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Sensor Supplier
Charlotte, NC

Objective – Develop a Self Calibrating, 2 Channel, High Speed Sensor
Services – Electrical Design, Firmware Design, Optical Design & Mechanical Design
Industry – Industrial & Commercial Process Control
Application – Pharmaceutical High Speed Counting

Overview
The sensor supplier markets and sells a wide variety of sensors in various markets throughout the world. The sensor supplier was approached by one of its current customers who requested the design of a two-channel optical frame sensor similar to a current single channel model. The manufacturability needed dramatic improvement with respect to the circuit board assembly technology including packaging and final assembly. Since estimated annual usage was relatively small, cost was a very sensitive issue.

Situation
The supplier had a customer who designed advanced packaging systems for the pharmaceutical industry. This customer was interested in differentiating its packaging systems by radically increasing the overall capacity of its systems. The method they employed was to specify a two-channel sensor in the same physical space as one sensor thereby doubling the overall capacity of their existing systems with only slight modifications.

The supplier approached Dynazign to determine whether they could improve the existing design in terms of performance, functionality and manufacturability.

In addition to the new requirements, the supplier was under a severe time constraint to deliver a working prototype to its customer. Based on previous contact, Dynazign was approached with the opportunity to develop the sensor provided we could deliver sixty functioning production prototypes to the end customer within three calendar weeks. That is, design, material acquisition, firmware design, assembly and test.

Solution
Step number one was to identify the critical path for success. With no margin for even the slightest error, the technical hurdles became subservient to the schedule. It was apparent from the outset that the equation for success relied on a fine balance between required functionality and component availability.

After rapid and exhaustive analysis, we determined the crucial milestones in the critical path. Some of the most important items were:

  • Component selection based on immediate availability
  • Design of Sub-Miniature Switch-Mode Power Supply
  • Circuit Board design and mechanical packaging integration
  • Firmware Design
  • Assembly & Test

This resulted in an unusually highly expedited effort with dependencies outside the direct control of Dynazign. Despite this circumstance, Dynazign extracted commitment from each of its vendors who played a vital role in the critical path.

Technology & Development
Although the schedule was the ultimate limiting factor for this project, Dynazign nonetheless innovated in several areas important to the supplier. Specifically, these sensors were optical devices wherein Dynazign designed specialized refractive lenses through the application of fundamental principals in optical physics. The net result of this innovation made possible the use of surface mount infrared transmitters and receivers that greatly simplified the assembly process as well as improved the performance of the sensor operation.

Packaging posed an equally challenging proposition. Availability of space was severely limited for both component placement and height. This coupled with the delicate nature of component placement relationships of the switch mode power supply was overcome through “out of the box” thinking in conjunction with 3-D modeling techniques.

Another area of substantial innovation involved the addition of auto calibration routines to the firmware. This increased the practical functionality of the unit by allowing the device to run longer between lens cleanings. This is especially important in the pharmaceutical environments where a considerable amount of dust is created by product transport.

In the end, the overall performance of the device was ultimately improved by over a factor of two in both sensitivity and speed including an additional channel of operation. In fact, the very system the sensor was designed for could not “out run” the response in any mode of operation, thus exceeding the specifications. This was not the case for the previous sensors used.

Conclusions
In this case, Dynazign did not possess particular knowledge of the specific industry in which it embarked to devise a solution. By taking the time to extract and understand the requirements from the supplier, Dynazign was indeed capable of leveraging its knowledge, skills, and experience in an area of product design and engineering in which it was not currently involved.

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