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What parts of the IPC system have to do with PCB design? The IPC standards are among the most widely accepted and important standards for PCB designs. If you are a professional designer and you are designing consumer electronics products or more specialized systems, you’ll need to stay aware of the IPC standards. These standards are meant to ensure performance and reliability and are accepted by a number of industries. When you use the right design software with integrated features and compliance tools, it may be easier than you think to comply with IPC standards and other important standards for electronic products.
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The only unified PCB design suite with integrated features that help you design to IPC classes and standards.
Among the many electronics standards organizations, the organization that all designers should be aware of is IPC. These industry standards were created based on the wealth of experience from people in the electronics design and manufacturing industries. The goal of the IPC standards is to ensure that electronics products are reliable, safe, and manufacturable. No matter which industry you work in, IPC likely defines standards that specify important requirements for your products.
Very few people have ever read the entirety of the IPC standards, simply due to their breadth and depth. If you are a PCB designer, there are some very important standards with which you should become familiar. Your job as a designer is to ensure that your board meets the highest standards of quality and reliability for your application once it is placed into service.
In total, there are four IPC classifications. Class 1 defines requirements for general printed circuit boards with a limited life and simple functions. Class 2 defines design requirements for electronic products that require extended service life and on-demand performance. These boards tend to have more complicated functions than would be found in simple devices and are often part of a larger electronic product, such as a computer or television.
Class 3 PCBs have tighter in-manufacturing tolerances and more stringent performance requirements as opposed to Class 1 and Class 2 boards. Someone that is not a professional designer is likely designing to Class 1, while more detailed, complex products tend to be built to Class 2 or Class 3. IPC Class 3/A takes the Class 3 requirements even further and applies them to military and/or aerospace electronic products.
To get a more thorough view of IPC requirements as they apply to PCB manufacturing, you can view the IPC’s manufacturer’s checklist.
Products defined as a Class 3 must be built according to criteria that includes plating thickness, laminate/solder mask selection, PCB manufacturing processes, material qualifications, and quality inspection. The major differences between Class 2 and Class 3 are in the component placement requirements for SMT components. Class 3 places stricter cleanliness requirements on the assemblies, defines a definite plating thicknesses in through-hole vias, and plating thickness on the surface of PCBs.
Designers need to address all these fabrication requirements during the design phase. Addressing these issues as you design will avoid a redesign on the part of your manufacturer, ensuring you have the highest yield possible. These standards are also designed to ensure your devices remain structurally reliable during operation.
Altium Designer helps you comply with IPC classes and standards
Two standards that underlie the IPC class definitions are the IPC-6012 and IPC-A-600 series of standards. IPC-6012 is a performance specification for the fabrication of rigid PCBs. The requirements apply to a variety of products, including multilayer boards, embedded circuitry, HDI boards, and metal core printed boards. The IPC-A-600 series defines quality criteria for manufactured PCBs and specifically defines the four IPC classes.
In addition to IPC-6012, some important design standards for printed circuit boards are IPC-2152, IPC-4761, and IPC-7350. These standards are designed to ensure reliability for different aspects of your PCBs. The IPC-1752A Material Declaration Management standard defines reporting formats for data that is exchanged between designers, distributors, and manufacturers.
Designing an IPC compliant component footprint in Altium Designer
Altium Designer is built on top of a rules-driven design engine. This type of PCB design software ensures that your design tools are adaptable to any application and set of industry standards. You can define requirements in industry standards as design rules, and Altium Designer will check your layout against these rules as you build your board.
Instead of waiting until your design is finished to check against design standards, your design software should check against important standards as you build it. You shouldn’t have to switch between multiple design programs just to complete simple design tasks. Instead, you can easily design to important standards when your design features are accessible in a single design environment.
The integrated design environment in Altium Designer includes the critical tools you need to remain compliant with industry standards. You can also adapt Altium Designer to specialized applications with add-ons and an adaptable rules-driven design system. You won’t have to switch between multiple programs, and all extensions are accessible directly within Altium Designer.
Integrated design is setting a new standard in the PCB design industry, and Altium will be there with plenty of resources to help you stay at the top of your game. Altium gives you access to a massive knowledge base, the AltiumLive forum, webinars and podcasts with PCB design industry experts, and detailed feature tutorials to help you reach success. You’ll have the resources you need to comply with IPC standards and other important industry standards.
Only Altium Designer gives you the tools you need to implement the right design strategy for your next electronic product. The underlying rules-driven design engine makes your tools adaptable to industry design and manufacturability standards. Instead of working with separated design tools, try working in the industry’s best design environment.