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Why you Need to Create a Hardware Prototype

By ·Categories: Depend OnLogic, Reliability·Published On: August 21st, 2020·7.3 min read·

What is a Hardware Prototype?

A hardware prototype is a test unit that meets your specifications. The unit allows your engineers, product managers, and other stakeholders to validate requirements for your application, environment, and budget. It allows for a discovery phase to confirm or reject your initial project hypotheses. 

What are your Hardware Requirements?

First, define your application, environment, technical requirements, time frame, regulatory requirements, and budget. This requirements set will be the benchmark for your hardware solution. Once you define your requirements, challenge them with your prototype. 

Through our years of experience, OnLogic has identified a comprehensive set of requirements to consider when starting an industrial computing (IPC) project. This includes both technical and business requirements such as, do you have the internal buy in to switch IPC vendors?  Check it out at The Ultimate Hardware Selection Checklist. 

The Mindset for Creating a Hardware Prototype: Discovery

Prototyping uncovers things you didn’t originally consider when speccing in your new hardware solution. Take this time to learn about your requirement set, your other equipment, and how the hardware works both on the testbench and in the field.

What can you learn with one piece of new hardware? Many things you were not expecting. Or, exactly what you wanted to see! You could discover your requirement set needs adjusting or that the device performance is underpowered or overpowered for your application.

Maybe the temperature of the enclosure you use gets hotter at night than expected. Or that the machinery the system is mounted on produces is more shock and vibration than you expected. Did you know your regulatory team actually does require the UL mark on the label? 

The best case scenario is that you validate your requirement set, quickly and cost-effectively. Worst case scenario, you learn that your specs were wrong. But you failed with one device, not several. 

Fail Early

Prototyping your hardware solution saves you money. Learn fast and fail fast with one device instead of ordering several pieces of hardware that are not the perfect fit for your application (why not aim for perfection, right?).

Consider this scenario: Your company wins a bid with an end user who needs 65 Industrial PCs installed in a 6 week time period. You have the best software guys and you know what you need for hardware, so you’re ready to get going on these installations. The clock was already ticking when you called OnLogic…

This happened with an integrator. Instead of ordering all 65 units at once, our Sales Engineer recommended they test two devices: a device that was in stock and met most of their requirements and one of our newer devices for a longer term solution that met all their requirements but was not in stock for this initial launch. During testing, it was discovered that the SSD was running at 99% capacity – this integrator had an intensive software application. They also learned from their regulatory team that they did need UL labeling. The deadline for their end use was only getting closer. 

The customer tweaked their software application to run on the hardware solution at 98% capacity and decided to implement the UL mark on the system after this initial 65 unit release. These early failures and discoveries led to a successful implementation in the small window they had to get it right. 

We see these examples all the time. That is why we designed our sales cycle around the idea of rapid prototyping. 

OnLogic’s Rapid Hardware Prototype Approach

Our goal is to get hardware prototype in your hands as soon as we can.

3-Day Process

Our first step is to align on your validation process, in 3 days or less. 

Let’s walk through a scenario. You’ve been tasked to validate new hardware in a compute intensive, industrial environment. You go to OnLogic.com and configure a couple pieces of hardware that could work for your application. You follow up with a phone call and speak with one of our Hardware Specialists. They take a consultative sales approach, i.e., they will only sell you what you need – nothing over-specced for your project. 

Depending on the scope of your project, the Technical Sales specialist may decide to escalate you to speak with a Sales Engineer to do a technical deep-dive into the hardware requirements due to project scope or complexity. On the call is an Account Executive, an experienced member of our sales team who can understand your business requirements. The result of the call is a hardware recommendation, built specific to your application. You place an order the same day and you’ll have it within a week. (Assuming everything is in stock!) 

We collect information & make recommendations based on your application, environment, and budget. Easy!

TryLogic 30 Day Risk-Free Trial 

We are innovators at OnLogic, and therefore want to promote that discovery, fail-fast mindset for prototyping. That’s why we offer qualified projects 30 days to try our hardware. We request a mid-point check in to talk about how the hardware solution performs and any technical questions that come up. Additionally, we have a US-based Technical Support team available for questions. 

Are you looking to test a hardware solution? Call in today to see if you qualify for our risk-free TryLogic program: 802-861-2300 or email us at info@onlogic.com. 

Prototype in Days

All computers are built-to-order in our Vermont or Netherlands locations. We stock enough components & bare bones to fulfill prototype orders in days, not weeks. We have a dedicated pre-sales team behind new project customers so that the prototype order is specced to the hardware requirement and ships out quickly. 

On a recent Friday, a medical ISV called our general phone line about an upcoming project. They had not found exactly what they wanted on our eCommerce site due to a unique requirement set. A Sales Engineer got on the phone with them and recommended a custom solution for their specific application. The system was ordered on Friday, built to order, tested, and shipped on Monday.

Engineering Services

Some applications require a level of customization on the hardware solution that require engineering services. Prototyping will allow engineers to get a feel of what the hardware solution will look like before including these services in mass production. 

Many engineers we work with will order a device to work on as a proof of concept. They order a standard, off-the-shelf system to test and narrow down the features required for the mass production run. These features may include custom image, BIOS, labeling, branding, regulatory certifications, or custom mechanical features that require NRE. Once the engineers and product managers have their proof of concept set up, our team can put together a proposal for a complete “out of the box” solution. 

Every once in a while, a customer will need a new system designed to meet their specific requirement set. For example, an amusement park reached out to us with an outdoor application in their water park area which required a touch-screen panel PC that was water resistant and sunlight-readable for their guests. Their current touchscreens were failing left and right. Based on their requirements needed, we discovered that this application required a complete design of a new screen type for them.

We sent them our standard panel PCs to test and worked with their engineers to gather the water-resistant specs for our supplier. Our vendor in Taiwan was able to take these specs and design a custom panel PC for them. In the end, what ultimately sold them, was a video from our Taiwan team spraying water on the screen. The customer was thrilled and purchased them immediately. This collaborative prototyping decreased the risk associated with creating a new product.

Many customers use the validation hardware to set up a complete, “out of the box” solution. We offer custom imaging, BIOS, labeling, branding, etc. services for customers to add after their initial validation is complete. Check out our modular OEM services or download our Logic Services Menu

Conclusion – Why Create a Hardware Prototype? An Account Coordinator Perspective

As an Account Coordinator on the Pre-Sales Team, I manage the logistics of our customers’ prototype orders and processes. It is an exciting process to be a part of and an area our business invests in to make our customers successful. 

In the spirit of innovation – challenge your assumptions! Put your requirement set to the test and get the hardware solution you need. Use the prototype to turn your “proof-of-concept” to a go-to-market product. And most importantly, find a hardware partner who will support your team to find the perfect hardware solution. 

Ready to start your projects?  Contact us today!


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About the Author: Katie Lukes

Katie Lukes is a Sales Account Coordinator. She ensures that our customers get exactly what they need, where they need it, when they need it. When she isn't working, she likes to enjoy the Vermont outdoors. Her ideal day is a long run, hike or ski with a local VT beer afterwards.