PCB designers use prototype PCBs throughout the design process, repeatedly testing the functionality of their solution with every new addition or change. While it may seem like prototypes add several steps and costs to the process, prototypes serve important functions in the design process.
Engineers will go through several iterations before creating the final product. While this can create lengthy timelines, PCB prototypes can help speed up the design and manufacturing process as a whole through the following means:
Complete testing: PCB prototypes enable design teams to test designs and spot problems quickly and accurately, taking the guesswork out of the equation.
Visual assistance: providing prototypes as visual aids can help communicate the design more easily. This helps minimize time spent on explanations and client-requested redesigns.
Minimized rework: Prototype testing allows you to see and test the board before a full production run.
Manufacturing Review and Assistance
When using a third party PCB prototyping service, companies can benefit from the assistance of a new set of eyes. Several things can go wrong in the design process that result in mistakes, including:
Excessive input: In the design process, customer and team changes can build up and overlap to the point where the design is unrecognizable compared to its first iteration. Eventually, the designers may simply lose track of design best practices in the rush to meet client demands.
Design blind spots: While a designer may create fantastic PCBs of one specific type, they may have less experience in another area and subsequently create a small problem in the design.
DRC: DRCs can verify that a return path to ground exists, but may not determine the best trace geometry, size and length to get the best results from that path.
Accurate, Reliable Prototype
Having an accurate, reliable PCB prototype makes it much easier to solve design issues throughout the development process. Quality PCB prototypes accurately represent the functionality of your final product:
PCB design: Prototyping enables designers to catch flaws early in the development process, and the more accurate the design.
Functional testing: What works in theory doesn’t always work in practice. Accurate PCB boards will help assess the theoretical values of the board to see if they show up in the practical values.
Conditional testing: It is essential that PCB products go through appropriate testing to ensure that they will survive environmental conditions.
Final product design: PCBs are usually incorporated into a final product, and prototypes help determine if the planned product or packaging need to be adjusted for the final PCB design.
Test Components Individually
These prototype PCBs test single functions that are meant to be incorporated into a larger PCB, ensuring that they work as expected. This type of testing can be used for many purposes, including:
Testing design theories: Simple PCB prototypes are used in proof-of-concept runs, allowing engineers to see and test a design idea before it goes further into the design process.
Breaking down complex designs: Often, simple PCB prototypes break down the basic parts of a final PCB, ensuring that the design performs one basic function before moving on to the next.
Standard PCB production runs can get costly, and leaving things to chance can increase the bill. Prototypes are essential for reducing production costs.
Catching design flaws: The sooner the development team catches a design flaw, the sooner it can be fixed and the less costly the fix is. The later on in the process the problem is caught, the more expensive the fix..With a high-quality
Pinpointing cost-saving adjustments: Depending on the specific design of a PCB, there may be several options available for materials and components.
Determining product adjustments: In some cases, adjustments to the PCB will result in the PCB taking on a slightly different shape or material than originally planned, which may affect the specifications and manufacturing needs of the product as a whole.
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