Hardware design includes the activities spanning Schematic Entry(Electronic Circuit design), Printed Circuit Board(PCB) Design to assembly and bring-up activity of the manufactured boards. Initially a prototype quantity of boards are manufactured, after bring-up and functional validation an updated set of gerbers(PCB manufacturing format) are released to mass manufacture.
All the hardware activity flows from the Hardware architecture and specification documents. Hardware designers extensively use peer-reviews to validate aspects of design. Certain aspects of design are validated using tools such as Mentor Graphics Hyperlynx-Analog. Thotaka liaisons with silicon manufacturers such as Freescale, TI, ST Micro to work with reference boards of a silicon component to validate its performance and characteristics. All the hardware designs are meticulously versioned with appropriate information on design decisions to ensure traceability to requirements.
While schematic entry aspect of hardware design is an intensive engineering activity, the actual PCB design is a fusion of Engineering and Art. Thotaka has licensed tools form Mentor Graphics to accomplish this aspect of the hardware design flow. The schematic engineer usually places routing constraints in the schematic itself, the PCB engineer then routes the signals adhering to the schematic and Industrial design constraints. The PCB layout engineer also implements manufacturer recommendations and prior-art to achieve the design goals.
A critical aspect of delivering a functional hardware system is signal integrity analysis. The clock rates and clock technologies such as DDR, are driving need to model integrity of critical signals from origin to destination on the board. Thotaka has licensed tools from Mentor Graphics such as HyperLynx LineSim and BoardSim to accomplish modeling of PCB traces so as to ensure signal integrity. This activity is interspersed with PCB layout so as to deliver a functional layout to manufacturer.
The hardware team at Thotaka works with the clients manufacturer to complete the Design-for-Manufacture phase. This phase involves identifying the PCB characteristics: impedance control, core and prepeg, layer stack-up, finish and board thickness.
For prototype quantities the manufacture and assembly of the board are done by separate vendors, for large volumes the design is handed over to an EMS with appropriate infrastructure. Various reports such as impedance coupons, BBT and X-Ray reports are sought from manufacturers and assemblers/ EMS as a part of the Q/A process.
Once the fully assembled/populated PCB's are available, the hardware team at Thotaka works with the software/firmware team to bring-up the board.