RETECO Ltd designs, manufactures and markets air conditioning control units and testing equipment delivering to the domestic, Middle East and U.S. air conditioning market. The former (prior to FUSE) use of standard ICs was setting constraints in the RETECOs product design process, raising cost and keeping the size of their air conditioning control units relatively large. The solution to this problem was to proceed to a new design process incorporating ASIC technology. The objective of this application experiment was to introduce the company in the ASIC design, to enable the improvement of its air-conditioning control products and the development of a new range of products that will allow the company to meet customer needs by cutting down the cost of materials, labor and testing and by reducing the size. Specifically a mixed analogue-digital ASIC (ES2 CMOS 1.0 um technology) with ADC (but without complex analogue circuitry inside) was developed and placed in the air-conditioner control panel so as to communicate through IR with the remote control unit and control the various peripherals. The subcontractor (National Technical University of Athens) assisted RETECO during the design/testing phases of the ASIC, while EUROPRACTICE MPW runs were used for low cost prototyping. Valuable technical know-how was gained by RETECOs engineers in the design and testing methodologies of an ASIC and in the use of the relevant CAD tools under the guidance and training provided by the subcontractor. Furthermore the companys manager through his cooperation with the local TTN and the National Technical University of Athens, acquired experience on the benefits of microelectronics technologies and the overall project management, so that the company is able to repeat the experiment in the future.
The new product has a reduction of 15% in size, 10% in power consumption, and 10% in cost compared to a similar version employing previous technology. The project started on 1/9/1996 and ended on 31/12/97 with a budget of 96 KECU and total effort of 656 person days (436 person days FU effort and 220 person days subcontractor effort). Finally, the company foresees an increase in its foreign customers sales of around 200% after the introduction of the new product in the market. Considering all costs, such as industrialization, moulds, set up, marketing etc., the payback period is 22 months. The Product lifetime is estimated at 5-6 years. Total cost of investment is 228 KECUs, while for a 5-year period of product life the expected profit is 675 KECUs and thus the ROI is estimated to be 3.