Avoid PCB Design Problems with These Simple Tips | 12CAD.com

Avoid PCB Design Problems with These Simple Tips

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.

PCB Design Problems

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 problems.

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

Designing an 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.

This 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.

Utilize Layers

We’ve mentioned 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 further.

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 easier.

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 those problems turn to bigger issues, and design an optimized board from the beginning.

Want to read more about PCBs? Read our article about how to draw an electrical connection in a PCB schematic.

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