This question is answered by Mikołaj Wiewióra of Poznań-based Design Studio Mindsailors sp. z o.o., which has been implementing products for 15 years, running them from concept and initial ideas through mechanics and electronics to production and sale.

- Mindsailors employs designers with engineering experience as well as engineers and programmers with a passion for design, said Mikołaj Wiewióra. - 'We are an industrial design studio creating a product from both the design and technology side, but because today many products without an electronic part do not exist, we took on the challenge of building a team of electronics and engineers who design electronics with or for us. For larger projects, we also co-operate with EMS companies, the contractors who produce the electronics for our customers. 


Mikołaj Wiewióra and the interior of a design studio in Poznań



Designing in the Poznan studio starts with understanding the client's needs and what the team actually wants the product to be. This is a stage that at Mindsailors is called Predesign. The message contained in the so-called brief, i.e. a list of goals, requirements and assumptions regarding the idea for a new or modified product, written out by the client, must be clear. The designers analyse the list point by point, formulate a debrief, i.e. a response to the brief, where they clarify the objectives and then - in consultation with the client - create the first sketches of the product in a stage lasting one to three months, called Conceptual Design.


Design process at Mindsailors sp.z o.o.

- From a design point of view, it is a relatively simple and predictable process, but when electronics are involved, it is more difficult, says Mikołaj Wiewióra. - It is not entirely clear what should come first. On the one hand, design can dictate a certain shape and thus what should be inside, while on the other hand, today's production possibilities and the availability of components, which has been a gigantic problem in the world of electronics for the past two years, sometimes determine the shape of the device. This is the point at which we as a design office have to find a way out of this impasse. We make the assumption that design comes first, but underpinned by the knowledge of the number of electronic components needed arranged on a specific area of the PCB. We define a base sketch of the 3D solid on which we work with the electronics and wait for them to say “we will fit”. This way of designing allows us to show visual concepts that have a real chance of making it to the next stage without drastic changes in proportions or dimensions. Sometimes we want to go outside the box and change the proportions of the PCB or go for flexible electronics - and interestingly enough, the client often chooses a design that meets all the brief but goes slightly beyond the brief.

After discussing all the pros and cons with the stakeholders of the new product, the designers at Mindsailors move on to the Targeted Conceptual Design (from a design perspective) and Targeted Prototype (for electronics) stages. Up to this point, the risks are not yet very big, but they increase as the project materialises, because all the technological problems have to be taken into account, which is particularly difficult with complex or waterproof devices. The end of this stage is the best time to produce a tangible and good quality prototype, which can finally be touched and the original vision can be juxtaposed with the real object, after weeks of work and countless discussions.


POTZ BALANCE - an unconventional mechanism for winding watches, provided by a gyroscopic movement mirroring the natural movement of the wrist. Design authors: Mikołaj Wiewióra, Artur Niedbało, Anita Rogoża © Mindsailors sp. z o.o. - 3D mechanical model, prototype and PCB

The design studio slowly enters the Mechanical Design phase, which involves designing the inside of the product, from the arrangement of components such as latches, ribs etc. to the documentation, to the production of the first (and subsequent) mechanical prototype and Firmware, i.e. writing the software that operates the device's electronics. Often embedded programmers write additional code snippets that allow the team to test further functionality of the new product. 

- We need to prove to the client that what we have envisaged will actually work. We make a prototype that shows not only the shape of the product, but also the electronics that fit inside and work well, continues Mikołaj Wiewióra. - At the Mechanical Design stage, we usually try to test individual elements of the prototype, which we make out of foam, metal or with the help of a 3D printer, such as the ergonomics of the solid, the closing of the case on the latches or the flexibility of the cable protection element. This phase lasts about a year.


Test electronics assembly and firmware writing

The next elements of the process are Design for Manufacturing and Design for Launch, which is the production design of the enclosure, taking into account all the previous requirements, but also optimised for manufacturing and assembly. On the electronics side, this is the launch of the designed device, taking place in successive iterations. In software, these last a few hours or days, while in hardware they last a few weeks or months, sometimes even longer.  

- As a design studio, we supervise production in the final phase called Production Supervision. To test a product idea, we are able to produce small series of products in cooperation with a tool shop and a company specialising in injection moulding. The same applies to electronics, which we produce ourselves or with the help of trusted subcontractors (including EMS). During the first trials in the factory, we answer all questions, show photo documentation and explain our intentions during the design process, as well as our expectations regarding the form, surface structure and function of the new product. This is necessary because drawings and 3D models do not always show everything accurately. We always design the mechanical model with all the technological principles in mind, such as the correct inclination of the walls and divisions, so that the housing component comes out of the injection mould without any problems, explains Mikołaj Wiewióra. - EMS has the nice feature that, if they receive the casing, they are able to deliver a complete product. Injection moulders do not always have the competence to implement the electronics, as this involves a series of specialised tests. It also happens that the customer himself hands over to the electronics manufacturer an enclosure found on the market and ready-made, which does not meet the conditions of the design, and then such an EMS reports to the design office to correct it or create it anew. However, these are still rare situations.


Devices designed at Mindsailors sp. z o.o. From left: STEAMIE steamer; AioCare portable spirometer; SARAEYE - AI home assistant with 360-degree rotating camera lens; PREGNABIT - portable KTG for monitoring fetal heart rate, mother's pulse and uterine contractions. There is an interesting story associated with the latter, as it turned out that the designer involved in the whole process was pregnant, so the client went to great lengths to get her idea implemented quickly and gave the designer the finished product as a gift so that she could test PREGNABIT herself as the target user

It also takes a few months to get a particular device into series or mass production that is 100% in line with the design team's expectations. At Mindsailors, this is usually handled by two people associated with a particular project, who take care of all the implementation details. They prepare the mechanical and electronic parts list and check the availability of components, subassemblies and PCBs. They also keep an eye on proper communication and the timely transfer of files saved in a universal format between the design team, the tool room and the electronics manufacturer.


Mindsailors Industrial Design Studio team in Poznań

- When the test injections come out as we expect them to, and the electronics work and are tested according to our recommended procedure, this marks the end of the design work for us. Once production is up and running, we are still at the client's disposal, but if both parties, the client and the manufacturer, already know what they have to do, then our help is unnecessary for them. We try to bring the project to a point where we no longer need to intervene - concludes Mikołaj Wiewióra.

Interviewed and compiled by Agnieszka Kubasik


We will present our projects as an exhibitor at the one-day fair, which will be held on 30 March at Tarczynski Arena Wrocław. The organiser is the electronics industry information service 

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