Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are increasingly becoming more complex but vital to technology. They serve as a basic building block of many electronic devices like computers and high-tech communications equipment. In fact, they are also applied in automotive, lighting systems, and even toys.
Circuit boards are becoming more miniaturized and sophisticated which challenge design engineers to keep up with materials, layout software, design software, and manufacturing capabilities. However, no mistakes can happen when making PCB’s and avoiding them is imperative to ensure the quality of the resulting products.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
PCB fabrication, design and manufacturing can be prone to the following mistakes:
- Schematic issues. This error can result in performance problems or total failure. As circuit boards require smaller footprints, generating layouts which will encounter challenges during the process can become possible.
- Layout problems. These include missing traces, generation of noise and incorrect pad or trace sizes.
- Failures caused by environmental factors. It is important for PCB designers to anticipate environmental factors their design could be exposed to and plan their layout and materials accordingly. They have to assess the conditions their end products could be exposed to ensure their optimal functionality.
- Wrong use of tools. While Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools are widely used, they are not created equal. It is necessary to assess the available applications to identify the most suitable tool to be used for PCB’s to be designed. There are many design tools available to enhance layout design and generate the required files for board fabrication.
- A lack of communication. The resulting PCB’s can malfunction as planned if the electronics engineer and PCB manufacturer and designer do not communicate constantly.
- Missing files. Manufacturers may come back to designers for files that are not complete or not labeled clearly that allows them to identify the files for fabrication. A mistake like this can lead to malfunctioning circuit boards and manufacturing delays.
- Issues with test planning. It is possible for a prototype circuit board to pass initial testing for base functionality. However, it may fail once moved into production and gets installed in the electronics. This is not the perfect time to discover a problem with the PCB because reword and product recalls are not cheap.
- A failure to understand the manufacturing requirements. No matter how carefully-designed a circuit is, it cannot be efficiently manufactured if the designer fails to understand the fabrication process. It is imperative to be familiar with things like dimensional tolerances to avoid manufacturing complexities which can be costly.
How to Avoid these Mistakes
A lot of PCB mistakes can be avoided or minimized by implementing standard procedures and best practices. It makes sense to initiate peer reviews to capture some design errors or raise concerns which may point out flaws in the design or missing document and notes which can lead to manufacturing delays. A design engineer’s mistake can be detected by a second design. Also, it is necessary to use advanced tools for design and board layout and understand how to use them effectively.