PCB layout is fundamental yet critical to PCB design and manufacturing. And this step will affect the quality of PCB products and the whole process. The best way to ensure a well-built and reliable PCB is partnering with your contract manufacturer (CM) and following a simple seven-step recipe of PCB layout tips for manufacturing, based on your CM’s equipment capabilities and processes.
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PCB Layout Tips for Manufacturing
Below are the top seven PCB layout tips for manufacturing:
PCB Layout Tip 1: Choose the right material
The first thing PCB design consideration is choosing the right material. Attributes that can impact your design include thickness, rigidity and flexibility, fire retardation, color and the usage of high-bandwidth, high temperature and high thermal resistance components. Material selection affects the manufacturing process and specific material options can vary by CM.
PCB Layout Tip 2: Use the right stackup
The number and types of layers included in your design are important factors that greatly affect your board’s size, drill hole layout, signal integrity, thermal dissipation capability, electromagnetic capability and vias. Surface mount device (SMD) type, like ball grid array (BGA) for example, as well as various signal layers and ground planes, can also impact layer arrangement or board stackup.
PCB Layout Tip 3: Prioritize trace routing
Although most designs employ basic trace routing guidelines, there are important considerations that are sometimes overlooked. When you have differential signals or high-frequency devices, long, unbalanced or uneven trace lengths can cause significant problems like signal distortion, impedance imbalance and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) issues. Therefore, it is important to prioritize signal routing. For example, first route clocks and timing devices, then high speed and sensitive signals, low-speed signals, and so on. It is also important to separate analog signal routes from DC, as much as possible.
PCB Layout Tip 4: Use the correct drill hole type and size
Virtually all PCBs contain drill holes, which may be mounting holes or vias. Regardless of your design, you need to follow drill hole tolerance and aspect ratio guidelines when locating drill holes, as your options may be limited by your CM’s drill equipment.
PCB Layout Tip 5: Confirm footprints are accurate
To ensure accurate mounting of your components, it is vital to ensure that your PCB footprints match the BOM components; are directionally laid out correctly; include essential markings like pin 1 designators for integrated circuits (ICs); and include keep outs when and where recommended by part manufacturers. Incorrect footprints will most likely require new boards to be made.
PCB Layout Tip 6: Use adequate surface element clearances/spacing
It is also important to space components, traces and drill holes according to your CM’s guidelines. This ensures that the board can be fabricated and assembled. For example, placing surface elements too close can make it impossible to have solder dams, which prevent solder bridges from forming and protect your board from premature failure due to exposure.
PCB Layout Tip 7: Leave enough board edge clearance
Providing adequate spacing away from the board edge is just as important as proper spacing between surface elements. Designing your PCB layout without enough board edge clearance can impact solder mask application, hinder soldering and panelization, which is the removal of individual boards from the panels or sheets utilized during manufacturing.
Designing good boards is just like making a good meal. Each requires following a well-defined recipe or set of steps that, if followed, will yield reliable results.
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