coming soon

Hardware is (not too) hard.
Learn how to take an electronics idea from plan to prototype.
Apply the best practices to get things done and prevent common mistakes.
We'll be making sample chapters available shortly, sign up to be notified when they are ready!

about me

Hi, I’m Max Vilimpoc, an embedded hardware + software engineer with experience in the avionics, rail, automotive, and electric scooter industries.

As a practicing engineer, I always wondered why hardware projects ran over schedule and best practices weren’t being followed.

After a while, I started to notice patterns: user stories and use cases weren’t fully fleshed out, requirements and documentation were often incomplete or incoherent, the hardware lacked a robust architecture, bringing new hires up to speed was painfully slow, and so on.

Individually, these issues delay a prototype by a few months; combined, they can add up to years of extra effort in an average-sized project.

about the book

This book outlines the steps to quickly and affordably engineer an electronic hardware + software prototype from start to finish within a very tight budget, while also teaching a robust development process.

Each chapter provides worked examples of requirements documents and production artifacts, and also provides fill-in templates that you can plug directly into your own projects.

This book distills years of experience into a series of executable chapters:

User Stories and User Experience
This chapter gathers up the details of how people will interact with the product and the overall experience you would like to present, starting with the unboxing and out-of-box-experience through to everyday usage.
Includes a worked-example document and a blank template to fill in with user stories for your own product.
Requirements
This chapter converts the User Stories and User Experience specifications into a set of internally consistent formal statements that can be implemented into the product by the development team.
Includes a worked-example requirements document and a blank template to fill in with your own ideas.
Architecture
This chapter describes the basic set of components and the connections between them that enable your hardware prototype to perform all of the functions laid out in the User Stories and Requirements.
Includes an evolution of product architecture from complex to simple, a worked-example architecture document, and a blank template to fill in with your product architecture.
Tooling and Onboarding
This chapter discusses the documentation needed to get newcomers up to speed as quickly as possible using the tools selected for the project. Gets everyone on the same page and into the same development environment. Keeps track of the quirks of different tools and your specific project setup.
Includes a worked-example onboarding document and a blank template to fill in with your own tools and processes.
Prototyping
This chapter builds up an initial prototype, using off-the-shelf evalution kits and maker-oriented breakout boards. This one-off prototype is annotated and the software bring-up process for the major hardware features is also documented.
A large set of tips and tricks related to efficient prototyping is also provided.
Includes a worked-example prototyping record, but no formal blank template because everyone prototypes differently.
Hardware Design
This chapter walks through the process of combining the parts used in the one-off prototype into a single, integrated circuit board.
A large set of best practices are described, which help preempt common problems in board design and help to make a working board the first time around.
Production
This chapter shows how to generate the files needed to order the circuit board from an on-demand board manufacturer and prepares for the assembly process by ordering a Bill of Materials for all of the components from a parts distributor.
Assembly
This chapter demonstrates how to assemble the circuit board by hand soldering and reflow soldering, and covers all of the tools and parts used.
Enclosure
This chapter takes a step-by-step look at creating an enclosure for the assembled circuit board using mechanical design software and an inexpensive 3D printer.
This is the final step in the prototyping process.

about you

For readers wanting to move from wobbly breadboard-based prototyping to formal designs using printed circuit boards and surface-mount parts, this book is for you.

It will cover the range of tools needed, how to evaluate the multitude of parts on the market, how to model and order blank circuit boards, and how to combine these things into a working prototype.

For readers who have built one-off printed circuit boards as hobbyists but need a primer on the engineering process, this book is also for you.

It includes a straight-line approach to capture all the documentation necessary for a reproducible prototype.

For readers who have done neither of these things, but want to learn, this book presents an example project that you can follow step-by-step to build a working electronic prototype from scratch, while thoroughly documenting everything to professional-grade standards and teaching best practices.

It's basically an advanced college-level course, in book form.

frequently asked questions

When will the full book be released?

The primary content is complete as of April 2019, so the book is currently in the editing phase, which I expect to complete by the end of June 2019.

What happens when new editions of the book are released?

Whenever clarifications, new content, or other revisions are made to the book, a new version will be published.

As a supporting reader, you will immediately be sent a link to the updated PDF version and release notes about what changed.

It’s continuous deployment, applied to publishing.

What if I spot a mistake or need clarification on something?

Send in your questions or comments on whatever part of the book you think needs help, and I will make sure to incorporate changes that make the book better for every reader.

Questions unrelated to the book are also welcome, and I am also available for consulting related to embedded hardware + software development.

Is there a plan to make a physical version of the book?

Given the fact that the book is so easy to update electronically, and will have content improvements over time that you get for free this way, there is no plan to make a dead-tree version.

Although, if there is enough demand for one, I'll never say never.