If you have an idea for a new hardware product, you usually prototype it using a cheap developer platform, such as the Arduino or the Raspberry Pi. You augment with the extension boards and sensors that meet your requirements and then evaluate the functionality. Also a lot of start-ups proceed in that way and after successful testing, manufacture the final product for the market. But is this the right way to do it?

R2prototyping

At the IoT Hackathon last November, we met Christoph Laib, entrepreneur and co-founder of R2prototyping. R2prototyping is an electronics consulting, prototyping and manufacturing company, that develops optimized prototypes for their customers’ idea. A few weeks ago, we took the opportunity to visit them and learned what agile hardware development means, according to them.

Agile hardware development

It might not sound intuitive, but their idea of agile hardware development is to iterate towards the final product, without the intermediate step of prototyping on a commercial developer board. Meaning, first you start with an evaluation board especially designed for your needs, where you can attach your needed extensions. If the evaluation is successful, you iterate further towards the final product you want to sell. The advantage of this approach is that you already start with hardware parts, that are optimized for your idea, since commercial developer boards, like the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi, are overloaded with functionalities, most of which you will not need for your idea. Therefore, the first evaluation of your prototype will not come close to the performance of the final product.

Left, the Arduino based prototype; Middle, the optimized evaluation board, that can be extended; Right, the final product;

 

Financial aspect

Now the question might arise, whether a start-up can afford developing an optimized evaluation board. Depending on the complexity of your idea, developing a few dozen pieces of an optimized prototype can be cheaper than using commercial developer boards. But one has to note, that start-ups do not value their time spent on developing the first prototype and on reengineering the prototype on an optimized platform.

Impressions from R2prototyping

R2prototyping has the whole prototype production chain in their office, from designer to SMD/THT assembly, enabling faster prototyping and saving cost for their customers. Swisscom is also among their customers.

PCB design area

Storage for electronic parts

Hardware

PCB assembly line

RF design area