Guide to Reducing PCB Design Errors

Mistakes in your printed circuit board design can lead to increased costs for your engineers, designers and manufacturers while slowing your time to get to market. That hurts your revenue and can lead to significant problems in your department.

No one wants to experience those concerns, so we’ve put together this quick look at some ways to reduce PCB design errors. We’re addressing the most common concerns, but remember to always work with an engineering team whose focus is to limit PCB design errors in the production phase.

Look for Component Concerns

Component placement can cause some major design headaches if there are mistakes. Placement needs to take electrical noise, thermal management and overall function into consideration.

Make sure all your components and the overall board are sufficiently able to function. The design isn’t too difficult in most cases, and there is some leeway in your board. Many times during the design process, you will end up needing to shift placement to make the most of your space and to reduce costs.

Keep general placement rules in mind, however, such as making special placement of any item that conducts more than 10 mA or absorbs greater than 10 mW. You’ll also need to make sure you’re:

  • Giving power traces the width they require based on layer location and thickness of the trace for trace impedance.
  • Matching proper voltage drops for high-current connections
  • Setting your vias near layer transitions to improve reliability and thermal conductivity
  • Shielding any sensitive components so noise doesn’t create interference
  • Using multiple vias at each layer transition for high current paths
  • Verifying your blind or buried vias can actually be manufactured in their proposed locations
  • Utilizing ground planes or power planes for the heat flow of power management components

This also includes making sure your wireless antenna is laid out properly. Microstrips must be in proper alignment with antenna and transceiver and designed with a 50-ohm impedance to maximize your power transfer.

Check Thermal Considerations

Your IC generates heat that’s transferred the copper layers of your PCB, and this is a place you should work diligently to limit PCB design errors. Smart thermal design will help your entire board stay the same temperature, making overall heat management simpler.

Keep your design straightforward, and check your heat against overall copper thickness. Manage layers as well, since the continuity of the thermal paths help your board manage the heat. The overall size of your board will help, as will additional spacing for some components.

You can safely and efficiently reduce heat by introducing additional solid ground layers and power planes that reach your IC directly. Reduce the heat design errors in printed circuit boards by managing and engineering sufficient heat and current routes throughout the PCB.

Get Your Files Together

Design also includes delivering the right files to your manufacturing partner. Make sure you’ve got some of the most important files and lists ready when you deliver your PCB design.

Here are a few of the biggies you’ll need:

  1. Aperture list for Older 274-D Format Files: Specify the size and shape of every object with your aperture designations. Use a single list and provided it with overall design files, instead of creating separate lists for each individual layer. Make it easy on your production team, the newer 274-X format files have embedded aperture
  2. Drill file: Put together your drill file with all hole locations and specifications, and keep both plated and non-plated holes in a single file. Provide the tool numbers for each hole to help your partner guarantee production success.
  3. Tool list: Put together a complete tool list and send a separate version. Sometimes it is not possible to use the list that’s on your fabrication drawing because of a lack of support for automated verification systems.
  4. Top and bottom definitions: This should include your silkscreen, solder mask, paste mask and assembly drawings.
  5. Notation: Provide documentation on all metal layers.
  6. Component map: Provide X-Y coordinates on the board for verification.
  7. FAB outline: This notes the proper dimensions and special features of your board.

Having these on hand and verifying before you send them over is a perfect way to reduce PCB design errors and give your manufacturing partner an easier time creating your board.

Understand Manufacturing Changes

You can work to reduce design errors in printed circuit boards while also working to reduce the cost of your PCB. Some best practices for cost-savings, especially in terms of component placement and spacing, can help you reduce thermal threats as well as keep costs straightforward.

Reach out to your manufacturer to see what their cost structure is for special requirements like blind or buried vias, and see if they can assist in the engineering process. If you can make your board easier to manufacture, you will likely face fewer problem boards and replacements. Design can limit production errors, and that means a good savings in time and money.

If you need a little help with design and understanding manufacturing for your PCB, contact MCL. We’ll walk you through some of the most important considerations and give you a free quote on the manufacturing of your PCB. That will help you understand costs and make sure your budget matches your design.