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Building a prototype

In the world of Research & Design, the most rewarding time is generally when the two come together in the form of a prototype.  Last evening was no exception. 

The MI-100 Multi-Instrument tool is not at the high end of products in our pipeline, but it has broad application and is exceptionally useful to the education and engineering enthusiast.  We know this because it’s what inspired us to design and build it in the first place.


The MI-100 brings several instruments together in one small, portable package.  The MI-100 has a 2 channel oscilloscope, frequency counter, 3 signal generation outputs (2 digital, 1 analog), 8 channel logic analyzer and 2 DC voltage outputs (5.0 and 3.3V).  All of these instruments comprised in a 4.5"x4.5"x1.75" enclosure, and connects to a PC via USB.  The PC driven user interface allows for complete control of all the instruments, providing a mobile electronics laboratory.

 As we began assembling our “revision b” model and testing it, the ideas just kept coming.  The application for the MI-100 is even broader than we originally anticipated.  From electrical engineering to sound engineering – from robotics to navigational systems, the possibilities seem endless.  This only confirmed our belief that an expansion port was necessary from the start, even if we didn't have every single application concept solidified and conceived of up front. 

The MI-100's Logic Analyzer port also doubles as an expansion port.  This port will allow interfacing to new boards to be designed by ER&D that are intended to teach the user a particular topic or area of interest.  These "curriculum" boards will provide a program that guides the user through the topics and essentially teaches material through several labs.  The user will be building the board as he/she progresses through the material.  At the end of the program the user will have a functioning board that will perform all of the functions covered in the curriculum.

Aesthetics is something that is often overlooked in testing gear.  This wasn’t lost on us from the beginning.  It might not be necessary for functionality, but as techies, we all love something that looks as cool as it actually is.  This is especially true for students and hobbyists.  At ER&D we have gone the extra mile to create something we ourselves would be proud to have in our collection of “cool gear”.  Playing around with the acrylic casings and custom etching made us all feel exactly what we want our end users to experience...  The excitement of opening a new toy and just wanting to look at it for a minute.  Now, that being said, functionality and reliability still rule the day, but we are extremely confident in that area.  The point is, why not make it look as cool as it is, right?

At the end of the day we still have a few tweaks and adjustments to make, which are already part of the “revision c” prototype in production now.  What I think we all agree on is the product is something we are proud of, and that’s a rewarding feeling.


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