How Dense Digital Integration improves radar detector reliability and cost?
What is Dense Digital Integration and how does it help improve a police radar detector? Dense Digital Integration is the design concept of putting more functions into each component and integrating it into the total design. This approach is used in lieu of additive circuit design.
When most detector companies wish to improve their product design, rather than begin with a brand-new concept which requires a lot of engineering cost, they tend to add circuits to add the feature. For example, when a radar detector company wishes to add a compass, they tend to just add a compass circuit to their existing design. The problem with this is that, as you add more and more features the design becomes more and more complex. The elegant approach is to start with a new design that incorporates all of the new features that one wants in the new product.
‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.’
So why is this important? When one adds circuitry to an existing design, it compromises the original design and dramatically increases component count and cost. As this process is repeated, the original design, which may have initially been simple and functional, becomes compromised. As more components are added not only is cost increased but reliability is reduced.
Let’s take a real-life example. All radar detectors have microcontrollers, which are small computers, to control each of the functions that one has in the detector design. To add a new feature one can simply add another low-cost microcontroller. Each microcontroller requires several passive components to supply voltage and filtering for the computer. So, if one has a radar detector which already has one microcontroller and adds three functions with three more microcontrollers, you now have a radar detector with four microcontrollers. In addition you have about 32 additional components (4×8 support components).
If one creates a brand-new design to incorporate all the new desired features, these can be performed in a single microcontroller which is larger and more expensive than those used above. This microcontroller will normally require the same number of passive support components as the smaller microcontroller.
When one calculates reliability they use tables that have the failure rate listed for each type component. The smaller microcontroller may have one failure per million while the support components have approximately 0.1 failures per million. The larger controller will have a higher failure rate of two failures per million while the passive support components have the same 0.1 failures per million. So when one adds up the failure rates for each design approach they will find that the additive design approach has a failure rate of 4 ppm for the four small microcontrollers and 3.2 ppm for the support components for each controller (eight times four times 0.1), for a total failure rate of 7.2 failures per million. The new design approach has a failure rate of two failures per million +0.8 failures per million (8×0.1) for a total of 2.8 failures per million.
From this simple analysis for only one element of the police radar detector, one can see that the additive approach to new designs is actually 2.6 times more likely to fail than a new design. For this reason it is usually beneficial to start with a new design when one introduces a new product with more user features. Companies that use DDI are able to offer higher quality products with a much better warranty than their competitors.
If one examines the previous example for cost, they will find a similar situation exists. If you assume the small microcontrollers cost one dollar each and that passive components cost 1/10 cents each, then the additive approach with four microcontrollers and 32 passive components will cost $4.032. The new design approach has a microcontroller that costs two dollars and the same eight passive components for each microcontroller for a total cost of $2.008. This is less than one half the cost of the additive approach. One can easily see that by integrating more functions into a higher-quality component and reducing the component count that it’s possible to offer more performance at a lower cost. In addition to the immediate savings the higher performance microcontroller has reserve capacity. This allows design of even more features into the existing components without a redesign or purchase of new components. This design concept allows for rapid performance improvement without additional cost to the radar detector.
So what does this mean in the real world? Most radar detector companies use an iterative approach to product improvement and design. Unfortunately, this approach often leads to design compromises which increase cost and affect reliability. For this reason the technology leader in radar detection is able to offer superior performance at a cost compatible with midrange detectors offered by the competition. The only company that uses the DDI design discipline is Rocky Mountain Radar. As a result of this discipline, Rocky Mountain Radar is the only radar detector manufacturer in the market that is able to offer a three-year warranty, three times that of any other company.
This analysis alone does not necessarily indicate superior performance. However, the ability to use a Dense Digital Integration methodology does allow one to create superior designs with higher-quality components and fewer compromises. This concept easily leads to performance superiority due to the cost savings accrued by using this method and better reliability. One does not have to sacrifice performance due to cost constraints. This allows a design with minimum components, maximum reliability and lower cost without sacrificing performance.
To understand why DDI is important your selection of a radar detector for your own use, go to the article how to choose the best detector for you. Dense Digital Integration really has no cost to the manufacturer in the long run. While there is engineering effort involved on the front end, the cost savings in the final design in both production and warranty more than compensate for the initial cost. The savings in warranty alone are beneficial feature for customers who use a product designed in this manner. They are much more likely to enjoy a product for many years without user issues.
MB Churchman, President, Rocky Mountain Radar.