When you look at nearly any electronic device, a printed circuit board (PCB) is the building block that allows it to operate. PCBs vary from simple layered boards that might be found in a garage door opener to boards with dozens of high-speed and high-density layers used in servers and supercomputers. Those two boards and the hundreds that fall in between are integral to create electronic components.
When working with circuit design and creating printed circuit boards, many best practices can prevent having to continually alter and change the boards. Some of them are common knowledge while others might teach you something new that you can incorporate into your next PCBs. We want to focus on tips that will make a huge difference in your creation process and let you speed up your work.
Consider Orientation, Space, and Accessibility
One of the best tips we can offer you with circuit design is that all the components that you add to a board should be given a bit of space between each other. It might seem satisfying to place every part right next to another, but you also need room for wires to spread out. Keep in mind that components with fewer pins will need less space. Having extra space can also help with auto-routing since soldering will be simpler.
You also need to think about the orientation of parts when you place them. In general, the best tip here is that components should have the same orientation as each other. There’s a good reason for this practice. In most cases, the parts have a standard pin number system where pin one is found in the left upper corner. When orientation is the same between parts, it will prevent later mistakes in soldering and inspections.
Accessibility is also crucial, especially for nodes that are the most important in your build. Even when you have a great design and have gone through prototyping with products from a company like Advanced Circuits, you might do testing and see something isn’t working the way it should be. You’ll want to measure the signal in the PCB during the circuit design process. Be aware when designing the PCB about what points will be most important to troubleshoot and make them accessible. If this isn’t possible, make sure a test point is connected to them.
Check Component Sizes, Exchange Wiring Directions, and Select Line Widths
When you have an idea of how you want to lay out your components during circuit design, one option is to print out the layout. You can then take the parts and place them on top of the page to make sure they match. In some cases, this can save a ton of time since datasheets aren’t always 100% accurate. Another option is to use the free circuit board design software by Advanced Circuits to ensure your build is exactly the way it should be.
Assuming you are making a circuit with several layers, it’s best to swap the wiring directions as you go between the layers. For instance, one side of the layer might have horizontal traces while the other side uses vertical traces. This is an important tip since it helps facilitate the wiring or lines that need to pass over others. Alternate direction when using several layers for the best results.
PCB width will vary based on your project. A larger width is going to reduce the level of resistance, which means that it will also create less heat. It’s important to choose the width of lines you are sizing based on how much current is expected to flow through them. Several online calculators can help with this process. As you might guess, power lines should have more width than other lines since they will carry a larger amount of current.
Special Considerations for Power Circuits
When creating a power circuit, the number one tip is to ensure your power and control grounds remain separate. Large current spikes and high voltage can create interference in the control circuits, which aren’t designed to handle as much current and voltage. This is the main reason that the control ground and the power ground should be kept apart in any power supply stage. If they need to be tied together, it should be toward the end of the supply path.
For those who need circuits with several layers, it’s best to place the control ground somewhere in the middle layer during circuit design. The power traces can be placed on the top layers, while the bottom layer can handle the control traces. There’s a genuine reason to lay out your circuit in this manner. The middle layer will have a large ground path that helps prevent interference from the power circuits for better protection.
While this applies to any type of PCB, it is most important when designing and creating a power circuit. You want to ensure the width of the wire for the power supply is sized based on how much current will go through it. The reason this is essential is that a wire that is too small can generate additional heat and damage or destroy the wires.
Let Professionals Handle the Hard Work
Whether you are creating a prototype or the final PCB for a circuit design on a product you want to offer, there are many things that can go wrong. That’s precisely why working with professionals can be a great idea. Companies like Advanced Circuits have decades of experience and understand the ins and outs of PCBs. The company can manufacture PCBs of all sizes and levels of complexity to make your life a little easier.
As we mentioned earlier, Advanced Circuits provides software to design PCBs. They also have a FreeDFM file check, PCB Artist software, and more. The company has been leading the PCB industry for more than 25 years and has high-quality standards using the most innovative technology. Whether you need a small number of PCBs or tons of them for a major project, we can offer you a solution that meets your needs.