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What are some of the misconceptions around functional safety that slow down or even threaten projects? The ST Blog sat down with MESCO, a member of the ST Partner Program, to find out. According to Maximize Market Research, the global functional safety market should reach US$9.03 billion by 2027. Functional safety certifications are ever more popular because more industries are now requiring them. In response to this new trend, STM32 microcontrollers recently got new self-test libraries (X-CUBE-STL). The software package is an initiative targeting engineers designing Safety Integrity Level 2 and 3 certified systems. Put simply, what used to be a niche issue five years ago is rapidly becoming the norm.
The problem is that many often underestimate the complexity behind a functional safety certification. The industry also suffered from a lot of misinformation and bad practices. MESCO is thus a fascinating partner in ST’s network because it provides consulting services and engineering solutions. The company offers the expertise that will ensure teams understand what they need to do to get a functional safety certification, and it published eight articles on the subject to make essential concepts more accessible. Moreover, MESCO also offers safety design packages built around ST components to accelerate hardware and software developments. Therefore, let’s learn about some of the significant pitfalls teams must avoid to have a short time to market.
Misconception 1. Functional Safety Is R&D’s Responsibility
Starting Early with MESCO and ST
As Armin Goetzmann, Managing Director at MESCO, explained,
“Too often, we see companies that start thinking about functional safety right before going to market. That’s just too late. And to make matters worse, they often dump the responsibility on their R&D teams, which leads to massive chaos.”
Functional safety requires that teams adapt their mindset right from the start. Engineers need to create specific documents at the beginning of the project, and they will need the support of their entire company. The process should at least involve all department heads to be as efficient as possible. To help engineers think about functional safety early, ST recently published a lot of documentation on our STM32 microcontrollers. Beyond our self-test libraries, we give designers information that will guide them as they start their proof-of-concept. Similarly, MESCO offers one-day training sessions to help whole corporations jump on the bandwagon. As Armin explained candidly, functional safety isn’t rocket science, but it’s also easy to start on the wrong foot.
The First Question to Ask
One piece of advice Armin shared was to ask the right questions early on. For instance, engineers must determine why they are seeking functional safety certifications. Some may need it because they design a product for a specific industry, like medical or industrial. Others may require it because they will sell their work in various countries that demand it. Regardless, functional safety isn’t about meeting a few technical requirements. It’s a business decision that will influence the entire development cycle, starting with serious planning. Hence, knowing exactly why managers chose to obtain a functional safety certification can help lay the proper and often necessary foundations for this long process.
Misconception 2. Functional Safety is Just a Bunch of Specification
MESCO’s Packages and Modules
To help engineers design their first prototypes with functional safety already in mind, MESCO offers various design packages. This approach stems from one particular misconception. As Armin told us,
“A lot of small and medium companies go through the same pains and processes while obtaining a functional safety certification. Hence, our consulting services and design packages help teams save time by offering proven solutions. Teams can thus focus on the features that will differentiate them rather than try to reinvent the wheel.”
The design package may include an STM32 microcontroller, ST sensors, or one of our motor drivers, among many other things. Engineers can start their functional safety journey by experimenting with such packages or evaluation boards. MESCO provides a modular architecture to ensure designers can mix and match modules in various proofs-of-concept. The company explained that their teams are using ST components in these packages because they know them well. Such familiarity reduces risks and helps teams start the process toward a functional safety certification.
Misconception 3. Doing Functional Safety In-House Saves Money
Many companies wonder if handling all the aspects of functional safety in-house isn’t merely more cost-effective. The answer lies in MESCO’s V-Model. The process starts and ends with customers that define specifications and test the final system. In between, the project goes through various hardware and software requirements with coding the application at the center of the V. It’s a necessary approach that will ensure teams don’t waste time on unnecessary steps. Similarly, the model also streamlines developments. Many teams, especially those new to functional safety, often underestimate the complexity and investments necessary. By using a design package and following MESCO’s process, it is possible to focus on features more than processes while also reducing the time to market.