Important Strategies to Consider During Electronics Packaging Design

Electronics packaging is one of the major disciplines in the field of mechanical engineering and it incorporates many engineering subdisciplines including thermoelectric cooling and thermal design. To create a well-crafted design for electronics packaging, it is vital for engineers in handheld electronics design companies to consider a broad range of strategies. Here we have compiled some of these strategies from the mechanical engineer’s toolbox to consider during your electronics packaging concept design process.

Steady State Cooling 

We usually base thermal design of electronic devices on a steady-state assumption.  We define some worst-case ambient air temperature at which we will test the device, then run the device at that temperature for several hours. A common, though conservative, specification is 55℃. That’s only a couple of degrees above the highest temperature ever recorded on earth.  But consider: temperature difference drives heat transfer, or “Delta-T.”  If you must limit internal temperature to 70℃, then a 55℃ test temperature yields only 15℃ of Delta T to drive heat-dissipation.  Reducing the test-temperature to 50℃, which is still unbearably hot, increases the delta-T to 20℃. That is a 33% improvement in heat-rejection.  If you get nothing else from this article, remember this:  Don’t over specify the ambient temperature!  A more realistic target for your thermal design will result in a more compact and cost-effective product.

The steady-state scenario serves as a baseline against which to discuss more interesting challenges involved in electronics packaging.

Transient Performance

We intend some devices to operate for short periods of time at extreme temperatures.  As an example, the “black box” found on a commercial aircraft is rated to operate for 30 minutes at a temperature of 1,100℃.  That feat is achieved with a rather primitive strategy: a double-walled enclosure and a lot of insulation.  Other, more compact devices use a different strategy.  A tactical radio, for example, uses a housing of insulating plastic and an internal thermal mass that banks up heat, in much the same way that a flywheel banks up kinetic energy.  There is a critical balance to this strategy.  A device that banks up heat as part of the high-temperature strategy must be able to reject that heat to ambient at the conclusion of the test.  The interplay of external heating, insulation, and internal heat capacity requires careful Product Engineering; often including CFD simulation.

Solar Heat Gain

Solar Heat Gain, or insolation, must be considered when engineering products for outdoor use.  Consider a device mounted to an external wall.  Mount that enclosure to a north-facing wall in Death Valley and it will perform surprisingly well.  Mount it to a south-facing wall in much cooler Denver and it will overheat very quickly.  A rigidly attached but thermally isolated sun-shade is one effective solution.  There are many others.

System Engineering

Certain applications require continuous, not transient, performance in a hot environment.  Whether transient or steady-state, System Engineering should explicitly address thermal design challenges, and do so early in the product development process. Numerous strategies are employed to deal with situations that cannot be addressed with purely mechanical strategies.  A few examples:

  • MIL-STD-810 specifies 3 states: Storage, Operation, and Tactical Standby to Operational.  Each state specified by MIL-STD-810 generates a different amount of heat.  It is important to understand what states and durations are expected in a high-temperature environment; perhaps automatically switching between them to control heat generation.
  • Some devices can limit their performance (e.g., clock speed) when they begin to overheat.  They control temperature by generating less heat in hot environments.
  • More expensive electronic components may be specified to increase the Delta-T.  Commercial semiconductors are typically rated to 70℃, Industrial to 85℃, and Military to 125℃.  Military-rated components are rather expensive.
  • Rarely, active cooling is the only practical solution.  Thermoelectric Cooling (TEC) is one example of a technology that can keep electronics cool and reliable even in an extremely hot environment.  This is complex and should not be undertaken by an inexperienced engineer.

Thermal design challenges are rarely the only ones that an Electronics Packaging engineer must overcome.  It is in your best interest in the thermal design stages to thoughtfully and reasonably specify how the device will be tested, enumerate and rank your goals, and retain an experienced Product Engineering team to execute the product.

Porticos Creates Dell Convertible Computer Concepts


Dell, a longtime leader in technology and the fast production of hardware and software that provide quality products for businesses and consumers alike, recently sought ideation and creative brainstorming for a new project. This project aimed to generate multiple concepts for a convertible-type computing device that would be larger than a traditional smartphone, but different from typical tablet devices and other convertible products currently on the market. Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, held multiple brainstorming sessions with Dell, which resulted in more than 14 concept designs being picked for further refinement to create the final product.

Dell Convertible Concepts diagram

Brainstorming and Concept Development in Support of Product Differentiation

Porticos’s hardware engineers were requested to generate multiple concepts for a convertible-type computing device by Dell, that would be larger than a traditional smartphone, but different from typical tablet PC devices or other convertible products currently on the market. There was emphasis placed on developing concepts for a differentiated input method, and convertibility for multiple use cases and configurations.

To accomplish the requirements from Dell in the quick, efficient way that Porticos’ hardware engineers work in, they held multiple brainstorming sessions that generated more than 14 concept designs. These concept designs were then reviewed with Dell, to make sure all parties were aware and on board with down selection and refinement. Then, the selected concepts were refined, and Porticos’ hardware engineers worked with partners of Porticos to create highly cosmetic prototypes that Dell used to conduct internal reviews and user studies.

Dell Convertible Concepts prototype

Porticos is proud to have partnered with Dell on this project, and to have once again had a hand in driving new, innovative technology into the hands of businesses and consumers. Our hardware engineers’ commitment to fast, quality work and ensuring the needs of our partners are consistently and throughly met every time they are requested to work with another company is how we reiterate our love for technology and innovation.

Porticos Designs Nuclear Medical Device

Radioactive medicines and dyes, which enable PET scanning and other modern diagnostic methods, are created by placing an organic substance in front of a particle accelerator and irradiating the substance. Then, this allows the person analyzing the data provided during this process to be able to properly view and identify what should or should not be brought to the attention of a medical professional or patient.

A local inventor and entrepreneur came to Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC with the prototype of an “Accelerator Target” which would allow fast and economical production of a radioactive medical dye. The client asked us to optimize the size and function of the prototype while simplifying the manufacture and assembly processes.

Nuclear Medical Device diagram 2

In addition to accomplishing these tasks, Porticos’s hardware design engineers were able to create a separate “fill station” to support the device. Our engineers also helped the client establish a supply chain appropriate to the scale and schedule of the project. The production of this accelerator target allows for a much quicker process altogether, and the efficiency of having a fill station nearby to support the device makes it available for use for longer periods of time. Additionally, this technology supports PET scanning and modern diagnostic methods alike, so this also opens a window for technology to evolve in such a way that makes the use of the accelerator target more of a necessity and less of an option or alternative to what is already being used.

The product is now used in the United States and Europe, and Porticos hopes this product will continue to reach those who need it most in the medical field, as it saves time, money, resources, and is a fast, safe, and efficient way to render more timely results. Our hardware engineers remain committed to bring new, innovative products to the market, making the lives of businesses and customers simpler and better in quality.

Nuclear Medical Device diagram 3

DuPont Conductive Ink

DuPont Electronics & Imaging, a technology company that brings technology-driven solutions around the world has created conductive ink that can be thermoformed, and they partnered with Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC to create a demo to showcase how it works. Porticos’ hardware engineers worked with DuPont to define how the demo would look and how it should work, then we designed, engineered, and built it. This revolutionary ink unlocks a new set of possibilities for electronic products. Instead of traditional buttons and switches—which takes up a lot of space on electronics—this conductive ink can create switches that are printed into electronics, making devices lighter and more beautiful. It also cuts down on production costs and time with its precision and modernization.

Thanks to the demo built by Porticos’ hardware engineers, DuPont can share more about the benefits and positive change using conductive ink provides with the global solutions they provide to other businesses and technologically-adept people around the world, and can also consider themselves leaders on the forefront of how this new technology will revolutionize the future of electronics. Porticos is proud to have partnered with a company as committed to addressing customers’ immediate needs as it pertains to technology as we are.

Learn more about Porticos’ collaborative effort with DuPont below!


Porticos Produces Rugged Pistol Grip

Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, continues to revolutionize in the world of hardware engineering and innovative technology development. One of Porticos’ most innovative projects to date is their involvement in the development of a rugged pistol grip.

Symbol Technologies, an American manufacturer and worldwide supplier of mobile data capture and delivery equipment, headquartered in Holtsville, NY, is currently a subsidiary of Zebra Technologies (Lincolnshire, IL). When Symbol Technologies came to Porticos’ hardware engineers, the pistol grip accessory proved to be an engineering and concept modeling challenge. It was a challenge Porticos was excited to meet and execute, as well as a project that remained in line with Porticos’ area of expertise.

Mechanical Concept Design

In order to most effectively create the ergonomic geometry required for the rugged pistol grip, a high-proficiency pro engineer was necessary. From an engineering perspective, it was essential for the pistol grip to pass the rugged testing that Symbol Technologies’ products have a reputation for.

In addition to the necessity to pass a ruggedness test, the interface to the main unit had to simple yet secure, while also accommodating the large number of critical interfaces. Porticos’ hardware engineers provided all of the mechanical design concept and executed the development of this product, all the way up to the successful transition to the production manufacturing source.

Porticos is proud to be part of such an innovative, essential project, and continues to shrive to create forward-thinking technology that will make as much of a mark in 40 years as it does today.

Symbol Technologies was ultimately satisfied with the concept design and execution of the rugged pistol grip, and it is currently being used in today’s market. Porticos’ hardware engineers was happy to collaborate with Symbol Technologies and offer up their expertise to ensure the production of the product was what would best suit consumers and the company overall.

Porticos Engineers Rugged Laptop

Dell, a popular developer of computers and other innovative technology, wanted to develop a ruggedized variant of a product from their laptop computer line. They turned to Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, for their expertise in this area.

Latitude ATG Development Challenges

The Latitude ATG is a tough, All-Terrain Grade laptop designed for industries like construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, as well as public organizations such as police forces. Built and tested to meet MIL-STD 810F—a tough military standard of durability—the Latitude ATG is designed to meet almost any physical challenge and the most demanding work environments.

Porticos’ hardware design engineers have ample experience designing products to meet the MIL-810F requirements and a history of supporting Dell on other projects, and was honored to design the ATG.

The two most challenging aspects of the ATG project were isolation of the hard drive and display, and designing the hinge and latch systems to accommodate the new design. What made the hard drive even more difficult a task was the need for it to fit into the same space currently allocated in the non-ATG D620 Latitude platform. The solution was to take a physically smaller Hitachi hard drive, and design a protective case that would function as the interface to the existing electrical connections. This also effectively protected the hard drive from shock and vibration.

The hard drive with it’s mated rigid flex was secured in a frame molded from EAR Specialty C8002 isolation material, then sandwiched between two sheets of 3M “G Sheet.” To meet the thickness limitations while still addressing stiffness goals, a titanium stamping was mated to a magnesium casting to form the mechanical enclosure. Similar isolation solutions were chosen to support the display.

After modeling the hinge mechanism and latches in Pro-Engineer, Porticos’ hardware engineers conducted finite element analysis (FEA) using the COSMOS analysis tool. The design was optimized to address high-stress areas, and the results were shared with the manufacturing source.

In addition to the structural analysis conducted, Failure Mode Effect and Analysis (FMEA) and Design For Assembly (DFA) were conducted. The feedback was then incorporated into the final Pro-E 3D CAD geometry and drawings.

With its shock-mounted, removable hard drive, shock-mounted LCD screen, a dust and spill-resistant keyboard, port covers and highly durable, textured paint to protect against scratches, scuffs and daily wear, the Latitude ATG is prepared for life working in the field.

The Smallest BioMedical System

Porticos and Device Solutions worked closely to optimize placement efficiency to create the smallest BioMedical system package possible. This was especially important for both units because power consumption needs to support a 30-day transmission period, which is provided by a large battery cell.

Ambulatory ECG Monitoring System Product Development

BioMedical Systems (now part of ERT), has been providing medical data analysis and support for physicians and their patients for nearly 40 years. They saw a need for a mobile cardiac telemetry system that could take advantage of their sophisticated arrhythmia analysis software, record the data and transmit that information in real time to a group of certified cardiac technicians. To make their vision a reality, they came to Porticos and Device Solutions—one of Porticos’ partners—who experienced in hardware and software development for wireless devices. Herein, the TruVue™ product was born.

The TruVue™ system consists of a patient-worn ECG recording device, a hand-held device that receives and analyzes the information from the recording device. The device then transmits the real-time data to the BioMedical Systems headquarters in St. Louis, where the data is analyzed further and formatted for easy access by the physician.

Porticos’ hardware engineers created the 3D CAD data using Unigraphics software. Bluetooth was chosen as the wireless communication protocol between the patient-worn device and the hand-held device, while GSM-based-cellular was used to transmit between the hand-held and the cardiac center.

In order to minimize detuning of the chip antenna in the patient-worn device, snap features were incorporated into the PC/ABS housings to limit the need for metal assembly hardware. FEA was conducted in Ansys to ensure snap features would remain secure during normal use and drop scenarios.

One of the unique features for the hand-held was the keypad. In order to support the user interface and reduce confusion to the patient, the keys had to be individually backlit and, at the same time, isolated from the surrounding keys. This way, as the menu options changes on the display, only the keys applicable for those options would be lit. The result is deceptively simple-looking keypad, that integrates mechanical and software user interface to create an intuitive and positive experience for the patient.

Hardware Production Results

Thanks to the hard work of Porticos and Device Solutions, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Biomedical Systems 510(k) clearance to market TruVue™, a truly wireless ambulatory ECG monitoring system. Additionally, TruVue™ has made its mark as the industry’s first cardiac Mobile Telemetry system that analyzes, records and transmits every heartbeat for up to 30 days.

Porticos Develops RFID Reader

Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, has developed many products for the Sirit—currently owned by 3M—portfolio. The RFID reader unit displayed is a good example of the type of products Porticos’ hardware engineers are not only capable of conceptualizing, but producing.

Product Design Concept

The harsh industrial environment in which items such as RFID readers can be developed require IP protection. To ensure IP protection, effectively securing the safety of consumers in the future, Porticos’ hardware engineers prioritized the ability to test the RFID reader in a safe environment. They worked hard allow space in their process for trial and error, while not sacrificing the security of the project overall.

The electronic functionality requires complete RF isolation from the outside world, as well as between the digital and RF sections inside of the unit. The high-power output for the transmitter required creative thermal management solutions. During the design concept process, Porticos kept in mind the need to execute all requirements while not jeopardizing the cost, time spent in production, or build quality.

Their solution was to integrate 3 separate sections—RF, Digital and Power Supply—within the enclosure design. Porticos’s hardware engineer team conducted a thermal analysis to determine the most efficient means of handling the heat dissipation without requiring force cooling, otherwise known as fans. The resulting housings were die cast aluminum, with secondary operations for the cosmetics and critical sealing surfaces. These housings were manufactured by Porticos’ partner Funfiek.

The final product passed all radiated emissions and thermal tests with no issues. This resulted in the implementation of the reader into products on the market today. RFID readers are quickly becoming the most necessary piece of technology that many companies are looking to integrate into their products.

Porticos is proud to have worked diligently on such an essential, innovative piece of technology that is essential for the future.

Bioptigen Envisu Image System

Bioptigen, a technology leader in ophthalmology from Morrisville, North Carolina partnered with Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC to create the Envisu, a state-of-the-art OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography). The Envisu is a system that produces detailed images of the internal structure of the eye for both clinical and research applications. 

Designers at Bioptigen needed to advance their product and they selected Porticos’s engineers for the design. Porticos optimized Envisu by utilizing the proprietary “engine,” while also mitigating annual production costs. 

Ultimately, Bioptigen considered a reduction in size & weight, with improved thermal performance and shock resistance. The designers also added the ability to disconnect specific components, which made the unit easier to build and service.

Porticos’ engineers partnered with multiple Bioptigen teams to identify the device’s most essential features, as well as areas that needed to be improved. Following multiple iterations of industrial design concepts and mockups, Porticos designed a new system that met all of the objectives.

This led to the creation of the probe interface module, which allowed interchanging the scanner probe in the base unit.  This module required adding a new connection point in the main optical fiber. The connection was executed with minimal signal loss and included a clever dust cover for the optical connection.

Separate optical and electronic modules were created, which were independently removable from the chassis for servicing.  This configuration assisted with assembly while a hinged electronics enclosure aided with debugging, allowing service personnel to access the interior while operating the unit.

A component layout was established to maximize thermal performance, and this was eventually coupled with the positive pressure fan cooling system. Hot swap hard disk drives were implanted, with custom shock mounts, rounding out the internals Bioptigen was looking for.

A unique optical fiber routing tray that accommodated an array of fiber lengths was fitted with size and weight distribution that, along with handholds in key locations, enabled disassembly of the unit to assist with portability during transport.

Porticos implemented lightweight and strong structural chassis, low-cost thermoformed covers, and removable spool to improve transportability, as well as adapted OEM medical cart to complete the system.

Overall, Porticos worked to improve product aesthetics and ergonomics, along with manufacturing methods compatible with a limited annual production volume and a simplified design. The engineers provided expertise with Design for Manufacturing (DFM), Design for Assembly (DFA), and Design for Service (DFS).

Porticos Delivers Needle-Free Vaccines

BD Technologies and Innovation, who create next-generation technologies in Durham, NC, developed a needle-free vaccine delivery system as part of a grant supported by the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative. To be viable in small villages within developing countries—which, more times than not, is where the greatest need lies—the system cannot require the use of refrigeration or electricity of any sort and it must be simple to administer by minimally-trained personnel.

Also, the system must be effective on children, ages 1-4—who are not capable of cooperation—or adults, and must be effectively kept safe from spreading disease, which can be done easily by not allowing re-use. Finally, the system must be relatively compact for shipping, it cannot require any special means of disposal, and, most importantly of all, it must have a cost-per-unit dose equal to, or, less than, existing injection methods. This posed as a grand challenge for hardware engineers.

BD Technologies turned to Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, for innovative product engineering to help its team develop the delivery system that could be tested in Phase I clinical trials. Porticos’ hardware engineering team provided new thinking and insight to discover simple solutions that were easy to prototype for laboratory testing, ultimately helping BD extend its intellectual property based on the Solovent platform.

The process Porticos took to get to this point was keeping in mind the core needs of BD while emphasizing the need for fast, flawless production, accuracy in the findings of the testing process, and continuing to elevate the need for simplicity.

The approach Porticos ultimately pursued was aerosolizing a dose of powdered vaccine for inhalation, using a simple device constructed of basic yet effective materials. BD utilized its Solovent unit’s dry dose powder inhaler (DPI) platform to aerosolize the powder, and needed a means of containing the cloud of vaccine, while simultaneously providing an interface for effective delivery to patients.

Because of the efficiency of Porticos’ engineers and the concept design behind the entire process, BD Technologies was able to effectively execute their desire for a needle-free vaccine delivery system, and it is cost-effective, not dependent on electricity, and able to be administered by even the most inexperienced personnel.