Electrical Engineering Q&A
What does an electrical engineering company do?
Most people use electronics every day. VPI Engineering designs electronics for a wide variety of clients. We have experience designing digital and analog electrical systems, imaging systems, battery and power systems, networking systems, antennas, infrared systems, electrical prototypes, RoHS compliant systems, radiological detection systems, and sensor-based systems.
Electrical Engineering spans a broad spectrum of services. Our engineers have the education and experience to choose the correct components and create electrical designs that are reliable and safe for users.1
Every electronic product requires electrical systems engineering and design to ensure that its electrical components are properly connected and will interact well together. Our goal is to help you create a product or system that fits your customers' needs and performs to your expectations. Your success is our success.
Currently, VPI is IPC-7711/7721 CIT certified. "The IPC-7711 Rework of Electronic Assemblies and the IPC-7721 Repair and Modification of Printed Boards and Assemblies are the Electronic Industry’s manuals for the guidelines on re-installing or replacing electronic components and repairing circuitry with minimum impact on quality and reliability." - Blackfox Training and Certification
What types of devices require AC power as opposed to DC power?
Alternating Current (AC) and direct current (DC) describe the electricity used to power electronics. In the U.S., many household devices use AC power.
Battery-powered devices and European electronics often use DC power.
VPI Engineering designs both alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) powered systems.
How are analog and digital systems different?
Electrical systems come in two flavors, digital and analog. Digital systems use incremented inputs and outputs, 1s and 0s to communicate information. Analog systems accept inputs and then output information as they sense it from the outside world.
To understand the difference between digital and analog systems, compare digital and analog clocks. Digital clocks are updated electronically as opposed to analog clocks which use motors and gears to move hands that point to numbers on the clock face.
VPI designs analog to digital and digital to analog systems, which convert inputs into a format that the system can use.¹
When should I implement an internal antenna?
Internal or Chip antennas can be used in devices with limited range and allow for a sleeker look. External antennas can be used to give devices a longer range but are a little unsightly. VPI Engineering incorporates appropriate antennas for each project's application. We can design your device to work with an existing chip or external antenna, or we can design a custom antenna specific to your device.
How do I create a battery-powered device?
The general process for developing electronics can be found here. The suggestions below are attributes of successful battery-powered devices.
Each electronic device will face certain environmental factors, such as humidity, dust, heat, cold, or sand. Successful systems are designed to withstand their environment.
For example, we design high-reliability systems with low failure rates for commercial and military-grade battery systems, which require rugged designs that will continue to function in extreme conditions.
Power optimized designs incorporate power management systems to help them conserve battery life for as long as possible. This means that power is selectively supplied to areas of the system that need power at the time. This design strategy is sometimes called low power consumption design or ultra-low power consumption design.1
VPI designed an iPad case/keyboard for Zagg that can be used for over a year on one charge.
Battery Charging/Recharging Circuit Designs
When designing a battery-powered device, generally a charging system also must be in the plan. Depending on each product's battery type needs, an efficient and fast charging circuit/charging station will be created to fit the battery and the product design's criteria.
Are all high voltage systems dangerous?
High Voltage System Design
The short answer is yes, all high voltage systems can be dangerous. Two main concerns when designing and testing a high voltage system are:
- Is the user protected from harmful or fatal electric shock?
- Is the device designed so that it can handle the current that will run through it?
Danger to the user
The danger high voltage devices can present to users increases as the amperage increases. Many people have experienced relatively high voltage shocks without realizing it. Any time you feel a static discharge after walking across the carpet in your socks, or when you touch your car after getting out, you have felt the effects of high voltage electricity. Most of these shocks are harmless unless you have some sort of medical condition.
Harmful or fatal electric shock normally comes from sources with higher amperage, like a wall socket or powerline.
Danger to the device
High voltage shocks can melt circuits and render them useless if they are not designed correctly.
Modern technology is tested to withstand high voltage shocks. VPI is tested to withstand high voltage shocks. VPI Laboratories offers this type of testing. They have an electrostatic discharge (ESD) gun that converts house current into high voltage electrostatic energy. The tester then shocks the device various times to make sure that it will hold up to testing.
Safe reliable designs are not created by happenstance. They take careful planning and execution. VPI is careful to design devices that pass regulatory requirements for safety and reliability. We have in-house testing facilities, that make it simpler for us to perform necessary testing.
How do I design an imaging system?
Designing imaging systems is similar to designing any other type of electronic device. We've outlined our design process on our homepage. We recommend that designers use a similar process if they choose to develop electronics on their own.
First, come up with a clear concept. Imaging systems should have a purpose. Some of the imaging systems we have designed are made to analyze the density of specific chemicals in the skin for example.
After you've decided on the system's purpose, develop a method for the device to accomplish that purpose. It may require a very controlled environment or a specific type of sensor. To learn more about sensors read CCD and CMOS Imagers below. Electrical engineers are a good resource for help if you get stuck in this phase.
Knowing how the system will work will help you to pick out components. This is kind of a chicken and the egg process. Make sure that current technology can perform the tasks you need. New technology can be developed, but this is a long and expensive process. You can find electronic component dealers online. Keep in mind, the more expensive each component is, the harder it will be to make a profit later. We have a team of sourcing professionals that can help you optimize costs. Together with our electrical engineers, they can help you find reliable components that are cost-effective and that manufacturers will likely continue to produce. When certain components go obsolete it can sometimes mean that you'll have to do almost a complete redevelopment to incorporate a new part.
Design the form factor for the device. If you need your device to fit into a specific space or look a certain way find a way to fit all of the components into that form factor or design a different form factor.
Once you're done with your design, build some prototypes that you can use for testing. If the prototype(s) is satisfactory, begin preparing for production. Find a manufacturer if you haven't already and make sure all of your components will arrive on time.
Start production and get your product in the hands of customers.
CCD and CMOS Imagers
Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) and Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors are used in cameras and for other imaging applications. CCD imagers tend to be more expensive and produce higher-quality images. CMOS imagers are less expensive but suffer somewhat when it comes to image quality. VPI Engineering can help you find the correct sensor for your price range and application.1
VPI Engineering also designs illumination control for devices that use CMOS and CCD Sensors so that they perform within a consistent environment.
How are Infrared systems used?
Infrared (IR) technology senses, and/or transmits infrared radiation. This can be useful for military applications such as surveillance, targeting, and tracking. It's also useful for fire surveillance and security as well as short-range wireless communication and can be used to determine the efficiency of a building’s insulation through temperature sensing and thermal imaging.
IR Technology is used in most TV remote controls.
How are IoT systems connected?
Networking may seem like something you do at a trade show, but in this case, we are talking about networking between electronic devices. This is a process used by IoT devices.
Networked systems can be connected through Ethernet or wirelessly, much like a computer's connection to the internet. VPI Engineering designs networking systems that give the end-user a more efficient experience than if each device operated individually. Connected devices can be useful for IoT applications like smart home systems, sprinkler controllers, and security monitoring systems.
(Voice over Internet Protocol) (VoIP) makes it possible to talk like you would over traditional phone lines, but through an Internet connection. Making a call over the Internet requires converting analog signals from your voice to digital signals.1
One project completed by VPI enabled companies to record multiple calls for quality assurance.
What is logic in digital electronics?
Logic describes the basic functions of electronics. Writing logic for programmable logic devices (PLDs), complex programmable logic devices (CPLDs), and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA) allows engineers to program very fast devices.
PLDs and CPLDs
PLDs are Programmable Logic Devices (PLDs) and CPLDs are Complex Programmable Logic Devices (CPLDs).
What is an FPGA?
Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are like microcontrollers that can be configured to process inputs in a variety of ways and can be programmed to work very quickly. They are not used as frequently as microcontrollers or microprocessors for simple electronics because they are more expensive and use more power, but when they are needed, they can be very useful.
How do I create a low EMI or RFI design?
Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) refer to the amount of electromagnetic noise that electronics produce. VPI Engineering designs devices with low EMI and RFI.
The FCC and other regulatory authorities require products to meet certain EMI and RFI standards before they can be sold legally. Not only do we design products to meet these regulatory requirements, but we also have testing facilities to conduct product testing to Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Industry Canada (IC), and Conformité Européene (CE) standards.
Why do I need a prototype?
Prototyping is very important in the new product creation process. It allows the product design to be evaluated and tested for functionality, durability, and manufacturability. Building a prototype can also clarify production costs and issues. Presenting a new product to potential buyers is much easier when a prototype can be shown and held as a working model. If a patent is desired, while sitting down with an attorney to draw up the patent papers, a working prototype is very helpful to see what aspects of the product are patentable, or what aspects may violate current patents.
When it comes to electrical prototyping, solderless breadboards can be used for simple electrical circuits. However, a more complex product may require the prototype to just start with a PCB (printed circuit board) and do some tweaking along the way.
VPI’s engineers have created prototypes as a vital part of the product development process for the many projects we’ve engaged in. Prototypes range from very simple breadboards, 3D printed parts, and example software code, to fully functional systems that enable the engineers to demonstrate that a product is ready for deployment and manufacturing.
What is RoHS compliant design?
What are RoHS and non-RoHS?
RoHS stands for Restriction of Hazardous Substances and effects on products that will be sold in Europe most heavily. It is a set of regulations meant to help reduce waste and maintain a healthy environment.
VPI’s engineers can design your product so that it meets RoHS requirements. One of the main factors that determine a device's RoHS compliance is whether or not it contains lead.
What is the WEEE?
Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) requirements are a subset of RoHS requirements. They require that companies treat, recover, and recycle electric and electronic equipment.
If your current product design incorporates lead components, VPI Engineering can help you redesign your product so that it no longer contains lead.1