High-quality bespoke circuit boards can be obtained within seven days of ordering—in some circumstances, even sooner—whether you’re an experienced or amateur electronics designer. These circuit boards are offered at such low costs that you would wonder how they are produced.
The production’s usage of highly automated PCB design tools, beginning with the procedure for ordering itself, is largely to blame for the solution.
Automated PCB Design Facts
Automated PCB process of manufacturing continues somewhere at circuit board fabricator, also known as “fab,” after designing the circuit board making use of EDA softwares like Eagle, KiCad, or Altium.
Together with drill files, you virtually draw out some instructions, which are commonly Gerber files inside the RS-274X2 or RS-274X format. They are after that uploaded onto your preferred PCB maker. You can order your board from many vendors, like PCBWay and OSHPark, by using the fast quotes they provide.
In order for the PCB to be built properly, manufacturers often review the submitted boards to ensure their design specifications are not broken. Although there is a lot of automation involved, there can still be a need for human interaction or back and forth. Many client boards are integrated onto the single panel after all checks and communications have been completed. These panels typically have an interior of fiberglass (FR4) to offer insulation and strength, as well as an exterior layer of copper that is trimmed to a specified size for a fab’s process.
Automated PCB Design History
PCB design used to be done manually before automated electronic design came to be. It uses mechanically drawn as well as plotted traces and components traces. EDA has developed over the last ten years to become more than just software that enables PCB designers to convert a schematic to a usable PCB. Current EDA tools provide extensive simulation and management features that PCB designers can use to improve the PCB’s capacity to be manufactured, serviced, and reliable.
Routing and design perfection are no longer the primary responsibilities of the PCB designer. The PCB designers, particularly those that work with small as well as medium-sized businesses, are responsible for a variety of design-related tasks. They may have to accept responsibility for cost control and value engineering by the reuse of comparable components in the multiple designs.
As consumer goods become more competitive, Circuit board designers must optimize their designs for production and assembly in order to significantly reduce costs. The end product’s reliability and serviceability must be considered by PCB designers. This entails collaborating closely with a maintenance crew as well as making educated predictions about likely PCB failure locations.
PCB designers face challenges from the requirement for electronics having smaller, quicker components and decreasing amounts of workspace, in addition to operational issues. Being close neighbors brings about an entirely novel set of issues in the PCB design. In contemporary design, terms like EMI – Electromagnetic Interference, thermal impacts, signal integrity, are used more frequently.
Problems with PCB Design
Incorrect trace geometry
Circuit board traces are in charge of carrying electrical signals in between various circuit components while adhering to exact restrictions on the signal’s frequency, current strength, and speed. Each trace’s geometry is crucial in this situation; in particular, the thickness and width of every trace must be sized correctly. When a trace’s current surpasses the 0.5A indicative value, the current line or line for power transmission is considered to be a high one.
Extraordinary trace length
High-speed signal traces should be straight and brief as possible. In the event that such length gets exceeded, there’s the possibility that major issues like signal reflection (having direct effects on the signal’s integrity), higher sensitivity to EMI, as well as higher costs.
We can refer to a trace as a line of transmission if its length is greater than one-tenth of the signal’s wavelength it carries. In this situation, it becomes crucial to calculate the impedance coupled with the length (using one out of numerous specialized tools now available online) so as to establish impedance coupling and prevent signal power loss.
Decoupling capacitors are in the wrong position.
In the power supply lines of circuit boards, decoupling capacitors were required to guarantee a reliable power supply devoid from oscillations and transients to all the board components. These capacitors must always be located as near as feasible to the components’ pins that need power and connected in the parallel form with a power source.
EMI – Electromagnetic Interference
A poor PCB design is frequently the cause of electromagnetic interference. It is advised to organize PCB components into functional groups, such as digital and analog blocks, power sections, high-speed circuits, low-speed circuits, etc., in order to prevent electromagnetic interference (EMI). In order to reduce or even eliminate interference, it’s additionally required to utilize insulated cables, metal containers, as well as fewer straight angles on these traces.
What Future Awaits Automated PCB Design?
Inside the electronics world, increased design process automation does not always result in innovation. In order to enable designers to perform the tasks they do well, it raises the abstraction level at which they operate. Then, design time is able to create value rather than deal with the implementation’s complexities.
Yet, for the automation to become effective, it has to be carried out in a setting that includes all the restrictions required to completely establish the limits of the processes being automated. A wide design space made possible by high-capacity, inexpensive programmable devices makes it easier for software and hardware to converge. This system of PCB design we employ must integrate what are now regarded as distinct design disciplines to deliver efficient automation inside this design area.
Every automated PCB design ultimately aims to maximize the efficiency of a highly useful design asset, which is the designer using the controls. Using the complete spectrum of the electronics design techniques and devices accessible today is made possible by working within a cohesive design environment, which also enables the automation required to function at higher abstraction levels, include rising intelligence levels to products, as well as ensure the job is completed at a faster rate.
Benefits of Automated PCB Design
Many benefits of automation include lower costs, improved quality, quicker circuit assembly, as well as a reduction in human error. Moreover, the automated assembly lines can conduct tasks including component sorting, component placement on bare PCBs, assembled board inspection, functional testing, and final product packaging for deployment.
Often, when people hear the word “automation,” they think of robotics inside the PCB design industry.
Best Software for Automated PCB Design
Altium Designer describes a complete collection of tools for PCB design made for engineers including you, covering all phases of the design process from schematic through layout featuring simulators and productivity-enhancing features. Built on the strong framework that allows for the smooth integration of every one of its tools for design automation into one comprehensive flow of design, its features are straightforward and simple to use.
Altium Designer can be described as the most reliable EDA software for automated PCB design, whether you’re obtaining the most recent component data through your vendors, simulating your ICs, capturing this schematic, as well as laying out of the board, and creating automated files for batch manufacturing.
This can be described as open-source, cost-free EDA suite that is utilized by CERN as well as a large number of other people and businesses. It offers a comprehensive collection of tools, including differential routing, PCB layout and schematic, a stunning 3D viewer, the Python scripting capability, and support for component libraries on Git. Also it features a fantastic calculator applet enabling figuring out various factors, including RF attenuation, track width, as well as transmission line specifications. It has recently undergone a stable release and is currently undergoing intense development.
Cadence introduced Allegro as a routing tool for PCB design. Due to Allegro’s robust features, big businesses frequently utilize it, particularly those that produce computer motherboards.
This program occupies a significant share of the market on server motherboards, huge industrial control board, computer motherboards, as well as other large board types due to its benefits in drawing large boards. After fact, a tiny number of businesses will also utilize some tablets as well as mobile phone circuit boards.
This has an appealing user interface and a potent schematic diagram feature. Although it isn’t free, the cost is reasonable. It includes amazing features including an interactive follower, a batch command script file, online negative and positive annotation, and copper cladding. Moreover, EAGLE supports the three platforms – Windows, Mac, and Linux. Also, this software has a fairly extensive library, allows the use of scripts, and includes CAM tools.
You should purchase EDA software with a robust library, module for component management, model libraries enabling 3D modeling, as well as SI analysis enabling automated PCB design. Also, you may keep an organized inventory of the parts used in the projects and you can avoid spending time generating components from the start.
You would like EDA softwares that helps keep things very simple as the PCB design becomes more complex. Reusable design elements as well as flexible design restrictions aid in keeping a variety of issues under control while still being effective.