A Guide to Functional Partitioning in PCB Design

July 19, 2021
Tips for Functional Partitioning Design in PCB

Printing circuit board design must take into consideration the potential for interference between analog and digital signals. Functional design is a priority for separating components and achieving the goal of the design team.

But, what are the best practices for partitioning within the design process, and how can you best allocate space on the board to each component? In this post, our Toronto printed circuit board manufacturers provide a quick guide to functional partitioning within PCB design.

Partitioning Begins With Effective Component Placement

The foundation to effective design is precise component placement. The initial guideline for the location of components will factor in the board’s size, switches and interference between the various hardware elements. Next, the functional partition of the board should be the guiding design element.

Functional partitions separate the circuit board’s digital, analog and power areas. The goal of functional partitioning is to prevent cross-signal interference and ensure the circuit board meets preset design objectives. The challenge is that components must communicate with one another while minimizing interference that could impact circuit performance.

So designers must follow set guidelines for functional partitioning. These guidelines include:

  • Isolate power supplies from sensitive components

    Power supplies should be close enough to power their connected parts but must be separate from sensitive components. The heat produced by the power supplies may damage component material.

  • Separate digital and analog components

    While teams should separate digital and analog components on the board, it’s important to group them by their function when mapping out the various partitions.

  • Place powerful components away from board edges to dissipate heat more efficiently.

    When the team places powerful components away from the circuit board edge to dissipate heat, they must ensure each unit is close enough to its related circuitry to mitigate signal interference.

Consider the cooling needs for all circuit board components. One frequent mistake designers make in functional partitioning is they fail to consider the potential for power-intensive components, such as capacitors, to block airflow. An issue that can cause significant overheating issues, leading to component breakdown over time.

Routing Is One of the Main Considerations in Functional Partitioning

In addition to considering components within the board, you should also review the role that routing plays in the circuit.

Components such as memory and data buses can take up a considerable amount of room on the circuit board. Also, many board parts will require a significant amount of space for escape routing. So it’s not wise to push these components together on the board to reduce the size of the partitions.

You might consider how to route sensitive nets through each area of circuitry. For example, digital nets will not run through a section of an analog circuit.

Routing your circuits is crucial to optimizing the design of the power distribution network. Power distribution is another area of functional partitioning that will play a role in the overall success of your design work.

Here are a few best practices for creating the power distribution network within your circuits:

Separate the Power and Ground for Digital and Analog Areas

To prevent your team from creating unintentional loops or antennae, only allow a single point of connection between analog and digital grounds.

Try to Avoid Splitting Planes

Splitting planes can lead to electromagnetic interference within circuit board design. In cases where you have to split planes, you cannot trace routing across the split. Doing so can cause interference when the trace crosses the split and then the signal returns have no clear path back.

Give Yourself Enough Room

Power-hungry parts, such as CPUs, will require a significant level of power filtering. Make sure you have enough room within the partitions to manage noise spikes.

Effective Functional Partitioning Requires Experienced Designers

With all of the potential challenges involved in the functional partitioning process and the potential costs associated with errors, consulting with circuit board design experts can help ensure your boards perform to the highest expectations when the product comes to market.

When choosing your design team, consider the following elements:

Experience in Functional Partitioning

How much experience does the company have in functional partitioning? Can they prove this experience and answer your questions about their design process? A comprehensive background in designing partitions will be crucial. It could mean the company will find novel solutions to your PCB design challenges and mitigate potential systems maintenance issues for the years ahead.

When you speak to prospective design teams, ask them about their background in functional partitioning directly. Also, discuss issues their clients have faced in the design stages.

Expertise With Both Digital and Analog Components

Understanding how to integrate digital and analog components within the same PCB can help minimize issues with electromagnetic interference when you work with your Toronto printed circuit board manufacturing company and ensure the board created achieves peak functionality. Ask the designers how they utilize the latest technology to manage the unique requirements of digital and analog components. Discuss how they will use both digital and analog parts within your particular finished product. This discussion can help you gain an insight into their expertise and showcase their creative skills within PCB design work.

Their Prototyping Process

The company’s prototyping process must allow you to review the product at various stages of development. Ensure the company is committed to communicating with you through each phase. And ensure you can ask questions about their functional partitioning choices within the design phase. You can then prevent wasted time and resources on prototypes that don’t fit your design objectives.

Turn to Circuits Central for Proven Design Experience

Our experienced printed circuit board manufacturing and design team at Circuits Central in Toronto is ready to take on your PCB design projects using our proven expertise in all areas of the PCB development process.

Our years of manufacturing experience give us a true competitive edge. So we’re able to make more effective decisions based on actionable data for outstanding final results.

We stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and have the experience to guide your project from schematic design to the final manufactured product.

To learn more about PCB design, call Circuits Central at 1(888) 602-7264 or contact us here.

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