The PCB Design Process Methodology and Application
Your next great idea probably started on a piece of notebook paper or on the back of a cocktail napkin. How do you go about taking your great idea and turning it into a real design, and eventually into a finished product? There are a number of ways to approach your new design. The best way to get started is to determine the right PCB design process methodology for your board.
While design methodologies are not entirely formalized, there are some important things to consider before you get started. Who will be using your board? Where will it be used? Which aspects of its environment will affect its functionality? Thinking about the answers to these questions can help you determine the right design methodology for your next idea.
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A unified PCB design package with the best tools for implementing the right PCB design process methodology for your next board.
Once you’ve got a basic idea for your board, it’s time to start creating schematics that show how components are connected throughout your Printed Circuit Board. You’ll need to select the right components for your board, either based on experience or by using component search features in your PCB design software. You’ll need to show all connections (both single-ended and differential) that will appear in your board as you build your schematic, and you’ll need to list power and ground sources for all active components.
Once it comes time to layout your board, you’ll need to adopt a methodology that ensures your signals remain free of common problems, your board is manufacturable, and that you have followed important design rules. The right software that takes advantage of design rule checking features throughout the schematic and layout phases will help you meet important design and can be configured to help ensure your board can be manufactured properly.
Your schematic is the first document you will create when you want to create a real model for your entire product. This important document shows how all active and passive components, power and ground connections, and signals work together to give your printed circuit its functionality. After you’ve finished your schematic, you’ll need to use a schematic capture tool to create the initial layout for your board.
If you expect that the schematic for your design will be rather messy, or if you know that your design contains a number of different functional blocks, you can stay organized when you use hierarchical schematics to design your device. This important design methodology makes it easy to reuse schematics in new designs and is critical for enforcing strict organization as your design becomes more complex.
Simulation-Driven Design with Schematics
Some designs will require some simulation methodology, especially if you are not using well-known circuits, making creative use of active components, or working with proprietary components. Using simulations with your schematics allows you to explore some options for improving your designs before you start laying out your Printed Circuit Board. With the right simulation package, you can use an iterative simulations process to determine component values required in certain places in your design. This can help you explore the effects of transients in your interconnects and components, address undershoot/overshoot, and plenty of other aspects of your design.
Some components, like printed antennas with unique architecture, or external antennas that do not include supporting impedance matching or filtration, will require simulations to design an appropriate impedance matching network. You can take a simulation-driven approach to help you design supporting components to ensure signal integrity before you finalize your schematic. This will help prevent some unnecessary redesigns after you start laying out your board.
- Your schematic will be the first design document you need to create before you start building your board.
- Working with hierarchical schematics is a great way to stay organized when designing your schematics. This design methodology allows you to define parent-child relationships between different functional blocks in your board.Learn more about enforcing organization with hierarchical schematics.
- Integrated PCB design software will allow you to create circuit models from your schematic for mixed simulations during the design process.Learn more about creating simulations from your schematics.
Component searching capabilities in your PCB design software
As your boards become more advanced and include greater complexity, you will need to modify your PCB design process methodology to work within design rules, more advanced simulation tools, verification features, and tools that generate documentation. Higher speed and higher frequency boards require obeying important rules on trace spacing, trace geometry, ground plane design, and plenty of other design rules. You’ll also need to keep the impedance of your conductors as consistent as possible throughout your board in order to ensure signal integrity.
More advanced boards will often use an iterative process of design and simulation in order to check the validity of various design choices. Design changes can be implemented based on simulation results, and any changes can be checked again with a simulation. Working with rules-driven design software will help ensure that design changes in these cycles comply with your design rules and constraints.
Enforcing Design Rules for Advanced Applications
More advanced designs require tools that allow you to create and manage design rules based on the specific performance aspects you require in your design. Key features like solder mask clearance, pad clearance, trace impedance, trace geometry and spacing, and via design all require obeying specific design rules as you create your circuit board.
With rules-driven design software, you can define rules and constraints within your design software on any of the key features in your design. If you like, these design rules and constraints can be defined around specific industry standards that govern the application, manufacturability, and functionality of your device. This helps ensure that you do not make any errors while creating your board.
- In addition to design rules, using simulations during the schematic and layout design phases can help you diagnose signal problems before they cripple your board.
- Design rules are also intended to help ensure signal integrity throughout your board. You’ll need to place verifiable test points on your board during the design phase.Learn more about signal integrity in your PCB with Eric Bogatin.
- Once you’re ready to manufacture your board, it helps to have an understanding of the manufacturing process and how manufacturers will use your design data.Learn more about the manufacturing process and how manufacturers use design data.
Linking between components in your schematic and your BOM in Altium Designer
All the design aspects discussed here are critical for ensuring your next design will come off the production line without functionality problems. Choosing the right PCB design software is critical to executing your design methodology effectively. Unfortunately, other design programs still use separate programs for separate tools, hampering productivity and leaving you prone to design errors as you work. You may end up creating an entire PCB layout only to realize that you have made a critical error during the schematic design phase, forcing you to redesign your board.
When you use rules-driven design software, all your design tools are accessible in a single program. Tools in this type of design software are designed to access your data directly and check your design choices against important design rules as you work. You can also identify design errors before you finish your design or move on to manufacturing.
Implement Your PCB Design Process Methodology in Altium Designer
The industry’s best circuit board design software will integrate the design features you need into a single integrated environment, allowing you to implement any PCB design process methodology. While PCB design follows a somewhat linear process, the right design software can help you avoid redesigns by giving you access to the verification and simulation tools you need. When your PCB design software is built on a rules-driven design engine, you can address common problems in PCB design process methodology as you layout your board.
Only Altium Designer integrates all of these design features in a single rules-driven design platform. Your design features will be completely adaptable to the design methodology and application you want to implement for your next circuit board. You’ll have access to the same set of design tools in your schematic and layout, and you’ll be able to check your schematic and layout as you create them. No other design software offers this level of productivity.
- The rules-driven design engine in Altium Designer enforces design rules throughout the schematic design and layout process. This helps you identify standard and custom errors that are critical for your next application.Learn more about schematic driven design rules in Altium Designer.
- The smart component placement features in Altium Designer will help you place components with the right clearances to pads and solder mask. You can also place components using the native 3D design features.Learn more about smart component placement in Altium Designer.
- If you’re planning to produce finished products from your design, Altium Designer includes design for manufacturing tools to help maximize yield.Learn more about design for manufacturing in Altium Designer.
Altium Designer have even more features that help you complete the entire design process and prepare your circuit board for production. The documentation, supply chain management, simulation, and component management features are integrated into a single environment alongside your design and simulation tools. The underlying rules-driven design engine ensures your design features communicate using a single data structure.
Altium also gives you the resources you need to design successfully. You’ll have access to the AltiumLive forum, webinars and podcasts given by industry experts, an extensive knowledge base with plenty of design tips, and design tutorials. No other PCB design software company give you this many resources and helps guide you to success.
While other design platforms still enforce a decades-old design model that separates important features in different programs, Altium Designer has set a new standard in the PCB design industry. The unified design environment in Altium Designer offers all the tools you need to implement your chose PCB design process methodology. Instead of settling for other design platforms, it’s time to make the switch to Altium Designer and work with the best PCB schematic and layout features in a single program.