Pharmatechnics has been helping companies around Cambridge deliver their product ideas since 2003.
Although we have minimal full-time staff, we work with a network of similar small companies and specialists that we regularly call on to deliver just what the client needs. We find this works for everyone as we can provide just the right skill mix with people who really know their stuff, just when it’s needed – and as a company we don’t have the overhead of people sitting around waiting or learning on the job and pushing our prices up or our timescales out.
We have spent so much time working on real life products that although our learning may have been in “Electronics”, “Software” or something similar, we really now class ourselves as “Product engineers with an electronics bias”.
Our real world experience and can help in all stages of the product cycle – from inital concept and feasibility through architecural choices and deciding the splits between hardware, firmware, software or mechanics, then through detailed design, prototyping, verification, pre-production, production, testing, certification and field support.
We use the best tools we can afford that give us (and hence you) the best possible chance of a right-first-time design.
Our tool of choice is Altium Designer, due to it’s suitability for the designs we work on. It provides a feature rich set on tools within the package then helps with all aspects of the design process (high speed PCB tools, manufacturing data, BOM, 3D mechanical design, schematic driven design rules).
We also have ability and long experience of using Mentor PADS and a host of specialist support packages and a vast array of compilers and physical test tools.
Many of the designs we undertake in this ever-more digital age are for high speed highly complex digital circuits, and require very careful trimming of the electrical circuits. Whilst this can be done by hand, it is a slow and labourous task – so we use state of the art layout tools that assist enormously in these tasks and cut the critcal layout time by typically 90%. We do still manually assist the layout, as that’s the only way to inject our many years of experience in avoiding EMC or operational pitfalls later, but we use the advanced tool features that take most of the legwork away.
Our tools also allow us to perform simulations on both the circuit and the layout, adding an extra layer of assurance before potentially costly manufacture to those designs where something out of the ordinary, or requiring extra attention is needed.
When designing a PCB, we use 3D models of the components as much as possible. This allows us to provide you with a realistic model of the final design, which can be incorporated into a 3D CAD system, allowing an early check for fit in housings and against other items. It also provides and early image of the board, which may be useful for marketing or other publicity material. Altium also has the ability for mulitple boards to be connected together with the 1 3D model, so that 3D systems can be evaluated at the PCB tool design stage.
Quite often, we get involved in the product verification, and it is here that our physical tools and product knowledge get used the most, to check the design at the limits of its tolerances, to check the operation of the electronics, software and the packaging, and to achieve a pass of the formal verification tests.
Our thermal camera is an invaluable aid to such verification, or to spot parts that are undergoing undue stress.
High speed design
Within the Altium design tools, there are highly advanced features that enable control of many high speed design parameters, such as impedance control on mulitple PCB layers, length matching across numerous design methologies (differential pairs, buses, daisy changes, T-structures, including through series termination components), . Using these tools we regularly design interfaces such as DDR3/4, USB2/3, PCIe upto Gen 4, SGMII, 10GB/s XAUI, Ethernet, RGMII amongst others.
High voltage design and test
We are very used to high voltage desgn and test. In this example, our customer wanted their equipment to survive repetative surges at 10,000V – well above the “normal” range of 4kV or even 6kV. At these extremes, the normal laws of physics get bent, and there are no off-the-shelf parts to do the job – so measure, test and assess using all the tools in our arsenal are the order of the day, then add some extra margin for good luck.
When to get in touch:
If you are making a product, and think you may need some help, please do get in touch as soon as you can – making a demo and an initial prototype is one thing, but making a product that can then be made in vast numbers needs a different mindset that really only comes with experience and “feeling the pain” when things go a little wrong.
Many of our clients initially came to us (or were sent our way – see our “how we do it” page) when they had a prototype and an interested buyer, so suddenly wanted help to “get into production” in a big big hurry, when what they really needed was to take a step back, take a good look at the design and check that it was safe, reliable, repeatable with the range of component tolerances and operating conditions, and most of all, manufacturable and testable using a simple methodology, and then a small amount of help to hand-hold a manufacturing partner into volume.
If you only need a few hours of our time now, then that’s fine. We have found that a short initial chat and some pointers to where you can and can’t cut corners could save you a lot of time, cost and headache later on when you suddenly get that big lead that is going to make your company a household name.