Design-to-order (D2O) is the next stage in the evolution of electronic design automation (EDA). D2O encompasses the entire development process for an electronic device, from initial requirements definition to the first bootup. D2O aims to solve not just front-end electronic engineering of a design through unpopulated printed circuit board (PCB), but also the complex issues involved in operating system support, supply chain management, integrated test, and ultimately minimization of the total cost of ownership (TCO).

Newly developed D2O tools now bridge the gap between historical solutions that were either too costly or provided only limited functionality. The most advanced D2O systems for electronic devices integrate an intuitive front-end operating system design, testing sub-system, supply chain management and manufacturing automation. Instead of requiring users to think of their design at the component and PCB-level, these groundbreaking design tools asks users to think in terms of functional blocks—or modules—offering different features, as well as how these functional blocks should be connected at a level much higher than the usual nets of conventional EDA tools.

A Process Divided

New D2O tools like Geppetto contain extensive module libraries, intuitive drag and drop design and 3D product displays.

Historically, EDA has focused on assisting engineers with the PCB creation process—from conceptualization on a schematic, to laying out a board, to generating the requisite documents for the PCB fab. Many of the tools available on the market today have deep roots, some all the way back to the dawn of the PC era in the 1980s. While certainly established and powerful—and often, expensive—these tools also have steep learning curves, and are targeted primarily at electronics engineering professionals who rely daily on advanced EDA tools and years of specialized engineering training to complete their tasks.

Recently, a number of solutions have become available to help bridge this gap, allowing users to submit an already-created design (i.e., schematic, layout and gerbers created using a third-party application) to a supply chain and manufacturing process managed by a third party.

D2O tools offer easy-to-use, intuitive design frontends and a standard library of verified modules that can be used to quickly design devices, enabling complete manufacturing of a custom embedded system. Each step of the design process is handled by the app and seamlessly integrated behind the scenes—from design to board, PCB sourcing, component purchasing and fabrication of the finished product. This process reduces risks, cost and time while creating an affordable platform for rapid prototyping. By combining a high level computer aided design interface with supply chain management integration and manufacturing automation tools, D2O solves both the easy and hard parts of electronic design automation.

EDA has been a major field for innovation in electronics design over the last 40 years. Managing the complexity entailed in creating newer, better electronics, more complex with every passing year, is no small task. Electronics professionals, hobbyists and enthusiasts today have countless EDA tools at their disposal, making design faster, more affordable and more accessible. Yet D2O automation of the design process extends far beyond electrical engineering, and ultimately addresses the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the entire product life cycle. D2O considers not just the cost of design, but also that of engineering and supply-chain logistics enabling a smarter approach to the entire process of design, supply chain integration and manufacturing automation.