The Age of Information

In the digital age that we live, information is only a search away, and the design problems that used to plague electrical engineers in the past have largely been ironed out by someone, somewhere. Never before in PCB design has information been so readily available, and problems documented so thoroughly. How does this affect you as an electronics designer? There is no need to continue reinventing the wheel and making the same cycle of mistakes as our predecessors did in years past.

Whether it’s seasoned electrical engineers or those fresh out of university, the same question is always asked: how do I design better? We are all dealing with the complexities of denser boards, higher clock rates, and smaller mechanical enclosures, and designing for those requirements alone can be a challenge. However, your designs exist beyond the digital domain, and to successfully produce a manufacturable board there are a number of additional guidelines to carefully consider throughout your entire design process.

The reality is, the process of designing better doesn't end the minute you ship off your documentation to manufacturing, it ends when you get your board back in its physical form and it works as intended. This goal can be a challenge for most PCB designers, who commonly have to deal with a myriad of unique requirements that each manufacturer sets forth, only to get lost in the details as design projects run off their intended course.

Here’s the good news — there’s a way to design your PCB not just for the digital domain, but for the manufacturing world as well. And when you design it for manufacturability, you will start seeing your boards get back right the first time.

You can think of this guidebook as an accumulation of knowledge that has been set down from those before you. The collective years of experience in the electronics industry have allowed us at Altium to soak up knowledge from PCB designers all around the world, and this knowledge we now pass on to you.

Would you like more information? Watch our webinar on DFM Tips and Tricks

What is Design for Manufacturing?

The goal for this guidebook is simple - get a good board back, every time. And the applied methodology for doing this is dfm-resources (DFM). You might have heard of DFM in the past, but what exactly does it mean? Design for manufacturing (DFM) is the process of designing a PCB that is both manufacturable, functional, and reliable.

With this definition in mind, we have several clear goals to reach by adopting the design practices within this guidebook:

  1. Eliminate the need for multiple board re-spins due to manufacturing-specific details that were missed in a design process.
  2. Design and produce boards that are both manufacturable and function as intended by following a set of best practices set forth by PCB design veterans.
  3. Reduce the time spent on design revisions and ultimately meet time to market goals consistently by following a set of best practices for board layout and documentation.

To meet these goals, we’ve structured this guidebook to ideally be read from start to finish to match up with your design workflow. As you read each section in the following chapters you will be able to apply the knowledge to each stage of your PCB design process.

What You Will Find in This Guidebook

This guidebook is both theoretical and practical, and applies trusted and accepted design science that has resulted in consistently manufacturable boards. The major sections in this guidebook includes:

Design Guidelines for Successful Manufacturing

In this section we will be covering design practices that will produce both a functional and manufacturable board layout. This section will include:



Understanding the typical PCB manufacturing process and its various stages.




Selecting the right materials for your PCB to meet your specific design requirements.




Strategizing your PCB layout including via/hole placement, soldermask layers, and silkscreen documentation.




Placing and orienting your components to ensure proper spacing and assembly.




Configuring test point requirements for successful board testing by your manufacturer.


By the end of this guidebook you will be well equipped to implement the design and documentation practices into your own personal workflow to produce fabrication-ready PCBs