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Case story:

Roche Compute Module

For over 125 years, Roche has been focused on finding new medicines and diagnostics to evolve the practice of medicine and ultimately help patients live longer, better lives. That’s why we were excited when the Roche team came to us with a vision: to create a compute module that supports multiple test and experimenting environments. The module would be common for all future unique test setups, saving Roche time and money for future test designs. In speeding up development times, Roche could innovate faster and cheaper for years to come.

The challenge: Could we produce a common PCBA that would cover all unforeseen future test cases and firmware support?

In short, yes! Because close collaboration is so important to how we work, we first set up a Slack channel and established weekly meetings with the Roche team. We also set up a project in Pivotal Tracker, a system we use to track features, progress, and bugs.

Next, we worked with Amanda S., an electrical engineer at Roche, to put together a comprehensive product requirements document (PRD). We established that we would be delivering one compute module PCBA with firmware, and one backplane PCBA for testing. We talked about what success for this project should look like: successful testing of the compute module and firmware.

“Our team has deep experience in both firmware and hardware. That’s how we understood exactly what needed to be done, then moved into execution mode.”

After requirements gathering came hardware development, firmware development when the boards were sent for fabrication, then hardware testing once the boards returned. Finally, we performed firmware testing. Throughout this process, we had many technical conversations with Roche and held several technical reviews - a surprisingly uncommon but extremely useful practice in this space.

We’re making it sound easy, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Half way through the project, our liaison at Roche left the company. With no time to waste, we quickly worked to get our new Roche collaborator onboarded with a strong understanding of our main goal, where we were in the development process, and what would be needed from both Roche and Intercreate to deliver. Soon, the PCBAs were ready. In just five months, we

had a custom-made compute module that exposed all firmware interfaces (CAN, I2C, PWM, IOLink) to a backplane PCBA. With the Roche team, we celebrated that we hit our additional goal - being on time and on budget.
This project was particularly meaningful for us. Roche is an inspiring legacy organization that has done a lot of good in the world.

“We’re proud to have developed this product that will be key in speeding up how they refine and deliver critical healthcare to billions of people around the world.”

Principal Engineer: Dave Desrochers
Services: Firmware engineering, Hardware engineering, Prototyping, Testing, Project management

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