Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the essential components of every electronic device in the modern age. These are small pieces that lay a foundation for appliances, communication devices and industrial machinery alike. With frequent advancements in technology, these core parts have also evolved in design.
The layout and design of PCBs lay the foundation of the quality of a product and determine whether the electronic device will be a success or a failure. The designs have grown fairly complex, making the expectations for newer layouts much higher. Electrical engineers work tirelessly to overcome minor flaws and adjust designs for optimal benefit.
Any engineer involved in the manufacture of electronics comes to this inevitable conclusion: there is simply no single formula for building a great PCB. It is simply a matter of coming up with the best design to fit the intended function. This is why experienced engineers may have different takes on design, but they will all be working toward the same end—a balance of durability, functionality, and usability while staying within a prescribed budget.
We created this guide to share our experience and knowledge regarding the best PCB designs. This guide is addressed to:
- Aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to gain some technical know-how
- Serial entrepreneurs who lack hardware experience
- Internship-level engineers
- Hobbyists who are looking for tools and tips for PCB designing
Of course, there is no guide better than experience, but this guide will lend helpful insights and techniques to ensure your circuit design is a success.
The Design Steps
Here are the main steps you need to take to achieve a great PCB design.
1. Budgeting and Assessing the Need:
The first step in executing any task is planning. This part takes some time but is the most important. So let’s get into some of the basic questions.
Why do you need a PCB? Are you planning on manufacturing an innovative device? Is it related to strong software or hardware? Is your PCB design complex or simple? These are the first few queries you must answer.
Besides these, knowing the worth of your time is also very important. Ask yourself – Is your innovation going to affect the masses? Is the product an improvement for an already available item? Is there a need for this in the market? Are there any new, previously unknown features involved?
Once all the boxes are ticked, you might want to take a look at your budget. Since quality components don’t come cheap, you may want a couple of investors—friends who have the capital to make your vision a reality.
You might need to research for a while, too, to get the best deals on components.
2. Designing A Layout:
a. Overall Layout Guidelines
An initial step of designing any circuit layout is creating a rough blueprint of the major and minor components, component areas and their locations. By doing so, critical track runs become easier to assess and the general vision for the board will be easier to evaluate and plan for.
b. Board Constraint Guidelines
It is necessary to have select reference points on the PCB board. Points should be picked as most suitable for the manufacturing process. Often, points are already present but they may be crossed for optical sensors.
Dimensions of the board will define the product size, so before PCB design starts, an estimation of the size can be helpful to understand if it will be able to accommodate the different components and their tracks. Creating an exemplary design also requires knowledge of layering and mounting methods. It is best to learn through tutorials and EDA software such as Altium Designer, where you can find a plethora of circuit board designs that you can export.
c. Layering Guidelines
It’s common among engineers to use a connected and completed plane for earth or major power rails. Doing this offers advantages for current capability and noise control. It’s a wise idea to avoid partial planes in areas of the PCB because this setup stresses and strains the board, which leads to warping during the production or soldering process. Warping later leads to functional failures and fractures.
d. Track Guidelines
The first note in track guidelines is the width of the board itself. It should always be standard; too wide leads to fewer tracks in an area and too narrow leads to shorts occurring. Track sizes for carrying signals and power rails should also be given some consideration because modern tracks are too thin for heavier loads. The pad should be around 0.5mm larger than the holes so the hole drilling tolerance is maintained.
Component libraries that are associated with PCB CAD layouts will feature libraries for the schematic along with PCB footprints for the various components. However, these also vary according to the production process. So choose optimum pad sizes, typically larger, before the manufacturing and designing begin.
e. Thermal Guidelines
Your PCB board may have components that dissipate great amounts of radiating heat. There should be some additional space around them to prevent overheating.
f. Signal Guidelines
Tracks running in parallel have higher levels of crosstalk with signals mixing between tracks. This can be a factor in a variety of issues and can be hard to overcome once the PCB is designed and built. To reduce levels of crosstalk, make sure that all two or more signal lines are crossing at right angles. This lowers mutual inductance.
Great job! You were successful in designing a detailed 3D model for your final PCB product, and the last step in your journey is the assembly and manufacture.
This is the trickier part. The best option you have is to partner with PCB manufacturer companies like EMS Solutions—a trusted brand based in Utah. It’s always essential to work with a reputed source, which doesn’t cost much and provides results you can count on.
A wrap up:
When it comes to PCB manufacturing, it is always ideal to have a clear vision of your goal and all necessary resources as well as an executable plan. Companies like ours can help you make smart choices while being a part of the design & manufacture process. It all comes down to knowledge and skill, and we can help you shine in both areas.