Designing PCBs Towards FAA Aircraft Certification Standards
You don’t have to be a professional aircraft mechanic or aviation engineer to know that aircraft are extremely complicated mechanical and electrical systems. From withstanding extreme environments to rugged electrical and electromechanical requirements on embedded systems, the Federal Aviation Administration defines standards for every aspect of aircraft design. The goal is to ensure all aircraft meet critical reliability and quality standards, and that electronic systems will not fail under stress.
Not only do PCBs for electronic systems need to meet critical quality and performance requirements, but components themselves must also meet important quality, form factor, and sourcing traceability standards. Designing to these standards, sourcing compliant components for your system, planning for production, and documenting the totality of your circuit boards takes management and design software that is adaptable for any application, including avionics. Altium Designer is the only design platform that links these important features together in a single program.
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The only adaptable PCB design package for any electronics application. Altium Designer unifies design, documentation, and sourcing features in a unified design environment.
If you’re designing avionics systems for civilian aircraft, then you’ll need to become intimately familiar with FAA standards on avionics systems. Any avionics system is complex in terms of design. They carry diverse functionality, rugged performance requirements, and must integrate within larger embedded systems to control and manage aircraft. The FAA aircraft certification standards define all aspects of mechanical, electronic, and operator requirements on civilian aircraft and should lie at the forefront of any design strategy.
As electronics systems continue to advance at breakneck speed in terms of functionality and complexity, avionics designers must understand how to implement their systems into larger embedded systems within aircraft while still complying with critical FAA standards. PCBs in aircraft are built to provide control over power distribution, mechanical systems, communications, and data processing throughout an aircraft. One wrong design choice can compromise the entire aircraft, leading to potential disaster.
Aircraft safety and performance hinges on these systems being designed to exceed every electronics standard defined by the Federal Aviation Administration. Implementing compliant PCB design practices requires adaptable PCB design software that incorporates all design aspects into a single environment, including schematic, layout, verification, and simulation tools. Altium Designer integrates these tools into a single, comprehensive software platform, giving you full control over your design while working within standards in a single design environment.
IPC standards should always be looming at the forefront of your design strategy, but you will also need to consider the standard FAA guidelines, MIL standards, and the AS9100 quality standards. The FAA will need assurances that your electronics systems can withstand potential power fluctuations, operate within steady-state tolerances, and manage thermal demands in order to receive an airworthiness certificate.
As electronic systems in aircraft are part of larger embedded systems, you’ll need to consider your board’s place within a power system, control system, communications system, or electromechanical system. As part of a power or electromechanical system, your device must satisfy power requirements defined in the CBEMA curve as specified in the FAA standards for airworthiness.
Electrical systems and printed circuits in aircraft and other avionics systems must carry a long lifecycle, provide performance on demand, and meet EMC requirements as specified by the FCC. These systems must be designed to provide the highest performance in extreme environments. Whether you’re designing civil aircraft, ultralight aircraft, or light-sport aircraft, the FAA Aircraft Certification Service will rigorously evaluate your designs within these systems to ensure airworthiness.
You Can Pass the FAA Performance Review By Designing to Standards
Whether you’re designing an embedded single board computer for aircraft systems, building communications and data processing systems, building safety-critical software for an embedded system, or building complex electromechanical control systems, you’ll need the right design software with the best layout and validation tools. Each of these systems carries its own performance and design standards, and you need to encode these standards as design rules within your PCB design software.
You can stay compliant with any PCB performance requirements when your design software allows you to incorporate specifications as design rules. Design software that is fully adaptable and ensures your design tools check your layout against standards as you design in real-time. This effectively allows your you to customize the important electrical design features within your software and verify your layout as you design. This is by far the best way to ensure your design will meet critical FAA design standards and will help you build your system with an eye towards maximizing performance under stress.
- The CBEMA curve defines power integrity requirements for a number of civilian and military systems. You’ll want to design your avionics power systems to meet these requirements to receive an airworthiness certificate.Learn more about designing your power delivery network for power integrity.
- As part of an embedded system, electronics for data processing and control systems in aircraft will require implementing high speed design techniques.Learn more about high speed design for your avionics PCBs.
- Whether you are working under IPC, MIL, or FAA standards for electronics reliability, any avionics system must be designed to provide on-demand performance under extreme temperatures.Learn about designing to IPC standards for thermal management.
High speed layout near a BGA in Altium Designer
The FAA places plenty of requirements on avionics companies regarding the performance and quality of their electronics systems for aircraft. To prove airworthiness, aerospace and avionics companies must prove they are compliant with the AS9100 standard as specified by the FAA. Component sourcing and data management are two critical processes for the aviation and aerospace industry, and the right documentation procedures can help you prove compliance in an instant.
When it comes to PCB design for aircraft, your design software should ease the tensions inherent in documentation by passing data directly to your documentation tools. There’s no need to move between design software and word processing software, manually documenting design changes and ECOs as you go.
When your design software integrates these features into a single environment, you can easily compile the documentation you need to prove airworthiness in such a highly regulated industry. You can spend more time designing to critical performance requirements and less time copying sourcing and design information between programs.
How Integrated Sourcing and Management Tools Aid Compliance
Documentation and data management are critical processes for any organization that operates in a highly regulated industry. Documentation is about more than auditing your component supply chain, vetting manufacturers, and copying data into documents. The right documentation for avionics systems includes all design aspects that help prove airworthiness in the eyes of the FAA. But who has time to spend manually compiling ECOs and ensuring manufacturers fully understand your design intent?
Working in an environment that integrates electronics design with standardized documentation tools is the best way to keep your productivity for both processes high. This saves you time throughout the design process and helps you plan for production without a hitch. Once it’s time to plan for production, you’ll have a full view of your supply chain, allowing you to prove compliance with sourcing requirements.
This type of software allows you to customize your design tools to ensure your designs meet airworthiness requirements and comply with industry standards. You’ll have the power to manage your data within a single program, controlling variant releases, revisions, and reusing old design data as a template for new systems.
- According to FAA requirements, you’ll need to track and audit your supply chain, ensuring your designs meet strict AS9100 quality standards.
- With the right documentation process, you can prove compliance with design, quality, and supply chain standards. Your documentation process can be automated with the right PCB design software.
- Whether you work for the military or civil aviation industry, you’ll need to implement best practices for managing your design data.Learn more about design data management with the right design software.
Native 3D mechanical design in Altium Designer
With so much to account for in PCB design for avionics, civil aircraft, and aerospace systems, the right design platform can help you address all critical design standards in your industry. Working in an integrated design platform that runs on a rules-driven design engine allows you to incorporate important performance standards as design rules, helping you maximize your chances of receiving an airworthiness certificate.
With the diverse functionality required in aircraft, aerospace and civil aviation engineers need design tools that aid compliance with industry standards. Working with rules-driven design software allows you to check the compliance of your designs in real time and make corrections immediately. Every mechanical and performance requirement can be implemented as a design rule and used to ensure your device will meet performance standards.
Altium Designer: A Single Program for All Your Designs
Working within stringent design standards and sourcing regulations takes real integration, not the phony type of integration offered by most PCB design software companies. Most companies force you to create an ad hoc workflow out of multiple design tools from multiple vendors. You’ll lose out on critical features that will help ensure you receive that critical airworthiness certificate.
With Altium Designer, your layout, schematic, mechanical design, documentation, verification, and sourcing features exist within a single program built on a rules-driven design engine. You won’t need to move between external programs for basic and advanced design tasks. Instead, you have access to the critical tools you need in a single environment.
Other design platforms claim to create a unified PCB design environment, but they still separate tools into different programs. Instead of working with different tools from different software companies to accomplish standard design tasks, you need a full suite of design tools in a single program. Only Altium Designer gives you the best tools for designing any electronics system.
- Instead of cobbling together disparate design and documentation tools or working with other design platforms that separate features into different programs, you need to work with the only PCB design platform that unifies critical design features in a single environment.See how the unified design environment in Altium Designer improves productivity.
- Working in a complicated environment, such as the belly of an aircraft, requires keeping mechanical constraints in mind when designing your boards. The native 3D design tools allow you to work within mechanical constraints and get a realistic view of your board.Learn more about ECAD/MCAD integration in Altium Designer.
- The unique integration of ECAD and MCAD tools in a single interface makes multi-board and rigid-flex design much easier, allowing you to check mechanical clearances and electrical performance simultaneously.Learn more about 3D design tools for rigid-flex PCBs in Altium Designer.
Avionics and aerospace engineers face a strictly regulated landscape when designing civil aircraft and the electronic systems that support them. Electronics designers need the best layout, sourcing, verification, and documentation tools to help ensure they will receive certification for airworthiness. Working with the industry’s leading design software package is the best way to accomplish all of these goals simultaneously.
When your design software is built on top of a rules-driven design engine, your design and verification tools will communicate using standardized data format. Your tools should help you remain productive and design to standards that govern performance in any industry. Altium Designer, the industry standard in PCB design, lets you accomplish all of this and much more.
If you ever get stuck using the software or want to complement your capabilities with new features, Altium offers the resources and products you need to get the most out of your design software. You’ll have access to the AltiumLive forum, feature tutorials, podcasts and webinars with PCB design experts, and an extensive knowledge base. Altium provides you with the support you need to design PCBs for any application.
The FAA aircraft certification standards process is already difficult enough, and your PCB design software should help ease the design, compliance, and review process. Other design platforms separate your critical design features in different programs, ruining your productivity and fragmenting important design standards across multiple interfaces. Only Altium Designer integrates the critical features you need for avionics design into a single program. It’s time to ditch the imitators and work with the industry’s best design software: it’s time to try Altium Designer.