Will your product be around in 2039?

Where is your product’s future?

Future Vision Harsch Shivam via PEXELS
Future Vision

If this year in 2021 you’re designing flashing wrist bands for the FIFA World Cup in 2022, then it’s unlikely you’ll be worried about your product’s next ‘development stage’ in 2023. Should you be building a house you’d expect greater longevity. You’d hope the architect had designed it to still be standing in 2039, but you would not have expected them to design elements of your house to provide facilities for you to easily add an extension. If you’re designing a router, it’s unlikely that the product will still be in use in 2027, but it is likely that an iteration of your current design will be shipping to your customers.  If you are creating a factory, its likely that decisions you make now will affect how flexible your production line is and how able it is to cope with future developments.

Longevity or Variant Flexibility

There is a difference between designing for a product or product line that needs to last into the future and one that needs to provide a base for a number of variants. They are not mutually exclusive but both have an impact on the effort and cost. Without being mindful of the intended product route, it is not possible to plan for this flexibility. Longevity can also be divided into product longevity and design longevity, both of which can affect your product’s end date.


LEDs on development board Marc Mueller on PEXELS.com

Considering the examples above, if you are creating the flashing  wristband and know that you need red, and yellow variants. That’s what the organisers have asked for,  a different colour for the opposing teams. It is also possible, but not yet confirmed, that you’ll need green, orange, and blue variants for the semi and finals, but this is only being ‘talked about’. It would be short-sighted  ordering your integrated chip-on-board circuit with a ‘built in drive resistor’ to provide the 1.8v needed for the LEDs; only to find the green and blue models can not be made.

It would be much better to add a requirement to allow this flexibility by designing the current regulating resistor as a separate component allowing the 3.2v needed for the other colours. This is a flexible design variant, it is known about and has a high probability of being needed. The impact of this on the design is minimal. The cost saving; allowing many different bands to be produced with the same chip-on-board IC; far outweighs the cost of the extra pick and place operation to add the separate resistor.

It would, however, be very unlikely that producing a variant that could be connected to a sounder to ‘beep’,  as well as flash would be produced. Just imagine how annoying the stadium would be filled with beeping noises. The extra cost of designing the chip to have that facility would not produce pay back. That said, if your company  produces other novelties; which include a kids toy that needs flashing and beeping; then you may be able to justify using the same chip design across two product ranges.

In house building,  the variants are likely to be 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms or left and right hand versions of semi-detached, properties. The commonalities providing cost benefits, when ordering anything from windows to staircases.

Design Longevity

Factory Internals on PEXELS.com

Whilst we expect the house to be still standing, and the factory to still be producing; we’d not be overly surprised if the router had stopped working.

The house design is essentially static. It does not change, unless the architect is commissioned to oversee new builds. In that case they may need to be altered to meet changing building regulations.

The concepts of the router should still be good; there should be aspects of our original design in any current products.

The factory product may well alter, if it’s set up to assemble routers that are around 200mm long by 150mm wide; it would be very short-sighted to design all the conveyors and packing systems to only handle that one size. As soon as the new router design of 150mm by 100mm is required, the whole line would need to be changed. So designing for longevity; making as many of the elements of the system configurable or generic as possible; will allow you to accommodate future variants, even if their details are not yet known. Again a balance needs to be struck; designing  the conveyors and packing systems that ‘might need’ to handle 3000mm wide packages, would plainly be overkill.

Product Longevity

Our house design could be thrown away after the estate is complete. It may not be possible to keep building the same type of house for twenty years. The product, does however need to be designed to last that long. The system requirements must specify materials which will last, no one would seriously want a house built of straw. Just ask the three little pigs… The products we make on the factory line will have their own longevity, this should have been specified at concept. Some elements of the factory may still be the same. It’s the overall design and operation that we needed to last, not necessarily the products being made. If we’d been assembling the wristbands, by now they will hopefully have been recycled, else they clutter in the attic of our house with not a flash left to give.

A Balance

Router by rawpixels on PEXELS

We should not consider longevity and flexibility separately. Take the router itself; designing the board to allow the flexibility of adding  support for a USB device to future variants is good planning. Adding a spare memory socket to allow more caching, to assist with the expected line speed increase with a switch to FTTP is prudent. Designing software and board layouts to cope with an experimental processor and protocols; that only exist in a university study; are likely to be a waste of effort given the expected lifecycle. Designing the software that could still be in use[*] or the basis of the router you will release in 2030, to cope with dates beyond 2038[**] is likely to be worthwhile!

Tool Support

Ensure your design tool allows you to collate, process, link and trace your variants and plan for longevity. Whether this is via an inbuilt mechanism, such as Cradle variants, or by linking longevity requirements as separate items to your main system requirements.


*Extremetech.com:Microsoft Windows XP Is Finally Dead, Nearly 18 Years Post-Launch Last official variant (Windows Embedded POSReady 2009) support dropped.

**Wikipedia:Year 2038 problem Seconds since 1970 32 bit integer seconds overflow


June 2021 Newsletter

What Goes Around Comes Around

There are negative connotations implied in that headline. Mistakes we make now will come back and bite us at a later point. “Yeah, yeah, it’s good enough, get it out the door and on the shelf” attitudes easily lead to high returns and subsequent costs and damaged reputation.

Positive Spin

 Photo by Elviss Railijs Bitāns from Pexels
Vinyl Record

However, it is also possible to put a positive spin on the phrase. We should not just dismiss technology and engineering just because it is ‘old’. We should strive to improve it, but not necessarily replace it. The vinyl  record has made a come back. Not necessarily to the same volume as its heyday, but sufficient to support new manufacturers, distribution channels and development and build of players. As with any technology it has its flaws. Easy to scratch, bulky and not portable, needs cleaning maintenance, has to be stored correctly so it does not warp. We solved some of these with the advent of cassette. Whilst it was portable, it was still possible to demagnetise it, it degraded over time, and was often too easy to produce a birds nest tangle. The mini disc, came and went, the CD was (and still is) fairly robust, and portable-ish. Digital storage and streaming are now main stream and today’s youth will question why on earth you would want a physical copy. A shelf full of physical albums with glossy covers may be a thing to treasure. A sense of true ownership, rarity – (you can’t just copy a record), has a place. Of course there are also the points that if your cloud service falls into liquidation, or we have a solar flare and its associated electromagnetic pulse, those with vinyl albums will still have music.

Other Examples

Records may be a light hearted example, but we find technology re-development constantly. Most apparent in the quest for cleaner energy, a landscape full of flour grinding or water pumping windmills, is now filled with wind turbines. Water wheels that turned industry’s cogs were replaced by coal burning steam engines, now hydro dams and the latest forays into floating tidal turbines off Orkney will once again be powering industry.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Past

Take a wheel, improve its manufacture, change its composition, but don’t reinvent a replacement, unless that is truly what is needed. If you have a wheel-like requirement, don’t forget to look to the past for inspiration. One of the core principles in Cradle’s evolution is that all past projects are convertible or importable to the latest version of the tool. So if you have a design for a record player in Cradle from 30+ years ago, you can import it into the latest version 7.6 and modernise the parts you need to tweak.

Training Course

Cradl;e online training course
Cradle Online Training

The public training course for June is Document Publisher course on the 23rd-24th. For System Administrators, the course in July is for you; “System Administration 21st July”. Book now if you would like to reserve a place. These public courses are open to all, great if you only have a couple of people needing training, or wish to get feedback from other candidates using the product. If you want a course specific to your company or with tailored content please don’t hesitate to contact salesdetails@threesl.com

Social Media


Temposonics June 2021 tweet
Temposonics June 2021 tweet

We were interested to read how Temposonics magneto restrictive measurements could replace optical or resistive float and arm devices when measuring the level between two different liquids in a tank. We highlighted Cradle’s ability to check a combination of attributes for ‘uniqueness‘.


That wraps up our June 2021 Newsletter, if you have any topics you’d like to see covered drop us a line at social-customer@threesl.com