ECOsystem at ESC

Traditionally, speakers and vendors spend time at the Embedded Systems Conference educating design engineers on new chips, new techniques and difficult design challenges. Left out all too often, though, is the end-game - bringing it all home - packaging it all up - building it and shipping it. You can't underestimate the value of this conference, but the end game is still missing.

On Tuesday, just across the street from the convention center, at the Hilton, five companies deeply involved in the hardware design industry met to solve just that problem. Digi-Key, NXP, National Instruments, Sunstone Circuits and Screaming Circuits came together to discuss an ECOsystem designed to make the engineers job easier. The companies collectively cover components, CAD, PCBs and assembly and have formed an industry work group to improve the systems and processes needed to take a schematics to a finished product. The first ECOsystem meeting took place at the APEX show late last year and since that time, the partners have developed a statement of work and specific plans for company-to-company collaboration.

Today, CAD systems, components, pcbs and assembly, while in theory, are interrelated, in practice are disparate tasks for an engineer. Components may be well documented and easily available, but new ones can't easily be used in a CAD system because of the lack of up-to-date libraries. It's not too difficult to build a Bill of Materials (BOM), but because of parts availability issues and substitutions, it's out of date almost as soon as its made. PCBs are available, but the process is fraught with chances for error due to limited standards and the outdated Gerber file format. Assembly - especially in prototype quantities - is a mystery for engineers that until recently had purchasers doing the work for them.

Digi-Key, NXP, National Instruments, Sunstone Circuits and Screaming Circuits plan to streamline this phase of the development process with new on and off line tools, collaborative projects and joint offerings. Keep and eye on the ECOsystem partners to see what new developments are in store to make the job of producing electronic designs easier for the engineer.

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