We offer electronic design services, both hardware and software, specialising in embedded real-time building automation and control systems.
Whilst we have traditionally focussed on commercial buildings, we are becoming increasingly involved in residential systems, aka home automation. This is a fast-growing market sector, with some particularly interesting design challenges.
What we do
- System Design
- Hardware Design
- Software Design
- Prototypes & Design Verification
- Approvals & Documentation
- Production Support
System architecture – developing conceptual models for the structure and behaviour of the system, be it a simple thermostat, or a full environmental control system.
User interfaces – how users will interact with the system.
Transducers – how the system interacts with its environment, using sensors and actuators.
Electrical interfaces – from volt-free contacts to building control networks, BMS interfaces, and internet connections.
Power supply and distribution – from simple battery-powered sensors to whole-building power distribution, this is a crucial part of a good system design.
Feasibility Studies – looking for innovative solutions, and assessing high-risk areas of the project.
PCB design – from simple single-sided paper boards, up to 8 layer controlled impedance FR4, with drilled or laser-cut vias, track and gap sizes down to 0.13mm, and handling all up-to-date component packages including BGA and microBGA. We use Pulsonix CAD software.
Power management and conversion – linear or switchmode, from microprocessor supply rails to 20 amp DC motor supplies.
Actuator control – from simple solenoids, valves and DC brushed motors, to brushless or stepper motors for higher power or precision.
Sensors – from simple environmental sensors (temperature, pressure, ambient light, humidity, occupancy, etc.), through to more complex technologies and inferred sensing techniques, this is an area that fascinates us!
Embedded microcontrollers – from low cost ARM Cortex M0, Atmel AT, and PIC devices for simple sensors and controllers, through ARM Cortex M3 devices for more complex control systems and user interfaces, to Intel XScale and ARM Cortex A8 CPUs with DDR2 RAM for high throughput network appliances etc. System-on-Chip or System-on-Module products are used for rapid development of more complex platforms, for example linux-based embedded web servers and network appliances.
Building Control Networks – from simple serial buses such as RS232, RS485, USB and Apollo, through bespoke networks, to industry standards such as Echelon LonWorks, CAN, BACNet, Modbus, Z-wave, Zigbee, ethernet etc.
User Interfaces – from simple lights and buttons, through to LCD and OLED displays, navkeys and touchscreens
Sensor and actuator interfaces using time-critical data acquisition and processing.
Network protocols from simple 2-wire sensor networks to full IP control.
User interfaces from simple lights and buttons, to graphical displays and navkeys.
Bootloaders and Flash loaders for bespoke hardware designs.
We typically use C or assembler, compiled using the excellent GNU GCC, and developed and debugged using the Eclipse IDE.
Rapid prototyping of bespoke PCBs using fast-turnaround PCB fabrication and SMT assembly houses.
Rapid software development for quick low-cost testing of prototype hardware.
Design verification programmes for functional, environmental, and reliability testing.
Ongoing design acceptance testing – clients typically want to do this in-house, so we provide the support and advice they need, and develop any special jigs or software needed for this.
Failure mode assessment – particularly important for fire and intrinsic safety products
CE Marking – meeting the relevant standards, and compiling Declaration of Conformity and Technical Files.
Product Labelling – whilst product labels are typically designed by our clients, we advise and assist the client in meeting the various labelling requirements, such as power markings, CE, RoHS, WEEE etc.
Documentation – we typically work with the client on user, installation and service manuals etc., either providing advice, or working with a technical writer.
Drawing Packs – we provide full manufacturing drawing packs, using industry-standard file formats (PCB gerbers, Excellon drill files, IPC-D-356 netlists, pdf, csv and xls items lists, assembly drawings, csv component placement files, etc. etc.).
Production Programming – we typically provide either bespoke programming jigs and software, or advise the manufacturer on using their existing programming tools.
Production Test – from simple manual test procedures to fully automated test jigs, we design them.
We’re not rocket scientists! If you have a multi-million pound budget for developing the world’s first nuclear-powered spaceship, we’re probably not the right people.
Building controls, however, whilst not being rocket science, do require a broad set of skills. Buildings themselves are complex, whether you’re considering their architecture, mechanics and thermodynamics, logistics for heating, cooling, lighting, plumbing, communications, access control, security, or the many and varied ways that human beings use and interact with a building. We have the broad skill base and experience needed for this.
If there is a particular skill that we are lacking, then we probably know a man who can.