We are now offering consulting services for product development, both hardware and software, from conceptualization and prototyping all the way to the final product. If you’ve been following Cycfi Research, and our product development as detailed in our blog, you know that we are extremely passionate with what we do. We enjoy and excel in research and development. “Research” is an integral part of Cycfi.
If you have a concept, an idea of an audio project that you want to realize…, a small preamplifier, a mixer, a microcontroller with DSP, MIDI I/O, and analog inputs, perhaps with audio codecs, we can bring your idea through the full development cycle, up to the final production prototype, ready for mass production. We will work with you all throughout and make sure your goals are attainable at a reasonable cost. We will source the best cost-effective components from reputable sources.
Let us do the hard work for you!
The initial design starts with a sketch of the electronics circuit idea in a schematics diagram, incrementally refined until the right design is attained. This is often a continuous process and the initial design may overlap with the next step, prototyping, as the design is refined.
We can design the circuit diagram for you based on a detailed description of what you want. Alternatively, you may also provide your own schematics if you have something already prepared, or perhaps if you find something interesting from perusing the web. The example below is the schematic diagram of the Infinity MCU module using the STM32F4 MCU.
After the schematic diagram is prepared, the development cycle starts with rapid prototyping using the Manhattan Dead-bug approach: A free-form construction, point-to-point soldering, using small pads punched out of copper-clad board and glued into the main copper base. The pads serve as islands for soldering circuit nodes. The components are constructed, ad-hoc, using a bare copper-clad board serving as common ground. This construction technique drastically reduces electrostatic noise compared to other prototyping techniques using perf-boards or bread-boards. The technique is perfectly suitable for low-noise audio. At this point, all components are stress tested for suitability and quality.
Before we proceed, we will need to know the physical constraints required by your project. If you have strict requirements involving precise component placement that should fit into a specific enclosure space, you will need to supply us with 2D or 3D Mechanical CAD design files (DXF, IDF, PDF) for your placement floor plan. We can produce these files for you based on your specifications (simple X-Y dimensions will suffice).
The actual PCB Design step involves laying out of the components into the circuit board and routing the traces that form the circuit. We specialize on low-noise circuit design using 2 or more layers depending on size, density, and low-noise requirements. Low-noise circuit design and layout is very difficult, especially if it involves mixed-signals: both analog and digital. Noise suppression in mixed-analog-digital-signal design is a very tricky beast to master. Mind you, grounding, especially with mixed-signals, is undoubtedly one of the most difficult subjects in system design —one thing that we’ve mastered over the years.
Beyond low-noise PCB techniques, we may suggest employing active noise suppression using ultra low noise regulators, capacitance multipliers, and reverse capacitance multipliers. These are crucial modules in our bag-of-tricks.
After PCB layout, we generate Gerber files, then off it goes to the PCB manufacturing house.
Aiming for the final prototype, we hand-solder a few boards, at least two, for verification. If there are flaws in the PCB layout, or if some minor adjustments need to be made (e.g. if some components do not fit right), or if there are design changes, we’ll go back to the previous step to fix or improve the PCB layout. This is an iterative process. It’s quite normal not to get it right the first time.
As soon as we have a final prototype we are happy with, we then prepare the BOM (bill of materials), prepare the pick and place file, and source the components, sending these all for PCB assembly.
Programming and MCU development
If your project requires software development, e.g. for MCUs, we also do embedded C/C++ programming. Beyond hardware development, Joel de Guzman, the principal architect and engineer at Cycfi Research is a software engineer specializing in advanced C++. He has authored a number of highly successful Open Source projects such as Boost.Spirit, Boost.Phoenix and Boost.Fusion. These libraries are all part of the Boost Libraries. Boost.org is a community of top-shelf C++ developers engaged in reusable software development. The Boost Libraries are being used by organizations and companies all over the world from CERN to Adobe.
Joel is an Open Source advocate and has been a professional software architect and engineer since 1987. Recently, Joel authored more Open Source libraries under Cycfi, including the Elements GUI library, the Artist 2D graphics library and the Q Audio DSP library.