RedRat in Saffron Walden is, in their own words “global leaders in products to automate control of Smart TVs and set-top boxes.”
Dr Chris Dodge, CEO RedRat said of us:
“Pharmatechnics brought a very high level of technical competence and expertise to the design, integration and approvals of the electronics used in our projects. Not only that, they are extremely professional; communicating effectively, delivering on time and always happy to provide additional ad-hoc input when required. They have a genuine interest is seeing each project through to a successful conclusion.”
RedRat were introduced to us via the (now disbanded) government Business Innovation and Strategy group Manufacturing Advisory Service (“MAS”) in November 2013, where we were approved contractors.
They had an existing product but needed a bit of a push to “productise” it, and fix some minor issues.
We took a look at the design and saw some immediate improvements that could help with regulatory approvals, testing, setup and reliability.
We then worked with RedRat to understand exactly what they needed going forward, and this transformed the task from a “quick fix” (which we did anyway) to a revised product that had not just the improvements mentioned above but also an “expansion” capacity, allowing them to add smaller daughter cards with complementary remote systems within the one box. MAS gave them funding to make these improvements, so it was a win-win for all.
This new design has been used to develop RF4CE and Bluetooth remote control system solutions, within minimal time and effort on the physical hardware.
We took the revised design through official standards certification testing with only a couple of minor tweaks needed.
We are now working with RedRat on their next generation products which have adopted the expansion capability from the start. This time, we are working with an industrial designer we have introduced to RedRat to create a custom housing somewhat removed from their previous “bent tin” box designs.
Using a plastic box in place of a metal one brings a whole new world of design considerations. Electronics works by pushing electrons around. The movement of electrons generates magnetic fields – and that’s the basis of radio communications. When combined with the fact that a digital signal actually consists of thousands of discrete frequencies, it’s a fact of life that many electronics circuits produce radio emmissions, across a vast array of frequencies.
A metal box would contain these unwanted emissions, but a plastic box does not – so the challenge to limit unwanted emmissions moves into the design of the electronics inside the product, and most specifically into the careful design of the circuit boards, which now need to contain any unwanted emissions by itself.
Plastic is also quite a good thermal insulator, so we can no longer use the case to help dissipate the heat generated by the electronics inside it. Using forced cooling via a fan is also unwelcome as the lifetime expectancy of a moving part is many times less than that of a static element. Simple convection cooling is the best solution – but that needs any hotspots to have their heat spread across a larger area, and for there to be sufficient air around the hot components to allow this area to be heated and carried away, then replaced by cooler air.
During the development of this new product, we worked closely with the industrial designer to ensure there was sufficent thermal transfer to keep the electronics cool, and we paid careful attention to the board layout, so that there were minimal unwanted RF emmissions.
We also worked with some optical expert friends to ensure the black front lens allowed the infra-red light for the remote controls through unimpeded. This then allowed the lens and black body of the box to be made as a single piece, saving both tooling and assembly costs.
All along the design process we supplied detailed 3D models of the electronics that ensured the final product seemlessly fitted together. We very quickly passed formal qualification tests, and the unit is now being sold.