I find reference designs to be very useful. Among other major details, the FAE's know the circuit and can help you with customization.
I learn the most by buying the components and building my own circuit. Lots of details you would overlook just getting the PCB with components. That is from the circuit designer's viewpoint. If you are looking to start writing code quickly, get the demo board.
@David: We strive to be super consistent in the documentation that we offer for our designs...
Hi David -- thanks for the input -- in fact I've heard from several folks that they very much respect your reference designs.
My problem was that I got confused by a press release which did not clearly explain that the reference design was free and only the optional hardware board had a cost associated with it. I'm sure that your existing users have got used to this, but it was confusing for someone new to your site.
We strive to be super consistent in the documentation that we offer for our designs:
- Layout files
- Gerber files
- Test data
- Quickstart guide
Please let me know what other things you would like to see in our reference designs, I only want to make them better.
Now, we do charge for boards, to cover the cost of manufacturing. Also, I think that certain companies should absolutely charge for their reference designs, if that is their business model. Maxim is in the business of providing solutions to our customers (and selling our chips), so all design files will continue to be free.
All of our reference designs (MAXREFDESXX# part numbers) are always available for purchase. Many companies post a variety of design files and the boards aren't available.
I've worked for Embelectron-IP, a Spanish company in which the core business is selling reference designs and Intellectual Property.
They have two different product lines:
Linux Board Support Packages: a reference hardware based on different SoCs (schematics, board layout, gerbers... but they don't sell the board as a product...), an optimized filesystem, kernel + drivers and a full Linux SDK.
RF Transceivers: a reference hardware module featuring a smart transceiver on ISM band and a proprietary communication protocol.
I'm curious to know how many of you would consider to buy this kind of product and how much you would pay for it -- note that I already know the prices ;-)
@Betajet: "I've found Linear Technology has excellent reference designs and demo boards"
I totally agree!! About 5 years ago I was involved in the design of an embedded Linux system and the deadline was in danger. I used Linear Technology components in the board power system design, despite the fact that some providers had offered me cheaper alternatives.
What was the point about doing this? My Linear's FAE sent me some specific linear reference design and associated dev kits and I just copied the main layout features. Zero-risk design and fast time-to-market worth the little BOM cost increase!!
Me too -- I was building up to a very righteous indignation (and I'd almost finished the column) when I discovered the reference designs themselves were free -- it was the hardware that cost -- so I was left foaming at the mouth with nothing to foam at LOL
I don't think "NEVER" is a fair comment, I have had a number of issues with various circuits from different manufacturers, but I have also had very good ones. Also condsider some integrators actually buy a bunch of OEM modules and stitch them together for an actual final product, so I'm inclined to disagree with you on a few fronts.