When starting a new printed circuit board design, it’s easy to leave the PCB design guidelines as an afterthought as you spend most of your time focusing on your circuit design and component selection. But at the end of the day, not providing ample time and focused effort on the PCB layout basics can lead to a design that translates poorly from the digital domain to physical reality, and could ultimately become troublesome for your manufacturer to fabricate. So what’s the key for designing a board that’s realistic on paper and in physical form? Let’s explore the top 5 PCB design guidelines that you need to know to design your next manufacturable, functional, and reliable PCB.
- Please use the certain software
One of the best things you can do to improve the quality of your PCB design is to use quality software for the creation. Of course, some might worry that software will be expensive or difficult to use. While this is certainly a potential problem with some pieces of software, it doesn’t have to be.
Advanced Circuits offers PCB Artist, a robust piece of software that can provide you with the guidance and tools you need for your PCB design regardless of how simple or complex it might be. It offers more than is found with most other pieces of software on the market that provide similar features. One of the best features of the software is the price. It is entirely free, so you will not have to worry about paying anything when you are getting started. Whether you are a hobbyist or working for a company, you will appreciate this benefit.
While the software will have a learning curve, like any piece of software, it tends to be easy to use. Those who have any experience with PCB design should not have a problem getting started with the intuitive software. When you use PCB Artist, you can create up to 28 layers on your PCB. It features Gerber format files, has design rule and check support, and a host of other helpful features.
The software does not take up too much computing power either. You will only need to have a Pentium processor that’s at least 1.8Ghz. You will also need 512MB of RAM and 1.26 GB of storage space on your hard drive. These small requirements should be achievable by just about any computer today. However, it does need to be a Windows computer because MAC and Linux are not supported currently.
The software can help to make the PCB design process faster and easier, but it’s important to realize that this is just a tool. You still need to understand the concepts of good design.
2. Please streamline the circuit design
One of the most important aspects of PCB design is keeping things functional, often through the simplicity of design. You don’t need to jam as many components as possible onto a single board. Instead, you want to be sure that you are creating a circuit that can perform the functions that you need without being too crowded. Think about what you need the circuit to do and design for that. Streamline the board, use good, basic design principles, and build from there.
Beware of trying to do too much on a single board. There is a chance for more to go wrong. There is also the worry that too many components could cause overheating if you don’t consider how it will be cooled.
The software can make circuit design easier and have a good representation of what it will look like and how it will work. You can often see issues that would come into play even before you prototype. Additionally, you can send the design for an engineering review. Advanced Circuits offers a free engineering review. This will give you a better idea of whether your PCB design will work or not.
3. Please always use a prototype
Of course, the next step should be to prototype the board. Even if you have checked it virtually and the engineering review looks good, get a prototype. This will help to ensure that it is working properly in the real world. You can see how it fares in the case you have designed. You can see if there are overheating issues, if it doesn’t always trigger properly, etc. The testing will give you a better look at the board and the areas where you might need to make some changes.
In a perfect world, you will find that the prototype works without a problem. If that’s the case, you can move on with manufacturing. However, if there’s an issue, it is better to know now, so you can go back and fix it and then test again before unleashing your PCB design into the world.