Paul Nickelsberg thrives on technical problem solving and digital innovation. That's why he says that owning Orchid Technologies Engineering and Consulting in Maynard is like playing in an electronics sandbox. Nickelsberg leads hardware and software engineers who act as outside design teams for manufacturers, helping to speed product development. Nickelsberg spoke about running an engineering job shop.
"We compete with overseas companies that lure clients with the promise of low-cost engineering services. Clients who have tried foreign services and failed are often our best customers. All our work is performed in Maynard, carrying on the tradition of the city being known as the 'Minicomputer Capital of the World' because for many years Digital Equipment Corporation [DEC] was headquartered here. Our office is directly across the street from the DEC mill, where we have a large amount of lab area.
"In the last few years, we have worked on wireless sporting equipment, programmable controllers for the chemical industry, video cameras for robotic surgical applications, and more. Orchid is typically called upon when a design must be completed rapidly or when in-staff engineering is over-stretched. We're often called in to correct a design that has run off the tracks.
"Every project is a unique puzzle — challenges range from schematics to packaging, cost, and scheduling needs. The hardest part of any project seems to be getting started. But the give and take of generating ideas and eliminating possible dead ends allows us to rapidly converge on a workable approach.
"I've been in engineering for many years, and the products have become increasingly complex. Electronics is no longer the realm of the hobbyist. Integration of more functionality on a single silicon device has made it possible to pack designs with a rich set of features. Even the smallest processors [today] provide many times the performance [of those] used to put a man on the moon. It's exciting to work on the most cutting-edge electronics on the planet."