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How to Avoid Common PCB Mistakes

Category: Electronic ManufacturingPublished on 2017 Jan, 20Author

Contract electronics manufacturers like us know that as printed circuit boards (PCBs) become more sophisticated, they further establish their importance as the building blocks of our technological devices. PCBs are now used in everything from smartphones and cars to home automation systems and children’s toys. As a result, design engineers find themselves challenged to keep abreast of the ever-changing options of materials, design and layout software, and manufacturing capabilities. As technology changes on a daily basis, it also creates new ways to make errors while developing PCBs.


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Photo: David Mellis, Flickr Creative Commons

 

Contract electronics manufacturers like us know that as printed circuit boards (PCBs) become more sophisticated, they further establish their importance as the building blocks of our technological devices. PCBs are now used in everything from smartphones and cars to home automation systems and children’s toys. As a result, design engineers find themselves challenged to keep abreast of the ever-changing options of materials, design and layout software, and manufacturing capabilities. As technology changes on a daily basis, it also creates new ways to make errors while developing PCBs.

Mistakes to Watch Out for When Designing PCBs

  • Layout issues, including noise generation, missing traces or vias, and incorrect sizing or traces or pads.
  • Environmental issues that can lead to failure. It is important to anticipate the environments your design will be subjected to - from Russian winters to Arizona summers - and plan your materials and layout with these environments in mind. Your PCB should be evaluated for potential failure under all the conditions the end product will be exposed to.
  • Schematic errors that can result in performance issues or total function failure. The smaller footprints required by some PCBs and multi-layer boards make their layouts more prone to encountering difficulties during manufacturing or testing.
  • Test planning. A prototype board that passes base functionality testing can still encounter failures when it moves into production and is installed in the final product. This is not the time to discover that the PCB does not perform well - or perhaps at all - in certain setting. The costs of rework and product recalls at that point are extremely expensive.
  • No review process. If you have separate technicians for PCB design and electronics engineering, lack of communication between the technicians can lead to boards that do not function as the engineer intended.
  • Not using the correct tools. While Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools are widely available, they are not all created equal. You have to evaluate the available applications to determine which one(s) are best suited to the PCBs you wish to design. When used correctly, design tools can greatly improve layout design and generate all necessary files for board fabrication.
  • Being unfamiliar with manufacturing requirements. If your designer is unfamiliar with the fabrication process, no matter how carefully-designed or technically advanced your circuit is, it can encounter problems during manufacturing. This could include dimensional tolerances that are outside what is necessary, necessitating complex manufacturing that could increase costs or alter the footprint of the resulting boards.
  • Missing files. It is not uncommon for designers to send contract electronics manufacturers files that are incomplete or not labeled clearly enough for them to proceed with fabrication. This can result in faulty boards and/or manufacturing delays.

How to Avoid These Common Mistakes

By implementing some of the following procedures and practices, your company can avoid and reduce common PCB mistakes:

    • Learn to use the available design and PCB layout tools. Proper use of sophisticated design tools helps you avoid unintentional errors in layout and manufacturing specifications. Do not underestimate the value of thorough training in these tools - they can have a positive impact on your efficiency and productivity.
    • Make use of saved templates. By setting up standard templates for your designers to use, designs can be completed more quickly and with fewer concerns about omissions and obvious errors.
    • A second set of eyes. Even the most seasoned and careful design engineer can make a mistake. Often these mistakes are easily spotted and corrected by a second designer. Establishing a system of peer reviews can help detect most of these design errors, or at the very least bring up questions that point out design flaws or missing notes and documentation that can lead to manufacturing delays.
    • Hire an electronics contract manufacturer that offers Design for Manufacturability (DFM) review. Sometimes design problems are not noticeable until the fabrication process. The PCB may appear workable in the design layout, but the contract electronics manufacturer might encounter issues during the build that make the design difficult or impossible to produce. As part of our value-added engineering, we provide DFM review, checking not only for mistakes but for ways to improve your design’s function and/or lower its costs.
    • A good relationship with your contract electronics manufacturer. A quality contract electronics manufacturer will bring good practices, consistent communication, and years of experience to the table. A trusted CEM partner will detect and notify you about problems early in the manufacturing process, allowing your design engineers to resolve problems as fast as possible and with the lowest impact on board cost and manufacturing delays.

Telan Corporation: a Contract Electronics Manufacturer with Over Three Decades of Experience

With state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, and over 35 years of experience, Telan Corporation is well-prepared to fulfill all your contract electronics manufacturing needs. We offer everything from prototype to large runs, and we also provide quick manufacturing turnarounds that average 1-3 weeks. Choose a partner you can trust and call Telan today.

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