Printed Circuit Board Design

Printed Circuit Board DesignDesigning a printed circuit board was once a daunting task, but design automation tools and standard schematics for many common applications have made printed circuit board design almost commonplace. You don’t even have to own expensive software. We have state of the art schematic capture software and can translate your circuit quickly and efficiently into a printed circuit board design that follows industry standards and can be manufactured at any production facility.

There are several basic steps to printed circuit board design. With some basic information in hand, our knowledgeable professionals are ready to design a printed circuit board tailored to your needs.

Schematic Capture

Schematic capture is the process through which the electronic components are diagrammed for connection. It is like a blueprint for a complex machine or an architectural drawing for the construction of an elegant home. If you already have a drawing of your circuit, we will convert it to an electronic schematic following standard practices that will make commercial production of your printed circuit board design much easier. If you need us to design the circuit for you, our specialists will capture it electronically from the very beginning of the process.

Component Footprints

When the schematic of the circuit is completed, we place physical outlines of the electronic components onto the schematic. These outlines are called footprints. We use software with a netlist of standard components, but we also create custom component footprints and datasheets, using the IPC 7351A standard naming convention, as needed for your project.

The placement of component footprints is an essential part of board design. The footprints are ultimately transferred to the board as electrical connections to the signal traces and allow electrical contact with the board components when they are physically added to the PCB.

Board Outline

After the component footprints are prepared, we determine the dimensions of your board. We typically design standard rectangular boards, but we can also customize the shape to fit your particular design application. We match the board outline to sheet templates to determine the board density, the location of the mounting holes, and keepout requirements.

We optimize component placement to create the most compact board possible while considering the heat signature of each component. It is at this stage that we decide upon the placement of the ground plane, power plane, and the number of signal planes. Basic printed circuit board designs could require only a dual signal plane, but more complex or compact designs may require 10 or more layers.

We also determine the line impedance during the board outline stage. The impedance is a function of the copper thickness, the dielectric of the board, and the separation of the traces on the board layers. We can route traces using stripline or microstripline placement, and our specialists will explain the advantages of each technique to you when we suggest the routing plan.

Routing The Traces

We use computerized equipment to automatically route noncritical signal traces onto the PCB design. Critical traces, such as clocks and power supplies, are manually routed. The routing of traces, using stripline or microstripline techniques, is always designed to minimize electromagnetic interference and to provide the cleanest signal transfer possible.

Design Rule Checks

We periodically check for design rule violations during the entire process. When we design your board, you will never have to worry about duplicated reference designators, misconnected inputs, crowded traces, or space violations with board components. We guarantee that our PCB design will be commercially producible.

Outputing The Gerber Files

All PCB manufacturing facilities need Gerber data to place a printed circuit board design into production. The last step in our design process is the generation of these files. The Gerber data is generated by PCB design layer. Each board layer, no matter how complex, is converted to a single file. The Gerber files tell manufacturing machines how to repetitively construct each layer to create your finished PCB. We use the RS-274X industry standard for these files.