Best Software for PCB Design and Manufacturability Guidelines
To successfully design a printed circuit board that conforms to PCB design for manufacturability guidelines, you have to understand those DFM guidelines. Additionally you need to equip yourself with the best PCB design software tools that you can that will help you to maintain those guidelines.
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PCB Design software to help you move into and understand your manufacturing necessities.
DFM, or Design for Manufacturability, is a term that gets thrown around quite a lot these days in the world of printed circuit board design. The question is; what is DFM really? For some it is making sure that the PCB can be fabricated correctly while for others it’s making sure that the PCB can be assembled correctly. Other people would say that it is making sure that the correct components are available when needed while yet others would say that it refers to in-circuit testing. The answer of course is that it is all of the above, and much more as well.
PCB designers need to make sure that their circuit boards are designed for the entire manufacturing process instead of only being focused on specific portions of the design process. To do this will require a complete understanding of what it means to design for manufacturing. They will need to consider all of the needs for PCB manufacturing including PCB fabrication, PCB assembly, testing, and parts procurement as well as adhering to all the regular high-speed design rules for product development.
In order to do their work according to PCB design for manufacturability (DFM) guidelines, PCB designers need advanced software tools. They need tools that will be able to help them adhere to DFM rules and guidelines and assist with DFM analysis. They need tools that they can rely on to help with component selection, do full 3D checking to mechanical constraints, and that come with a full set of design rules. The PCB design software tool set that designers need is Altium Designer.
To design to good DFM practices you need to first understand those practices. Many designers will make decisions on component placement, board layer stacks, and copper usage without understanding their possible effect on panelizing the board for manufacturing. The first thing that you should do is to work with your PCB manufacturers in order to understand what they need from you in your PCB layouts. They will have documentation and checklists to cover what you need to know about their fabrication and assembly processes on everything from material thickness to solder masks. They can advise you on specific details of your circuit board design to make sure that you are using the correct sized pads, holes and vias, as well as component and trace spacing.
Become Familiar with DFM So You Can Better Design for It
In addition to your specific manufacturer, there are also additional resources for you to look into online that can add to your understanding of good DFM practices.
- Understanding some basic keys to DFM is a great place to build your understanding from.
- How you route your traces to how you place your parts all can affect how your design will eventually be manufactured.
- An example of one common manufacturing problem that you can design out of your boards with attention to pad size is the tombstoning of parts.
Altium Designer’s native 3D environment is a real benefit when checking boards and panels
Once you gain an understanding and experience with DFM standards, you will be in a much better position to design your circuit boards to meet DFM expectations. As a PCB designer laying out a circuit board you will also find yourself having to manage these guidelines and standards to meet everyone’s needs. Electrical engineering may dictate that you have to design to a certain set of constraints, while your manufacturers may want something different. It will be up to you to find how to meet everyone’s needs by making the best choices for how the board will be designed and manufactured no matter what design technology you are working with.
Understanding DFM Will Help You to Make the Right Choices for Your Design
The more you know about DFM the better off you will be when the rest of the design team is looking to you to manage how this board will be designed.
- The PCB designer is often caught between the needs of engineering and manufacturing, and you need to be prepared to manage this relationship.
- Design for manufacturing covers a lot and you need to on top of it all, like understanding what kinds of solder mask materials there are to choose from.
- Your understanding of DFM guidelines and standards will be used for no matter what board technology you design for.
In addition to regular DRC’s, Altium Designer’s DFM checks are a real help
You understand the DFM requirements, and you’ve managed the expectations of the design team so that everyone is on the same page. You still need to design the board though, and for that you need PCB design software that will take you from schematic capture to final Gerber files while covering everything between. Altium Designer is the tool of choice for helping you through all aspects of PCB design when working with DFM requirements.
Altium Designer will help you with your component selection so that you can choose parts that are available and at a cost that fits within your design budget. Altium Designer’s native 3D environment will help you to design high-quality products by allowing you to perform 3D clearance checking for your component placement and imported mechanical constraints. Altium Designer’s layout editor will give you precise control over manufacturing details such as wave solder, solder paste, and annular rings for both SMT and through-hole technology components. All of this is governed in Altium Designer by a full set of design rules and constraints under your control so that you can make sure to design to the specific DFM guidelines that you need.
Use the Best PCB Design Tools for the Best DFM Results
Being armed with DFM knowledge is half the battle, now it’s time to use advanced PCB design tools to finish the job.
- Make sure that the components in your design are available and at the price you expect by using Altium Designer’s Active BOM.
- Altium Designer will allow you to thoroughly check your design in full 3D for DFM conformity.
- With the extensive design rules and constraints in Altium Designer, you can set your design environment up to check for any manufacturing constraints that you have.
Designing a printed circuit board to meet today’s stringent DFM requirements is not a problem as long as you have the most advanced set of PCB design tools that you can get; Altium Designer.