When it comes to designing mobile communications devices, there are two big challenges. First, designers have to create a reliable device, because by definition, it’s in the field. Second, because design cycles for mobile phones tend to be shorter than most mechatronic devices, designers need to use software that helps them both maintain and update schematics easily.
The mobile devices division within electronics manufacturer Motorola uses multiple modules of PTC’s Production Development System, a relationship that started with the iDen (integrated digital enhanced network) phones and has spread to the design of all Motorola’s mobile devices. The iDen name may not be familiar, but they’re the “push-to-talk” devices that Sprint Nextel, Boost Mobile, and other companies sell in the U.S., frequently in heavy-duty situations such as construction, military, and warehouse work.
Think of them as the 21st century version of walkie-talkies. But they also come in dual-mode versions that work on the traditional cell phone network, and include Internet access, e-mail and text messaging, a wireless modem, GPS technology, Java, Bluetooth, and roaming capabilities.
According to Todd Taneyhill, a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff who focuses on CAD tools and the mechanical side of development, the PTC PDS has enabled Motorola to improve its product development efficiencies, accelerate new product introductions, and reduce costly tooling redesign cycles times from two weeks to two days.
The Smallest Mechatronics Systems
Cell phones are of course among the smallest mechatronics systems. By definition, it has a mechanical housing with integrated electronics and an embedded operating system. “We design the mechanical phone using PTC’s CAD tool,” says Taneyhill. The group also uses Windchill PDMLink
, a data repository that allows manufactures to manage digital product development data and collaborate with external vendors.
“It is deployed globally so that that everybody is working from the same data,” he says. “That’s a really big advantage as opposed to zipping and e-mailing or any other type of transfer. Everybody works in one system.”
The mobile devices division is also looking at increasing its use of PDMLink to manage the data that comes out of Cadence’s CAE system, using the Pro/Engineer Wildfire 4 collaboration extension released earlier this year. “We can transfer design data between the Pro/Engineer and Cadence so that we can ensure that the boards for the phone and the radio systems fit inside without any interference. The designer doing mechanical engineering gets a view of the electrical design, and vice versa, at the same time, so we’re not passing it back and forth.”
To Taneyhill, it brings a more collaborative approach to design. Using PTC’s ProductView, engineers can work in the same tool. “The designers can have a discussion about moving capacitors or other elements if they have to. The fewer number of times we have to exchange data, the faster we can complete a design.”
Taneyhill is also pleased by a new capability in Wildfire 4 that lets designers transfer only the incremental changes since the last version, rather than the whole design. “Because you’re just transferring the deltas in the design, you don’t have to go back through and check the 90 percent of the design that’s still the same.” At the same time, whenever changes are made, Windchill automatically notifies other designers on the project via e-mail with a link to the latest plan. “That eliminates both the manual process of writing an e-mail and generating the proper files,” he adds. “It doesn’t sound like a big time saver, but it is. And it’s all non-value-added time.”
Motorola’s iDen group originally used PTC’s tools, and when it was combined with the company’s other mobile phone design group, those engineers began using them as well. Taneyhill says that they’re rolling out Windchill to the entire mobile group currently, and while only a few engineers are currently testing Wildfire 4, its wide release to all mobile device designers within Motorola is scheduled for later this year. The Benefits of Version Control
Taneyhill believes that Motorola derives great time savings from using a tool that accommodates multiple design disciplines. “The revision and version control make it easy to see the history of design and development. If you have a board with 1,400 components and you’re trying to find out what changed between the two, it can be daunting, unless you have good processes involved,” he says. “With our compare tools, we can look at two electrical designs and find out the difference down to the trace routes. We can also look at what’s changed from the mechanical standpoint.”
He acknowledges that there are some limitations. “In the electrical design, a height may have changed, but the comparison tool only does a graphical comparison [rather than a dimensional one],” he says, adding that PTC is working on that capability. He’s also interested in future capabilities such as digital rights management, which would offer further protection of designs.
Nonetheless, the collaborative capabilities outweigh any drawbacks. “We’ve eliminated design cycle time and a lot of time in transferring data, since we don’t have to import or zip data to transfer it between designers. I can take a part for a project, and ask for specific feedback in a design review process. I can share data with external vendors. If a customer wants to see a design for a new phone, we can give get them access to it.”
Ultimately, Taneyhill wants a seamless system that extends from design straight into an Oracle manufacturing system. “It’s not seamless all the way down the chain, but that’s our ultimate goal. We’ve been pressuring PTC to get some of these features sooner. We’re hard on them because when they perform well, we can perform well.”