Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are essential components of electronic devices. They are used to connect and route electrical components with each other and interact with the end user. PCBs are everywhere in modern technology, and their design and fabrication have become increasingly sophisticated. Designing a PCB requires both technical knowledge and creativity, as it involves translating a schematic into a physical layout. In this blog, we’ll discuss the basics of PCB design and the questions you should ask an engineering partner when developing a new product.
PCB Design Basics
A printed circuit board (PCB) is a board made of insulating material (usually fiberglass or plastic) with conductive pathways etched onto its surface. The conductive pathways (or traces) are usually made of copper and are used to connect various components of an electronic circuit. The PCB provides a physical structure for the components to be mounted on and connected to one another.
PCB design involves creating a schematic diagram of the electronic circuit and then laying out the physical components on the PCB. The designer must ensure all components are properly connected and the PCB is optimized for the desired functionality, size, and cost.
Factors to Consider when Designing a PCB
Electrical Requirements – The designer must ensure the PCB meets all the circuit’s electrical requirements. This includes maintaining the proper voltage, current, and resistance are maintained throughout the circuit. Failing to do this can result in frying the board and circuitry, which can be a costly mistake.
Mechanical Requirements – The board must fit properly inside the device and be able to withstand any mechanical stresses or vibrations that may be encountered during use.
Thermal Requirements – The board must be able to dissipate heat properly and withstand temperature changes that may be encountered, without altering performance.
Manufacturing Requirements – In order to produce your electronic product in large quantities, it’s important to design the board so it can be produced quickly, efficiently, and at the desired cost.
Regulatory Requirements – Depending on the use of your new product development will determine what regulatory requirements or certifications will be involved before going to market. If your PCB isn’t designed with these requirements in mind, your product will fail, and the whole design process will start over.
Questions to Ask Your Engineering Partner
When developing a new electronic product, it’s essential to work with an experienced engineering partner who can help you design and manufacture your innovation. Now we will discuss some questions you should ask your engineering partner, to ensure your PCB meets all the necessary requirements.
What is your experience in electronic design?
Working with an engineering partner who has vast experience designing PCBs for similar devices is vital. This will ensure they understand the unique requirements of your device and can design a PCB that meets your needs.
Pivot International has over 50 years in business designing electronic components and PCBs. Our electrical, mechanical, and software engineers work closely to ensure the board design is connected seamlessly to the product requirements.
How do you ensure the board meets all necessary requirements?
Your engineering partner should already have a team in place to ensure your design will meet the necessary requirements, including electrical, mechanical, thermal, manufacturing, and regulatory requirements.
Pivot offers global teams that are experts in each of their disciplines and work together to fulfill our customers’ product development needs.
What tools do you use for board design?
Your partner should use the latest tools and software for PCB design. This will ensure the design is optimized for functionality, size, and cost. There are many software tools available for creating schematics, including popular options like Eagle PCB, Altium Designer, and Mentor PADS.
How do you guarantee the PCB can be manufactured at the desired cost?
Your engineering partner should have experience designing PCBs that can be manufactured at the desired cost. This includes optimizing the design for the chosen manufacturing process and minimizing the number of components and layers.
Pivot has global supply chain teams across the US, Europe, and Asia, that offer the most cost-effective solution to meet your product requirements. We own manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. We also have mirrored SMT lines in North America and Asia to ensure a seamless transfer of design and manufacturing processes, should you need to scale your product from one location to another.
How do you ensure my board design will meet all the necessary safety and environmental requirements?
Your partner should have experience designing PCBs that meet all the necessary safety and environmental requirements. This includes ensuring that the PCB uses the appropriate materials and will meet all necessary certifications.
With our vast experience and global teams, we’ve worked on projects consistent with the requirements of ISO 9001, ISO 13485, ISO 80079, IEC 600101, UL-listed, CSA Approved, and ATEX and IECEx-compliant.
What is your process for testing and validating the PCB design?
There should already be processes in place for testing and validating PCB designs that your engineering partner can offer to you. This includes testing the board for functionality, performance, and reliability. They should also have a process for identifying and addressing any issues that arise.
At Pivot, we develop customized test procedures that map directly to our customer’s product requirements.
How do you ensure that the PCB can be scaled for production?
If your device will be produced in large quantities, it is important to work with an engineering partner who can design a PCB that can be easily scaled for production. This includes optimizing the design for the chosen manufacturing process and ensuring that the PCB can be manufactured in large quantities without any issues.
Our engineers design with manufacturing in mind. Our design for manufacturing (DFM) practices are integrated throughout the entire product development process.
How do you handle changes to the PCB design?
It is common for changes to be made to the PCB design during the development process. Your engineering partner should have a process in place for handling these changes, including assessing the impact of the change on the overall design and ensuring that the change meets all the necessary requirements.
We offer a world-class project management team that work closely with each client to ensure all aspects of your product are thought through from initial concept through production. We will address all product angles at the start of the project, to help mitigate changes that could disrupt the design and production process.
Looking for a PCB Design Partner?
To summarize, PCB design is critical to developing any electronic device. Working with an experienced engineering partner is essential to ensure success, lower risk, and increase your ROI. By asking the right questions, you can ensure your engineering partner understands your product and can design a PCB that meets all the necessary requirements.
If you would like to learn more about Pivot International, our global companies, and how we can help take your electronic product to market, contact us today. We offer a free consultation with our project management team and groups of engineers that are eager to turn your idea into a reality.