Designing Top-Quality PCBs: A Guide for Engineers
These days, pretty much every kind of electronic product that you can imagine, including portable electronics, computers, and entertainment equipment, is constructed with at least one or more printed circuit boards (PCBs).
These PCBs connect electronic components within a device together in a controlled and organized way, allowing for communication between them. At the same time, PCBs protect such components from damage and interference. Our devices would not be able to function without them.
Every electronic engineer must design a PCB at some point during their career, although this process is not typically one that they are taught while in school. Fortunately, even without extensive training, it is still possible to design high-quality PCBs that can be used in any type of device. It is just important to be mindful of essential documentation, design steps and strategies, and final checks.
Once you discover that a PCB is needed for a specific application, it is necessary to begin thinking about a number of factors that will affect the final product, including details pertaining to the design’s features, the PCBs’ necessary functions, required interconnections with other circuits, placement, and dimensions.
It is also necessary to understand the environment the PCB will operate in, especially in terms of the temperature, as this will affect the materials that you choose to construct it with.
This is just the beginning of the process, and yet it can quickly become complicated when you do not have an abundance of experience. This is why it is important to have a solid understanding of the entire PCB design process before getting started.
What are the most important factors for PCB design engineers to know?
When it comes to PCB design, it is necessary to start with the basics and build from there. Although there is much to learn, with consistency and persistence, it is possible to gain expertise in this area. The following are some of the most important things that every PCB designer should know:
1. Knowledge of electronics
To design a PCB, it is absolutely essential that you have a good amount of background understanding of electronic components and interfaces. Without such knowledge, it will take much longer to design a PCB, and it will be much more difficult, as there will be an overwhelming amount of information to learn along the way.
2. Basic understanding of PCBs
Of course, it also helps to be familiar with most of the basic terminology that is frequently used during the PCB design process. In addition to understanding how PCBs function as a component in an electronic design, you should know how tracks, pads, vias, and power planes work, as well as other essential components.
Going into PCB design with a basic understanding of what the manufacturing process involves will make a huge difference.
3. PCB design software
Though it is not necessary to be familiar with all of the varieties of PCB design software, having knowledge of at least one of them is rather important. It would be best to choose one that is widely used within the industry, as the expertise you acquire will then be more widely applicable.
In most cases, familiarizing yourself with such software will involve learning how to draw schematics, understanding component placement, studying PCB layouts, creating component libraries, generating Gerber designs, and reviewing designs with Gerber viewer tools.
4. PCB layer stack-up
If you intend to design a multi-layer PCB, it is crucial that you have an understanding of PCB layer stack-up. “Stack-up” refers to the arrangement of copper and insulating layers that make up a PCB. These layers are typically arranged so that the same device can operate with multiple PCBs.
5. PCB design rules
It is also quite important to have an understanding of the many common design rules that you must follow while designing a PCB.
There are various categories of rules that you should acquaint yourself with, including general rules, noise reduction rules, EMI/EMC consideration rules, signal integrity rules, thermal integrity rules, and power integrity rules, among others.
There are also some rules that must be considered during PCB design that relate to testing necessities and manufacturing constraints.
6. 3D model/mechanical design
These days, it is usually possible to use PCB design software to create 3D models of all components so that you can visualize the end product.
It is important that you understand how to use these models to detect issues related to potential design problems (such as inter-component spacing) to save effort, time, and money when it comes to corrections.
After using this tool to create a few mock-ups, you can get a better idea of how successful your PCB design will be when it is complete.
7. Design review
When you are finished designing your first PCB, it is necessary to properly review your design to ensure it is ready for manufacturing.
This process usually includes three stages of review: one that you can do yourself, one that the hardware engineer should do, and one more review by another qualified engineer or external consultant.
During this process, everything from the PCB’s aesthetics to its documentation should be reviewed to guarantee it is up to par with industry standards and will meet the needs of the device in which it is to be used.
How Circuits Central Can Help With PCB Design
If you are interested in designing a PCB or in PCB assembly, but you are not sure where to begin, our team of seasoned experts at Circuits Central would be happy to help.
We have a flexible-by-design production facility that can handle both PCBs of varying complexities and a wide range of different production volumes. We can help you with every step along the way, including material management, PCB assembly, cable assembly, product testing, and integration.
With regard to the PCB design and development process, our experienced professionals can help with gathering information pertaining to requirements and specs, developing block diagrams, capturing schematics, generating PCB component footprint libraries, planning PCB layout and routing, verifying PCBs, and determining production readiness.
We understand that every project involving PCBs has different sets of requirements, and we discuss these needs in detail with every client to ensure that we can deliver top-quality results that always match expectations. Not only do we employ some of the best engineers in the industry, but we also have years of manufacturing experience, which allows us to tackle projects with a competitive advantage.
No matter what industry you are in, if you want a PCB design that is both cutting-edge and reliable, Circuits Central can make that a reality. Not only do we offer everything that you could possibly need during the PCB design process, but we also provide impeccable electronic prototyping and manufacturing services.