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Before you begin the PCB prototyping process, make sure that prototyping is right for your needs. While it is beneficial for many projects, it’s not necessary for every type. If you decide to create a prototype, you’ll need some basic information about your project to get started.

What are the advantages of PCB prototyping?

We recommend that you create a prototype before ordering a full production run of a new PCB design. We make sure our prototype PCB service is fast and user-friendly so you can test your board without delay or hassle. Here’s what PCB prototyping enables you to do:

• Detect design flaws early in the production process before you invest significant capital

• Cost-effectively test multiple designs

• Get an accurate portrayal of how your board will function

Deciding If You Need a Prototype

Prototypes are ideal for when you want to test your design or perform a quality check of your board. You should use a prototype any time you use a new design for a new project. If you’ve already successfully produced an electronic product with that board, you may not need a prototype. If you make any design changes or create an entirely new PCB design or product, however, you should order a prototype.

Through our rapid prototyping service, we can build test boards with no more than eight layers and provide quality standard IPC1 boards using standard RF-4 material. For prototypes, we can fulfill orders of 5 to 100 pieces and offer a build time of four to five business days. Once you have approved your prototype, you can order a full production of boards with more layers and different materials in greater quantities.

How to make PCB prototyping?

Once you know what you need from your prototypes and have gathered the necessary information, you can begin the prototyping process. An experienced PCB company can provide you with support throughout this process. Choose a company that offers responsive customer service and helpful resources to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Working with a partner provides full turnkey solutions can help simplifying the process, since you avoid having to communicate with multiple companies.

1. Design

The first step in making a prototype PCB is designing it. As mentioned earlier, you can use one of many PCB design software suites to create your design. Just be sure to tell us the version you’ve used in your notes or design files.

2. Schematic Design

The schematic design describes crucial information that manufacturers and engineers will use during the production process. It includes information about the materials, components and hardware used in production and determines the board’s function, its characteristics and the placement of components. Some crucial aspects of this phase are selecting the right panel size and grid.

This schematic is part of the initial design phase. Once designer finishes the first schematic, they’ll run a preliminary check for potential defects and correct any that show up. You can then run simulations using a specialized PCB design tool to ensure the board function properly and it acts as a more in-depth design check. The designer then converts the electronic design into what is known as a netlist, which describes the interconnectivity of the included components.

It’s helpful to run design rule checks regularly throughout the design process rather than just at the end. This approach enables you to fix problems as you go, which enables a more efficient design process.

3. Bill of Materials

You will also need to create a bill of materials, or BOM. This is a list of all the components and materials you need for production and details about them. If you are relying on a manufacturer to source your parts, this is the document they will use to ensure they obtain the right ones.

The BOM includes vital information for each component, including:

• Quantity: The number of components required.

• Reference Designators: Codes used to identify individual parts.

• Value: The specifications for each component described in the appropriate units, such as ohms or farads.

• Footprint: The location of each component on the board.

• Manufacturer Part Number: The part number used by the manufacturer of the component.

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