Outsourcing Embedded Systems Design Creates Productivity Gains for Global Tech Provider
SKF has been a leading global technology provider since 1907. The company’s fundamental strength is the ability to continuously develop new technologies. SKF achieves this by combining hands-on experience in over 40 industries with knowledge across the SKF technology platforms: bearings and units, seals, mechatronics, services and lubrication systems. With extensive embedded systems design experience, ByteSnap has been a long term partner working on several successful electronics and software design projects for SKF. When SKF started a project to develop a new generation of shaft alignment instruments, ByteSnap was the obvious choice to help.
As a result of the project, SKF now offers two rugged tablets:
The New TKSA 31:
Provides an ergonomic display unit and touch screen making the instrument very easy-to-use with its newly designed interface that connects to its laser heads using a wired connection.
The TKSA 41:
Attaches through a wired or wireless connection to its measurement units, both instruments allowing precise measurements in even the most challenging conditions.
Driven by customer demand and competition, SKF decided to develop its next generation of rugged tablets for laser alignment. They needed to be designed with all the functionality of previous generations along with updates requested by users.
Key requirements included:
New features to enhance the user experience such as a three dimensional view of the alignment train and laser heads.
Bluetooth low energy wireless laser heads to free the user from cables during the alignment process.
An accelerometer to support dynamic screen orientation when using the rugged device in different positions.
SKF had an internal team as part of the Machine Health Group capable of delivering the project, however time and resource constraints led to the decision to partially outsource the project.
Key outsourced embedded systems design expertise was needed to cover circuit board design, and Windows CE development. SKF also wanted a partner that owned existing software libraries and board designs. Another requirement was experience of developing with high-end electronics, including a 32-bit ARM cortex A8 processor with DDR3 memory.
ByteSnap’s team used its experience in developing battery powered portable industrial tablets to deliver the TKSA 31 and 41. From component selection of items such as application processor to Bluetooth integration, ByteSnap worked closely with SKF’s Machine Health Group, to design hardware and implement the embedded OS support.
Following this successful initial phase, SKF appointed ByteSnap’s software engineers for app development. Using their own SnapUI user interface tool and graphics provided by SKF, ByteSnap was able to rapidly develop a high-performance, flexible UI that works with Windows CE.
The user interface shows users graphically how to set up the laser heads and then what adjustments are required to successfully align the rotating elements. Access to a full instruction manual built into the application, means that the user has all the information that they need to use the tool when they are on-site.
The application supports 8 languages for the target market countries.
As the devices are battery powered, ByteSnap’s expertise in low power design ensured that tablets operated for a full working day on one full charge.
The hardware and firmware design and development required a combined effort across three suppliers, where ByteSnap provided one block – electronic design for the portable display unit, OS and user app; the other suppliers provided mechanical design and development of laser measurement units.
The project required close collaboration, especially between ByteSnap and the mechanical designers, for the physical aspects of the product, and the GUI design team to coordinate the new application look and feel. Later in the process the focus switched to working with the laser head designers to ensure the wireless communications was working efficiently.
ByteSnap’s experience in many areas of embedded systems design -from hardware development, OS porting and application work – has greatly helped in delivering this project to market.
Using ByteSnap has enabled SKF to increase productivity and focus internal resources on major projects, in addition to the following benefits:
- New products have been the most successful devices ever with high perceived quality and very low warranty rates
- Strong technical ability, especially in terms of Windows CE ensured smooth project progression
- Working with a trusted supplier, with a track record of providing high quality reliable electronics and software embedded systems design
- Access to SnapUI for easier and quicker UI development
- Team size ensured that software and hardware experts were available at all times