A Holistic System: Physical + Digital Development

CLIENT: BriskHeat

INDUSTRY: Commercial

SERVICES: Design, UX + UI, Engineering, Prototyping

BriskHeat’s new LYNX™ temperature control system includes a network of heating jackets and modules connected to a central operator interface which allows the system to be monitored and controlled from one location. To bring this system to life, a complete product development design effort included Priority Designs’ user experience, industrial design, electrical engineering, and software engineering teams as well as close collaboration with BriskHeat’s internal engineering project leads and engineers. This cross-functional effort led to a state-of-the-art system that allows for over 1,000 zones to be centrally controlled in one-easy-to-use system.

A System Overhaul

When the project began, BriskHeat’s temperature control system for industrial facilities, such as semiconductor fabrication, started as a 12-year-old design that needed help moving into the next generation. The re-design consisted of two products within the system:

  • A temperature control module that interfaces to BriskHeat’s heating jacket solutions that required industrial design, mechanical engineering and visual brand language
  • The operator interface which included industrial design, user experience design, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and software engineering.

With various components of the system, BriskHeat had a few main goals for the new system:

  • Achieve a small footprint for the control module, without sacrificing high performance.
  • Improve the interaction and setup for the user, allowing for flexibility in the user’s installation
  • Create a way to make the condition of each module easy to visually inspect from a distance, and ensure status can be determined from multiple angles.
  • Develop a cost-effective system utilizing technology that serves a specialized market with a comparatively lower production volume.
  • Address the pain point of labor-intensive and costly wiring operations associated with the manufacturing of heating jackets.

With these requirements in hand, Priority Designs and BriskHeat set out to develop a cohesive, modern and easy-to-use system from concept through production support.

Designing for Space and Quick Control

Starting with BriskHeat’s next-gen electrical design and firmware of the temperature control module (TCM), our cross-functional product development effort began with the industrial design for the TCM. Working with BriskHeat’s electrical engineers, our ID team created sketch concepts, 3D CAD and 3D prints, and quickly prototyped a wide variety of different system volumetric configurations, orientations and connectivity.

The team arrived at a compact system designed around a densely populated control board and an extruded aluminum shell with simple endcaps. The exposed shell efficiently doubles as a heat sink, eliminating the need for a bulky board-mounted component.

In a collaborative effort between BriskHeat and Priority Designs’, mechanical engineers performed FEA simulation on multiple heat sink profile concepts to find the best balance between heat dissipation, footprint and appearance of the module exterior.

To reduce the time and cost associated with wiring operations, the new system was re-formatted to an external power base, wired externally to the jacket with board-mounted contacts. The control system would be housed separately in a module that docked to the power base, also allowing easy service replacement. Priority Designs developed an integrated and tool-less latch feature to hold the control module securely to the power base. After several iterations, testing and feedback from the BriskHeat team, this latch was tested to endure a 65g force in the IEC 6 axis vibration test.

To improve the visibility of the individual modules, a large LED display was designed to indicate temperature or information codes. Tri-color LED indicator light arrays under the translucent front endcap clearly communicate the status of the modules that can be seen from afar.

Throughout development, engineering teams helped provide a ruthlessly minimized part count, simple construction, and moderate tooling investment that would keep costs down. Priority Designs helped coordinate vendor communications for cost estimates along with design proposals to facilitate informed design and business decisions.

Operator Interface Provides Centralized Module Management

For the other part of the system, the operator interface, the redesign focused on creating a simple first time setup procedure, ability to visually layout the user’s installation and associate zones, and to easily monitor and control the system and zones. Another target was to provide a way for the user to manage zones for maintenance and quality control by allowing easy reconfiguration and review of historical data. The Priority Designs user experience design team started with understanding the requirements and the users of the existing operator interface and temperature control module system. After reviewing the existing product and gathering information from BriskHeat about the user, we identified two primary users:

  • The Tool Owner who is responsible for keeping the facility up and running.
  • The Technician who is primarily responsible for installation and troubleshooting issues in the field.

With information from BriskHeat, Priority Designs had an understanding of the users, context, and content. We set out on developing the information architecture by creating a system map to bring together the feature requirements and user needs into one system. Once reviewed, Priority Designs developed wireframe concepts that focused on flow and structure of the user interface and tested this against the user tasks generated from the user needs.

After reviewing wireframes with BriskHeat, Priority Designs implemented the feedback and developed the style and brand language for the user interface by creating aesthetic user interface concepts that were layered on various wireframe concepts. After an internal heuristics review, we met with BriskHeat to narrow down the selection of aesthetic concepts into one refined direction in alignment with BriskHeat’s existing brand language. From this, Priority Designs developed the user experience documentation that the software engineering team utilized to fully implement the system, along with the functional specification.

Meanwhile, our electrical and embedded systems engineers were focusing on sourcing components for the system to identify the most cost-effective 10.1” display, single board computer and 8 channel Modbus communication solutions. Priority Designs also evaluated various solutions that resulted in circuit design of 2 boards:

  • A daughterboard that handled RS-485, switching relays, and power
  • A mini PCIe board that allowed for 8 channel PCI to UART transmission

Once the electrical system architecture was defined, Priority Designs and BriskHeat teams worked diligently together to preserve the compact size with the required features. Priority Designs provided the 3D system layout and housing design. The process involved frequent two-way exchange of data between the teams. This task required creative solutions to maneuver around purchased electrical components and mandated electrical spacing for regulatory compliance.

To avoid a costly regulatory burden, the team decided to make the OI module a low voltage system with an external desktop power supply. To facilitate installation, provision was made in the housing to stow the power supply externally within the footprint.

With the features further refined, the target hardware selected, and the user experience documented, Priority Designs’ software engineers created a plan with BriskHeat to implement the operator interface and began developing the system utilizing the Qt Framework on top of a Linux OS. They started with building the infrastructure for data storage, RS-485 and Modbus communication, and hardware I/O control. The user interface was developed in parallel utilizing emulation and eventually the target hardware by collaborating with the user experience team and leveraging the documentation and assets created by the team. Priority Designs collaborated with BriskHeat throughout the process to get feedback from internal and external stakeholders.

A Unified Solution: Hardware + Software

Together, the final system of temperature control modules with an operator interface creates an improved system, allowing the user to quickly monitor and control a whole facility. The system design provides the user with the ability to quickly identify alarms to mitigate any issues and maintain production output. Users can see indicator lights on each module with a 360-degree light ring. The 10.1” touchscreen lets the tool owner customize maps of zones within the facility, and update up to 1024 zones at one central location.

BriskHeat introduced the new LYNX™ Temperature Control Module and Operator Interface at the 2019 SemiCon tradeshow. The feedback from the show generated a large amount of excitement and helped propel efforts and plans to production. Priority Designs’ continued software development and refinement, in addition to supporting BriskHeat in their regulatory testing and initial release for production. The system is now released and the team is excited to receive feedback from facilities who are rolling out the new system.

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