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Automation in electronics engineering
posted on May 11, 2021
The megatrend of automation is difficult to understand for many. You may also be unsure what it is about and might ask yourself: Will it evolve in all industries and technologies? And most importantly: How am I personally affected? We seek to answer these questions in the following article and give you an insight into how automation could look like, specifically in the electronics sector. We want you to be on top of the trend. And like it is with all megatrends: Invest now or regret later.
Support your decision
First of all, it is important to clarify the terms. Automation is about machines taking over tasks. Usually, machines are better at analyzing data and elaborating patterns than humans. This is due to the fact that machines are able to analyze Big Data, which means we are talking about a mass of data humans would never be able to work with. However, humans have a foresightedness that machines will never achieve because they consider external factors a machine could not know about. An example: take COVID-19. For instance, a machine is able to measure a decrease in productivity of production and can give forecasts based on this. We as humans might know this will change due to factors like vaccination – but how should a machine know this? Therefore, automation can have a lot of advantages in terms of rational decision-making (this is the reason why you should have a data integration plan), but human experts are currently still irreplaceable.
Machines cause job losses
Indeed, we can assume that in the future machines will take over certain jobs. As described previously, machines are much better in repetitions: On the one hand, in seeing patterns in data and on the other hand, in doing repetitive tasks. Machines are able to take over tasks from humans, however, for now, and probably in the medium-term future, it will mainly be repetitive and tedious tasks. This might seem like predestined job losses by automation at the first glance. But isn’t one of the biggest problems of our century that we have “no time”? 25 % of people say they feel like they live in stressed-out and rushed times. So, think about one question: If machines take over the dull part of your work, will you really have nothing to do anymore? Or can you maybe finally focus on growing, innovation, and creativity. You could invest time into projects you wanted to do for a long time and could optimize your work. To enable this, it is important to focus on necessary skills (learn more about necessary skills) and infrastructure (namely cloud computing, learn more here) to enable automation rather earlier than later.
Great, but not for you in the electronics sector?
This all sounds a bit like a utopia, you might think. Or that it might work for some industries but definitely not for yours. This is what CELUS’ founders have heard a lot when starting to work on a solution for automation in the electronics development. But before talking about automation in detail, we must mention a basic principle that currently picks up speed in the electronics sector: Design Reuse. How can you practice design reuse in electronics engineering? Design Reuse is a big step in making the electronics engineering process more effective. If it is done right, engineers will no longer have to start almost every project from scratch. Instead, they search a library for modules that have already been designed and tested. This means, instead of designing similar circuits for electrical products again and again, engineers can invest their time into adapting or optimizing existing ones. This is what automation can build on in order to avoid doubled work of highly skilled employees.
Design Reuse in practice
The previously described basic idea has now to be put into practice. The main problem engineers are facing when trying to do Design Reuse is that they have to work with modules from other engineers. How to manage and share reusable circuit modules among engineers? Managing and sharing modules among engineers is not trivial. Lists containing modules have to be stored in a cloud accessible for everyone. Also, there has to be implemented all necessary information for engineers to be able to work with pre-designed modules. Currently, it takes even more effort to find and get familiar with a fitting module than developing the same module from scratch. To skip this unnecessarily tedious process, a decentrally accessible library is needed. Besides, this also enables the help of machines! How can electronics engineering be automated? The basis for an automated process is a well-structured library. It must contain modules enriched with functional data and specifics, which enable an algorithm to search for a module fully automatically. Afterwards, engineers can adapt the designs in a CAD-Tool. And this is basically what is done on the CELUS Engineering-Platform, which is described in more detail in the following.
The CELUS approach
These are the components to build up automation in the electronics engineering sector: library management and automation algorithms. We put this into practice with CELUS Orbit and CELUS Supernova. This is how your automated engineering process with CELUS works.
You start with Orbit. Orbit is the smart library management system enabling easy and smooth Design Reuse and time savings. That means: When starting a project, you have certain requirements. Based on that, you know which functionality is needed. Instead of spending time searching for a fitting module, Orbit can be used intuitively and always contains the latest work of all engineers working with CELUS. Another benefit besides a well-structured database is working with Cubos. Cubos are the modules we are talking about all the time ready to be reused, but additionally, they contain all necessary technical specifications needed for a smooth development process. This makes them much more valuable.
Jumping into the process itself, Supernova can use this library as well. The engineer describes their requirement in the format of a block diagram. Then, Supernova automatically generates PCB-Layouts, schematics, and bills of material within seconds. This is the core of automated electronics engineering. Now, the electronics engineer can then take the generated files, import them into their CAD-Tool. The freed-up time can now be invested into delivering an extraordinary and innovative product.
See the CELUS Engineering Platform in action in our first use case with Viessmann:
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