We talked about a model of nearshoring with the CEO of Aton Benu Consult and a PCB designer of Consilia. “We can work on complex projects from A to Z.”
Brno is the Mecca of engineers. After all, Brno University of Technology has already surpassed even Czech Technical University in Prague in the number of students, and produces new mechanical engineers, civil engineers, architects, and IT specialists.
Many graduates then anchor in the industrial site Černovické terasy, the headquarters of big companies like Honeywell, Wistron, or Thermo Fisher.
Last update at
February 23, 2023
Company names such as Aton Benu Consult or Consilia do not resonate so much next to the big names; however, it is the giants who often need the services provided by the smaller ones. Such smaller companies have in their ranks top experts in the field of the hardware development or designers of sophisticated printed circuit boards (PCBs), who then participate in the most demanding projects for corporate clients.
These specialists help companies to manage their most challenging projects. While doing so, the professionals sometimes partly support customers on-site.
To learn more, we interviewed Martin Tesař, the CEO of Aton Benu Consult, and Petr Horák, the PCB designer of Consilia. Two companies that cooperate in many aspects. Consilia is more of a service company providing services, while Aton Benu Consult specializes in developing comprehensive solutions.
If you could mention just one reason why companies choose you over the competitors, what would it be? Is there a special know-how behind it, or maybe a unique client-centric approach?
Martin Tesař: In my opinion, the base is our endeavor to create a balance between the business and technical sides of the projects. We want our team to generate good profit together with creating original solutions, to provide the customer with the maximum quality development with an appropriate amount of documentation.
We also want our colleagues to enjoy the job and perceive it as meaningful. Like any other small team, we love meeting in the kitchenette over coffee, while doing sports, or over beer at a pub.
What has made us strong since the very beginning is high-frequency design and development. We have colleagues who can conjure up what not everyone can create. Our customers often contact us about a problem they do not feel confident about in a specific area. They can make embedded products, but the radio part is too risky for them. We feel, let’s say, more at home in this field, and I immodestly believe that this belief is justified. We understand it and have senior colleagues with more than 20 years of experience in our Brno team. These are further accompanied by younger colleagues with appropriate education, technical talent, and potential to broaden their experience.
Petr Horák: We bend over backwards for our customers. We are used to situations when we necessarily spend days in the field. In these specific cases, we are ready to support our customer directly on his site.
We are relatively few, but we are capable of working on complex projects from A to Z. We have covered the entire design development from a concept through scheme drafts, a layout, and prototype boards, we are responsible for equipping PCBs, or the design of the basic drive of the product.
We have also specialists who can write software or firmware. Considering how ‘small’ we are, we manage quite a lot of activities.
What other ‘above-standard services’ can you provide customers with?
Martin Tesař: Our specialization is, for example, FPGA design (Field-Programmable Gate Array). From our experience, we know that these fields are in demand and there are not so many experienced people in the business market.
Speaking of softer skills, I dare say we have quite good language skills. Most of us speak English on the operational level, of course; a number of us speak German as well, which is appreciated in the German customer circle, even though they often speak English too. When we get to discuss something with common engineers in Germany, Switzerland, or Austria, the English language is often out of their comfort zone, therefore our German language skills help us overcome the last obstacles.
Petr Horák: Besides FPGA it is DSP (Digital Signal Processor) and RF (Radio Frequency). Because of this, it is not really possible to say which type of boards we design or with which segment we cooperate most. We do separate parts of the development or the development of a complete device on a turnkey basis.
Industrial, automotive, aerospace – each field has its own specifics, of course. Somewhere, they expect miniaturization while some automotive designs still consider robustness extremely important while 2- or 4-layer boards remain the base.
Speaking of RF, you need to use high-frequency materials. In the case of digital designs, you normally have to decide how to get all the high-speed buses on a limited number of layers in limited mechanics. In general, we can say that there are PCB boards in any lamp. Nowadays, it is rarely just an incandescent bulb and a switch – more often, there are some electronics connected.
What is the current trend in your field? What specific requirements do your customers come to you with?
Petr Horák: Generally speaking, we can say it is miniaturization and specific demands on high-frequency designs and materials that are being addressed now. Limits (especially the physical and material ones) are usually set, and evolution is gradual through pushing the limits also within production technology.
Based on what is possible, the designs are modified up to the edge of the impossible.
For example, we worked on a project with really complicated RF boards with extremely high frequency not so long ago. Before that, we had successfully realized boards with frequencies from 18 to 26 GHz. The customer was satisfied, so we are working on an even more complex and complicated design now. At the same time, we were working on a complex, 18-layer digital design with a unique FPGA and high-speed buses. Such a PCB, just the basic version, without equipping, costs between hundreds and thousands of euros because of the remarkable demands on the functionality at the first go. However, this is really the imaginary icing on the cake and besides this kind of project, we obviously work on more common and affordable designs and boards.
Martin Tesař: As Petr has already mentioned, speaking of frequencies, we approach upwards with our products, somewhere to 50 GHz and higher. Together with our customers, we work on measuring and communication modules that can work with the frequencies in question. Such high-frequency bands are used, for example, in the automotive fields, according to the communication standards V2X (Vehicle to X) and V2V (Vehicle to Vehicle).
We can admit that autonomous vehicles are still in the remote future; however, the communication between cars and traffic infrastructure is a current matter, mainly by public transport and emergency services.
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