It’s the Hardware Life for Us: The 8 Challenges of Hardware Engineering

by | Feb 6, 2020

Before I summarize the tips and experience from one of our vetted partner companies, NeuronicWorks, I’m just going to say this: as a hardware engineer, you chose your career. You asked for pain. Now, that can say a lot of things about who you are as an engineer (whether those characteristics be good or bat guano crazy); mostly, I think you enjoy a challenge and that you’re looking for some reprieve before you start your next project. The same sentiment applies to Titu Botos, engineer and founder of NeuronicWorks; however, I think he has more empathy for you than I do at this point, so let’s roll out the challenges he has experienced as a fellow engineer and the tips he recommends.

Challenges #1 & #2: There’s no “undo” button and hardware takes a lot of time to develop - like a lot

Reworking boards are limited and one mistake cannot be fixed. (You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow- this opportunity comes once in a lifetime...mom’s spaghetti!) Plus, by the time you have completed the development of a board and consider creating a version 2, software and firmware engineers have already made hundreds of iterations.

As his first tip, Botos mentions “being curious helps”: be cognizant of the hardware’s capabilities that you can almost predict what you can and cannot do with the design. His second tip is to see the whole picture and dive deep into the details in between.

Challenges #3 & #4: Keep up to date & watch out for added complexity

Manufacturers are moving faster, more evolved products across the line; it’s your responsibility to keep up with what’s new in the tech world, not necessarily memorize it. With so much going on, Botos mentions that there may not even be updated datasheets for each component. That’s why he recommends his third tip: “Read the entire [email protected]*#!* datasheet!”

Challenge #5: Hitting Cost Requirements & Challenge #6: Have the Investment Talk with your Client

Like I mentioned in another article I wrote, there’s the design dilemma: if you want to buy something cheap, expect it to function cheap. When communicating with your client, there are already expectations of cost control. That’s where Botos’ fourth piece of advice may come into play: “Look ahead.” Sometimes, it may just be worthwhile to advocate for an expensive option - you’re the technical expert, so raise that point with your client.

Challenge #7: Over the Ocean, and Through the Woods

Botos recognizes the obvious of much of the industry being overseas like in Shenzhen. Nonetheless, it’s important to find reputable shops just by traveling there yourself and double-check that their manufacturers are up to par with your country’s standards. Therefore, his fifth piece of advice is to “check and recheck everything.”

Challenge #8: Tiny components are Tiny

Honestly, there’s no advice for this. Botos just snarkily questions: “Have you ever seen an 01005-sized resistor?” I can’t provide much help on this topic either besides looking to Botos for insight.

Read more on the challenges of hardware engineering and other related content on NeuronicWork’s blog page.
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https://neuronicworks.com/blog/why-hardware-design-is-hard/

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