that the electronic hardware, per se, is only a part of the total electronic product, it had better not be the weak link in the chain. So anyone offering electronic product development had best be not only good at it, but also able to see where it fits in the bigger picture. Gone also are the days when engineering design services could be “siloed” and electrical engineering companies could operate in comparative vacuums and simply throw their work over the wall at each other. All parties involved in the endeavor (which should be, from the start, a top-down design effort) have to be aware of what’s happening on the other side of the hardware-software boundary, manufacturability question, or applications programming interface (API).
Focus Embedded isn’t just one of the world’s great electrical engineering companies in the realm of “pure hardware.” We’re product engineers in a much broader context. And if yours is an effort that also includes FPGA design, imposes the requirements of a real time embedded system (and the microprocessor firmware development that goes with that), you owe it to yourself to find somebody who can relate to all the design requirements. There’s just too much at stake not to have specialists who can dive into the minutiae of analog or digital circuit design but also be the good “family doctor” who sees the entire patient. These days not having both can be difference between vibrant good health and a life spent in a technology emergency room.