Frequently Asked Questions

Where are you located?

We are located at Suite 4, Level 1, 34 Paternoster Lane, Berwick, Victoria, Australia. Full contact details can be found on our contact page here.

The GPS settings for Paternoster Lane are not complete so your GPS navigation might show us as being in the middle of the lane. Park in the public car park If you can see Dan Murphys, we are in the diagonally opposite corner.

Can I visit?

Yes. There is plenty of parking and we are in a first floor commercial office with plenty of light and room.

Are you a “One man band”?

No. We started out that way 16 years ago but since then have grown and added staff. We are now in a spacious first floor office and do up to 100 projects a year.

How do you charge?

We offer two ways for you to use our services.

For smaller projects, or where you don’t know exactly what you want, we offer hourly rate services.  This gives you the flexibility to have access to our team for just the things you want them to do and also to get assistance to define the product and the technical requirements so that we can provide you with an estimate for the whole project.

We also offer fixed price development contracts where you can know what your project cost will be. This is very important if you have a very tight budget or the business case for the product shows that you can’t afford for the development cost to exceed a certain amount. The rules for fixed price are fairly simple: fixed price for fixed deliverables. So we need to know exactly what your requirements are to offer this.

We can start with an hourly rate to help you work out the details to the point where we can then move to fixed price. Hourly rate projects are charged as we go, usually fortnightly. Fixed price projects have a 40% up front payment for the first phase and then we invoice as we complete each phase.

What forms of payment do you accept?

Our preferred payment method is EFT. We do accept cash or cheques but we can issue invoices through Paypal if you want to use a credit card. Paypal invoices incur a 2.4% charge to cover Paypal’s fees.

How do you approach Intellectual Property?

Our approach to Intellectual Property, or IP, is very simple. You own what you pay for. We never trap you into paying for us to develop something then keep the IP rights. We do know other businesses that do this but this is not how we operate.

If you want to be sure, we will even give you a letter once final payment is made stating that it is 100% yours.

Do you make prototypes?

We certainly do.

If I’m not a manufacturer, can you also get the product made for me?

Yes, we can. We work for a wide range of clients including local electronics manufacturers and can manage some or all of the process of getting your product made for you. But we aren’t trying to be a replacement for local manufacturers. We aim to increase Australian Electronics Manufacturing as much as we can so we will select the best local supplier for you and either introduce you or manage the process for you. The choice is up to you.

What services do you offer?

Our services are:

  • Electronics Design
  • Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Design and Layout
  • Embedded Software
  • Windows and Web API Software
  • Production Automated Test Equipment (ATE) design and supply
  • Electronics Prototyping
  • Electronics Manufacture

What is your primary service?

Our primary services are Electronics Design and Embedded Software development.  This is the design of the electronics, layout of the Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) and the Embedded Software that runs on the PCB. Our primary focus is on the circuit board that lives under the covers of a modern product and gives it the smarts it needs to work the way it should.

Although we can also provide manufacturing services this is usually for products we design, and never in order to cut another local manufacturer out of the loop.

Can you create Apps?

We don’t create Mobile Phone and iOS Apps ourselves. We have a supplier who does and  we can introduce you or handle the management of the process for you.

What about Internet software, websites and web APIs?

We design embedded systems that talk to web APIs and can build websites and transact with them. We have suppliers who can provide more sophisticated websites and active server driven systems and we can introduce you or manage the process for you.

Do you also design the case and mechanical parts?

If it is a simple project or can use an off the shelf enclosure then we handle that ourselves. For more complex projects we work with specialist Mechanical Engineering companies to handle that part of the project. We also do work for Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering companies as well as using them as suppliers.

How do you manage projects?

It depends on the size of the project. We use both Gantt charts and spreadsheets for progress reporting and a web based project management tool that allows clients to also be able to log in and check out project progress for themselves.

The primary intent is not to add unnecessary cost to smaller projects while providing a comprehensive reporting and tracking ability for larger ones.

We also find that weekly or fortnightly project meetings with our clients help to ensure they understand exactly where we are at and what is happening next.

How do you ensure the design really works?

We do this in several ways. For the electronics, we use simulation and calculation prior to committing to a PCB Design and then we build it and test it. The exact set of tests to do depend on the design and we can simulate a wide range of fault conditions including automotive load dumps and overvoltage transients.

For software, we use industry standard methods such as design reviews, code reviews, unit tests, code metrics analysis and static analysis. Although these are industry standard, in our experience very few software development providers actually do them. All the indicators are that this saves both time and development cost. And this is also one of the reasons we can often deliver Embedded Software projects faster and bug free.

We also use full system mocks for some projects. This has several benefits for larger projects including the ability to test software before you even have hardware, it gives the clients the chance to use the product in a virtual world and get it refined before delivery and even allows them to permit their clients and end users provide input early in the development cycle. A couple of our national awards were awarded for how we go about this.

How do you document your software?

Our preferred method is to use Doxygen which allows us to build a hyperlink navigation site for the project. This documents not only every data element and function but also their call sequences and relationships. And it costs our clients a lot less than more traditional methods such as Microsoft Word documents. It supports diagrams showing state machine sequences and it also means you can get up to date documentation every time a new version of the code is released.

Do you use Revision Control?

Revision Control is an essential tool for modern software development. We use our own internal system and if you have your own system that can be accessed from our office we will also use that.

Do you work with RF?

Yes, we do work with Radio Frequency Communications. And especially for the commonly available low power RF standards such as 802.11 and WiFi, 802.15.4, Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy and a host of other more proprietary standards.

We have won an Electronics News Future Award for Networking and Communications for our work in replacing wires with RF communications in sports timing systems.

Do you work with GSM?

We do work with the mobile phone network. Several recent projects included GSM reporting of telemetry from remote solar powered sensor systems back to web API based back ends.

Can you do industrial grade design work for products that have to be really robust?

Yes we do. In 2011 our work for ABB Australia in medium to high voltage power factor correction controllers received an Electronics News Future Award for Industrial Electronics design. We are able to design products to cope with a wide range of electrically harsh environments including:

  • Automotive and Transport
  • Rail
  • Industrial Controls
  • Medium to High Voltage power distribution
  • Pipe and Tank corrosion monitoring
  • Lighting strike transient handling
  • 15KV ESD

Do you offer any form of warranty?

Yes we do. For fixed price projects we offer a design warranty. So if anything about the design needs to be rectified and it was something we should have done differently, we fix it at our expense. In practice this is never an issue because we set out to get it right in the first place.

Do you design power supplies?

We design a wide range of power supplies including: Linear, Switch Mode Power Supplies (SMPS), capacitive dropper, mains based, battery based, automotive, low power, high power.

How about RFID?

We have worked in both active and passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) including 125KHz, 13.56MHz, 433MHz, MiFare, DES Fire, HID Proxcard II, HID iClass and Protrac iD Active RFID.

Do you design motor controllers or inverters?

Yes. We can work with all types of motors including:

  • Stepper Motor
  • Micro-stepped Stepper Motor
  • DC
  • Brushless DC (BLDC)
  • AC shaded pole and variable reluctance
  • AC 3 Phase

We have worked on inverters from 10W up to 22KW in size.

Have you ever designed products that are sold in Europe or the USA?

Yes. We are familiar with international product compliance requirements including CE, FCC, UL, CSA, VDE, TUV and local standards such as C-Tick and A-Tick.

Do you also do EMC and safety compliance testing?

We use certified compliance test laboratories to provide officially recognised test reports. We design products that will pass test and can assist with every part of this process.

How do you manufacture if you are in an office?

We are a manufacturer in the same sense that car assemblers are manufacturers. We have many suppliers to draw on and get as much of the manufacturing done by suppliers with our office providing final assembly, programming, test and calibration services.

We can be cost effective doing this because all the equipment required to design a product can also be used to test it.

We also supply production Automated Test Equipment for our manufacturing customers and can do the same for ourselves. In fact, we were finalists in 2014 at National Manufacturing Week for the Technology Application of the Year for our production test technology.

 

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