Prototyping - We're Living in the Future
I've been working on a bit of a side project for a couple of years now. It's a device for healthcare - but to find out more you'll have to ask me in person!
What it does isn't really important (for the purpose of this blog post, anyway). I just wanted to reflect on how far technology has come in such a short space of time - and what is possible now, which we could have only dreamed of a few years ago.
This (above) is my current prototype. It consists of a Particle Core microprocessor with built in WiFi, a USB LiPO battery charger, a LiPO battery and a handful of other components - 2 resistor, a push switch and and a slide switch and some header pins.
A couple of weeks ago I built this circuit using traditional breadboard techniques - it looked like this:
Having built a working prototype I thought I'd explore having a PCB produced. I'd had a look atÂ Fritzing before - they're Germany-based and provide both the software for generating the PCB design as well as offering the manufacturing service.
Using their software, you can simply 'draw' your breadboard, and then convert it into a PCB layout - it's so simple!
Here's my circuit - drawn using Fritzing's breadboard view - before being converted to a PCB layout:
A week later and my professional manufactured PCBs arrived via UPS. I was able to track the delivery online - all the way from Fritzing's factory in Germany to my desk in Whitby. I love parcel tracking. Do you remember being uncertain of delivery dates even a few years ago?
And 5 minutes after receiving the package I had a fully work prototype - which looks like it's only a few steps away from being a real 'product'. Here it is with a couple of other PCBs I had produced at the same time:
In reality there's quite a lot of work still to do (to go from prototype to produce). But I sit here, absolutely amazed that something of this complexity can be conceived, designed and built on my desk - using components which even a couple of years ago would have been unimaginable.
The 'internet of things' has well and truly arrived, but...
We must find more valuable uses for this technology than internet connected kettles. #IoT
If I had a 3D printer I'd be designing a case for this now and making it look even more finished. Unfortunately I don't have a 3D printer. But even they're affordable - Â£500 will get you something really amazing these days.
If you've got an idea, and an internet connection, you can get so much further down the road to creating a 'product' than was ever possible before. The opportunities for those with ideas are now so amazing. Even I, someone who has grown up fascinated by computers, products and design, find it almost unbelievable. And this is just the beginning.
The next step on my prototyping journey is to design a new PCB which will work with a surface mounted Particle Photo (which I'm hoping will be delivered next week). I can then reduce the volume of my circuit dramatically - enough to fit it inside a case I've found which is just right for this job.
I'll post some more information on my blog when I have another update.