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68 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I SEPTEMBER 2021 ing more in terms of time and money, product developers magnify their risk. Before attempting to develop a product that is perhaps needlessly complex, look at your product from the customer perspective. Determine what product features are crucial to delivering value and then develop the abso- lute simplest product possible that meets the need. "Non-fixed cost is a real risk for entrepre- neurs, because projects oen go over budget in the design phase," Teel said. If an electronic device is less complex, the board designs probably will be too—making this early phase a critical one for staying on budget. Less onerous PCB designs take less time to complete, require less collaboration with manufacturers on the front end, and are less costly during PCB prototyping. ey also help get products to market faster and with fewer unpleasant surprises. 2. Embrace iterative product prototyping. As with PCB prototyping, electronic prod- uct prototyping is all about learning. ere are multiple phases of prototyping during prod- uct development, beginning with a proof-of- concept (POC) prototype. is early-stage version rarely functions or looks like the final product, because it has only one goal: prove the fundamental concept of the product at the lowest possible cost. e next phase of prototyping should sep- arate appearance from functionality. e "looks-like" prototype, usually created using a 3D printer, exists to demonstrate the look, feel, form, and aesthetics of the new product. Following the looks-like, the "works-like" pro- totype will have functional internal electronics and require development of a custom PCB to house and connect the product's discrete elec- tronic components. PCB design and prototyping oen represent the most expensive phase of product devel- opment. It is critical for the hardware entre- preneur to foster relationships with reliable partners for PCB manufacturing and assem- bly. Without them, successfully building both engineering (works-like, looks-like) and pre- production prototypes can become a slow and costly process. "I don't ever have to tell them what to do," said Teel. "I send the design files, and they make it happen." 3. Seek expert guidance throughout the development process. To have a better chance of bringing new product ideas to life, the development pro- cess should be as predictable as possible. Seek guidance from experts who have learned from experience what works and what does not. Even experienced product developers can benefit from a fresh set of eyes when facing obstacles. On a recent collaboration between Sunstone and Teel's Predictable Designs, we encountered a surprisingly complex challenge related to vias: tunnels that connect different layers of a PCB. e PCB design for a high- powered, pocket-sized personal device used blind and buried vias—connections not visible John Teel

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