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Process Series Post #6

Q&A with a Senior Electrical Engineer on the Product Development Process

James Wightman

Sr. Director of Electrical Engineering

1. What role does your team play in the PD process?

Electrical Engineering: With modern technology so focused on software, hardware design is sometimes taken for granted. However, at the heart of any robust product is a foundation of hardware that must be designed for functionality as well as growth. Hardware platforms have evolved to accept continual Over The Air (OTA) updates in order to take advantage of new features or enhanced functionality, while modern users have evolved to expect this as well. Our hardware engineers are closely coupled with the software team and are tuned for integrating hardware and software to create a sustainable system.

2. In general, what competencies do you and your team bring to most projects and what are your most frequent tasks?

Our Electrical Engineers are all proficient in PCB design, serving Commercial, Industrial, Medical and Military markets, with expertise in the following:

    • High Speed/Density Digital Design
    • Analog Circuit Design and Simulation
    • RF and Wireless Hardware
    • AC/DC, DC/DC Power Distribution
    • Battery Charging and Monitoring

3. What are some of the most unusual or difficult challenges your team has been asked to meet and how did you meet those?

One example is design for explosive environments, certification standards are just not written to facilitate the assessment of micro-electronics so we are often held to very onerous standards that were written for big industrial equipment. In the end, it takes sheer will and tenacity to the seemingly impossible task of qualifying modern electronics for an explosive atmosphere.

Another, more common, challenge is time to market. Our clients frequently test us with compressed development schedules. We often joke that by the time the project is kicked off, we are already late. To be honest, even under these conditions, our Engineers strive to perform and meet milestone expectations. For several projects, we have had to divide the team into 2 or 3 shifts so that serial tasks could get 24hr/day attention. This worked well for 2 recent projects and the team was happy to accommodate.

4. Which other IPS departments do you work most closely with and what sorts of conflicts may commonly arise that require detailed collaboration and compromise?

Electrical Engineering works most closely with Systems Engineering, Embedded Software, and Mechanical Engineering. Our Engineers often blur the lines between departments and sometimes can serve in multiple roles, but this does not cause conflict; it is actually a great attribute. IPS has deliberately created a culture that encourages collaboration and professional development practices that cross the typical departmental boundaries.

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