Designing a PCB for
your next project or a product you are developing is easier now that
there are tools to help you deal with the challenges of the process.
Instead of doing manual calculations of resistance, for instance, you
can now use built-in tools and plugins to do the work for you.
However, the wealth
of board design tools available today doesn’t mean you will not run
into issues when designing your PCB. In fact, turning a simple design
into a working PCB is still a process riddled with potential issues.
So, here are some PCB design tips to help you avoid those potential
Keep Loops Small
Modern PCBs often
have high frequency loops that support different functions. While
loops are useful in a lot of situations, designing
loops on a board isn’t as simple as it seems. For one, there is
resistance and inductance to consider.
There are several
things you can do to deal with this potential problem. You can start
by placing your loops over a ground plane in order to reduce
inductance. At the same time, limiting the size of the loops helps
reduce voltage spikes, particularly on higher frequencies.
One added benefit of
using smaller loops and checking the inductance and resistance of
your board is the lower noise the optimized design will have. Loops
can be made resistant to outside noise. On the other hand, you can
boost inductance if you are using loops for capturing signals (i.e.
in an antenna).
Work in a Production Mindset
optimized PCB is a lengthy process that doesn’t stop at design
itself. While it is becoming easier to design a complete board with
multiple layers, optimizing the board for production is another
story. Rather than treating the two as separate processes, you need
be in a production mindset from the beginning.
is why I personally love Geppetto, a design software from Gumstix.
The design tool is a web-based application that simplifies the whole
process of designing (and manufacturing) boards. You can buy
gumstix pre-made boards like the Chatterbox W5G, or you can
customize your own boards in minutes using Geppetto.
how modern design tools support the use of multiple layers. In the
era of printed boards, even the most complex setup can be made
compact and sleek through the use of multiple layers. What you want
to do is leverage the availability of layers to optimize the board
You can add
different wiring directions to different layers. You also have plenty
of ways to arrange components so that they are in the same
orientation using layers. Lines can cross over other lines on
different layers without causing problems to the entire board.
Layers are also good
for when you need to label things clearly, as you should. A silk
layer can be added to add labels to components, lines, and the board
itself. Good labels make both servicing and future developments
These simple tips
are all easy to implement, but they help avoid some of the most
common PCB design problems from the beginning. Don’t wait until
turn to bigger issues, and design an optimized board from the