DA & Control

Designing An Industrial Embedded Controller and the Nine Costs People Don’t Like to Think About

December 4, 2015 By: David LaVine, Viewpoint Systems

Sensors Insights by David LaVine


The focus of this article is on small and medium-sized companies, i.e., those with less than 500 employees. It is geared toward companies in the industrial market that manufacture systems or sub-systems that are generally expensive—in the range of $4,000 to $200,000 per unit—and have lower production volumes, from about 10 to 1,000 units per year.

Emphasis is on the prototyping of the embedded controller. When I say "embedded controller" in this context, it doesn't mean that it actually has to control anything (it could, but isn't required), but it will most likely have outputs. It could simply be monitoring signals to convey useful information to another piece of the system or system of systems.

Fig. 1: Emphasis on Development Phase.
Fig. 1: Emphasis on Development Phase

What is beyond the scope of this discussion?

  • Front-end research: in other words, an idea already exists, but it hasn't been prototyped or proven out yet, or if it has, it's been a lab-equipment-based proof-of-concept hack job.
  • Manufacturing costs: while production volume should absolutely be taken into consideration for off-the-shelf versus custom component selection, we won't focus on the manufacturing end of the product development process; rather focus on the development costs. Of course, designing with production in mind (not just volumes, but DFA & DFM as well) is still critical.
  • The post-production maintenance, obsolescence, and customer support aspects are not part of this discussion.

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About the Author: David LaVine

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