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Testing and programming products in our own production line

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Test automation is working on the Prodrive Technologies goal of a Lights Out Factory. The electronic test system supports that goal by providing test equipment with a uniform interface and form factor, so manufacturing lines can easily be configured for the product’s needs. The test equipment includes power supplies, programming modules and measurement tools, all with a common interface to the test system. Combined with other projects, such as an in-house developed Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV), we are realizing the goal of a Lights Out Factory.


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Dominic

| Embedded software engineer
Nikolaj Zukov 0183 2

Nikolaj

| Test development architect
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Harrie

| Test development architect
Abel Romeijnders 0156

Abel

| Test development architect
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Maarten

| Embedded software engineer
AURVER

Auryn

| Embedded software engineer

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Dominic

| Embedded software engineer

The bulk of my work is to support colleagues who automate product tests which will be used in the production line. For example, I’m asked to extend one of our flash programming libraries to support a new device. I look up the library’s original target device’s manual, and the new device’s manual, and find out how compatible they are. It turns out all three layers of the software stack need some work. Later this week I’ll sit down with the FPGA engineer, and then with our project architect, to propose new software interfaces between the layers.

Another example is a test developer who came to me with a question: they received an error message while using one of our libraries, and don’t know what to do about it. Neither do I, so I look through the code to figure out what can trigger that message. I find the culprit, tell the user how to fix it, and add a task to our kanban board to improve the message so the next user doesn’t have to ask.

Our electronic test system provides independent hardware modules which are used to test and program products in our own production line. For the test developers we provide software and a set of standardized interfaces to talk to the ETS modules, which can be as granular as setting a specific signal to 1.6 volt, or as high-level as writing firmware to a flash chip. Together with the test development team, we ensure the reliability of these processes so the lights at the factory can stay out.

Turning bugs into features

Embedded software engineer profile

  • BSc, BEng or MSc in Computer Science
  • C/C++ for DSPs/MCUs at a low software level
  • Implementing control loops and microcontrollers like ARM (Cortex-M) or TI C2000 etc.

Pros and cons

  • Many different sub-projects, so I’m rarely bored.
  • Customers are right across the hall.
  • Everything from analog signal analysis to .NET desktop applications.
Nikolaj Zukov 0183 2

Nikolaj

| Test development architect

My career at Prodrive Technologies started quite some years ago during my university of applied sciences (HBO) studies. That time I wanted to get more hands on experience to dive into electronics and software. I have started my career as Service Engineer focusing on production service. After feeling confident in this role and having interest in test creation itself I have switched to the Test Development cluster. What is exiting about this is I do determine tests to be performed on a product and communicate with customer about test coverage. Thinking globally about the product is always a challenge and possibility to learn.

Test engineer is an unique engineer who has knowledge in hardware and in software. The combination of both competences makes it work.

Every day at Prodrive is different and I cannot really call Prodrive as my “work” place, better fits “hobby”. When I come to the office I am happy get another challenge and solve it. This usually makes my day.

Prodrive is not work, but a hobby.

Test development architect profile

  • The desire to drive to excel in your field of work
  • BSc. Or MSc. Electrical Engineering, Computer Science or affiliated studies
  • Experience in or affinity with electronics and programming in C, C++
  • Analytical skills
  • Relevant work-experience is not required
  • Practical way of thinking

Pros and cons

  • Healthy environment at Prodrive is stimulating high efficiency
  • Prodrive offers amazing fitness facilities with delicious lunch and dinners
  • Possibility to communicate with other engineers on the same level makes learning process smooth and not stressful
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Harrie

| Test development architect

I like to start my workday early with a cup of coffee and making a plan of the workday ahead.

Every day is a different day. Today, in the morning my task list can consist of analyzing a product design and give feedback to my colleagues in the design team to optimize the design on testability. While in the afternoon, I am busy defining a test strategy. Currently I am making a test strategy for our Gradient Amplifier. I like the challenge to solve this puzzle to find an optimum test flow by taking into account the quality target, test time, usage of standard tooling, fitting in our manufacturing processes and customer requirements.  

Tomorrow will be completely different. I will be busy with designing and implementing a test and verifying and debugging test hardware and software in the lab.

Solving challenging problems and working in a team of talented people gives me energy.

Test development architect profile

  • The desire to drive to excel in your field of work
  • BSc. Or MSc. Electrical Engineering, Computer Science or affiliated studies
  • Experience in or affinity with electronics and programming in C, C++
  • Analytical skills
  • Relevant work-experience is not required
  • Practical way of thinking

Pros and cons

  • Challenging projects
  • Diversity in projects and customers
  • Flexibility of working hours
  • Working together with talented people
  • Losing track of time while working on challenges projects
Abel Romeijnders 0156

Abel

| Test development architect

My adventure at Prodrive Technologies started with my graduation project. I started with a nice challenging project: an AET (Automated Electrical Test) had to be developed for a new gradient amplifier (part of an MRI system). My part of this project was to design and develop the AET for the control board of the MRI gradient amplifier. The control board is considered one of the most complex parts of a machine to test with AET.

In order to design and develop the AET, I first had to understand the technology of this machine. For this I could always get advice from my colleagues. They were happy to make time to answer all kinds of questions.

After my research of what needed to be tested and how this could be done automatically, I made a design specification document (DSD) for the gradient amplifier. In this document is specified why and how test shall be done.

After I designed and developed the schematic and the software, the mechanical and electrical parts were manufactured by our production facilities.

In the end I have designed, developed, programmed and manufactured a test for the gradient amplifier control board. It was interesting to learn so much about such an ambitious project. The Gradient amplifier (of an MRI) controls very high currents and very high voltages at great precision. There is a lot of technology involved, which requires a lot of knowledge of test designers. I learnt a lot from my colleagues working on this project.

After my graduation I got offered a job as Test Developer. It is great that many of my fellow students who graduated at the same time, continued to work at Prodrive, some even at the same project as I. Hopefully we can make this project even more successful this way.

It was interesting to learn so much about such an ambitious project

Test development architect profile

  • The desire to drive to excel in your field of work
  • BSc. Or MSc. Electrical Engineering, Computer Science or affiliated studies
  • Experience in or affinity with electronics and programming in C, C++
  • Analytical skills
  • Relevant work-experience is not required
  • Practical way of thinking

Pros and cons

  • There were 7 students working at Prodrive from my university. We could discuss our different projects with each other, which was nice
  • The free lunch and dinner
  • Good internship allowance
  • Would be nice if Friday afternoon drinks are organized more frequently
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Maarten

| Embedded software engineer

At Prodrive we have built our own test machine to test the assembled PCB's that roll off the production line. This machine is called the AET and it has many different components and sub-projects, but the project of which I am the architect generally handles low level software and APIs for our production test developers.

In the morning I usually start with a meeting to discuss a new software interface that was proposed by one of the engineers in the team. We check if all the functionality is there and if any improvements are to be made.

After the review I will start working on a new application that helps test developers handle continuous integration. Where I usually use C & C++, I’m actually learning C# to make this application. This is what is so nice about Prodrive there are no defined roles, if you are an application engineer who wants to do an embedded project that is possible, and of course in my case the other way around.

At the end of the day I am called by the HR department during the interview of a potential candidate and they ask if I can conduct the technical part of the interview. So maybe when you apply for a job, we will get to meet each other during your interview.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it

Embedded software engineer profile

  • BSc, BEng or MSc in Computer Science
  • C/C++ for DSPs/MCUs at a low software level
  • Implementing control loops and microcontrollers like ARM (Cortex-M) or TI C2000 etc.

Pros and cons

  • A lot of teamwork
  • Learning new things each day
  • Flexible working hours
  • Free lunch and dinner
AURVER

Auryn

| Embedded software engineer

Within Prodrive we develop our own automatic test machines. These machines, called AETs, are used in our factory to test products in various stages of production, from PCBs right out of the oven to large fully assembled products. There are a lot of projects related to the AET and Test Automation, my main responsibility is software architect of the software used to control the hardware inside the AET machines.

We are currently in the design phase for a new inline test machine. Subassemblies are still being designed. My work consists mainly of reviewing design choices in mechanics and electronics to ensure smooth integration with software later on. I am also working on the high level software design that will tie the control of all the modules in the machine together.

We have a workstation configuration (standalone setup for larger products) which is currently already being used in our factory. For this machine I am adding features requested by the users or fixing issues if they are found. As these machines are used in production and their number is growing fast, rolling out updates always comes with a risk. Aside from ensuring the quality of the update content I have to consider scenarios related with the update itself. This is where my experience as NCO in the army reserves really comes in handy; strategizing the rollout for a complex update and preparing for all sorts of scenarios.

Not too long ago I have discovered two related bugs in the firmware upgrade mechanism of one of the modules which prevented it from being updated more than once and could brick the board if shutdown at the wrong time. I designed an update package that would fix the issue but that required overwriting critical parts in memory like the bootloader. This was a one-shot opportunity which if failed required manually replacing the board in each machine. Implementation took 2 days, qualification and testing every scenario I could think of 2 weeks and the rollout… 2 minutes that felt like an hour. It was an exciting time seeing the boards go down and waiting that crucial, excruciating, 30 seconds after which the boards rebooted and popped back up successfully; a good time to hit the Prodrive gym and unwind a bit!

There is nothing more permanent than a temporary solution

Embedded software engineer profile

  • BSc, BEng or MSc in Computer Science
  • C/C++ for DSPs/MCUs at a low software level
  • Implementing control loops and microcontrollers like ARM (Cortex-M) or TI C2000 etc.

Pros and cons

  • You are in control, free to choose your project and role
  • A lot of freedom in your work, matched with responsibility where you can pick the level you are comfortable with
  • Great facilities: good gym, free lunch & dinner
  • The coffee seems to be the only thing exempt from the high Prodrive quality standards

Responsibility

You don’t just go to work, you feel responsible for your project

Flexible

You decide when, where and how much you want to work

Manufacturing

You like to think about manufacturability when designing

Initiative

You don’t sit and wait, you have a hands-on mentality

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Employees, of which 1380 fulltime

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Annual growth over the last 20 years

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Average age of our employees

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The year Prodrive Technologies was founded

What we offer

  • Perfect environment for people willing to take full responsibility in a project
  • Unlimited growth opportunities and freedom in taking different roles in different projects
  • Young and dynamic culture
  • Unlimited personal budget for training courses, classes or studies
  • We are open 24/7 and provide lunch, dinner and a company gym
  • We keep management positions to a minimum, so there is virtually no hierarchy
  • Create your future with your own personal development plan
  • Tools and equipment such as an iPhone, iPad and laptop
  • The flexibility to work wherever and how much you want
  • Salary that grows with your performance
  • Opportunity to become a shareholder and entrepreneur in the company
  • Travel allowance based on the days you are actually at Prodrive
  • 31 Holidays
  • Money for retirement
  • Distribution of profits

Application steps

  1. We’ll take a look at your application as soon as possible.
  2. You will receive a link to Prodrive Technologies’ online aptitude test to see if you’re up for the challenge.
  3. We will set you up for a personal interview to ask you difficult questions about yourself. Afterwards, others will ask you some more difficult questions about your expertise. We will immediately decide if we will make you an offer after the interviews.
  4. When there’s enough time left, we will discuss employment conditions directly after the interviews.
  5. If you survived everything, only your signature stands between you and being a Prodriver.