Those who want to have custom PCBs (printed circuit boards) may approach the process well aware of the challenges and costs ahead. Very few modern consumers know of the complexity of designing and creating these essential components found within most contemporary electronics. Manufacturers and designers, however, recognize the need to keep things simple and rarely add a lot of customization or innovation to their PCB design.
When they do custom PCB design work, they know that there are risks involved. The designs themselves might have tiny flaws that result in a batch of unworkable boards. There could be production delays and more. This is why so many look for the very best custom PCB design software and resources.
It Starts with PCB Design Software
PCB design software is an essential part of the custom PCB creation process. It often generates what are known as Gerber or IX274X files (they are one and the same). The very first phase in the production or manufacturing process, they are digital blueprints (though they can also be printed) for the board. Early in the industry’s history, the plans were printed on layers of transparent film that were color-coded to identify the different areas of the board and help to emphasize potential design flaws instantly.
This, clearly, was not an optimal approach because of the time and materials involved.
Modern computers and more advanced custom PCB design software have empowered designers to easily see the layers, make changes, and adjust the design. These designs are still similar in nature to plans used by architects and engineers. They look only at design and assembly processes, but they are unable to highlight errors or issues automatically.
Getting to the Heart of the Problem
What does this mean to the company in need of those custom PCBs? It means that even if using the very best custom PCB design software, there may be flaws in file types (including Gerber files) that result in unusable boards or lengthy and costly delays.
And this is particularly true in our modern age of outsourcing and production-only services.
As an example, a subcontracted manufacturer may handle the custom PCB Gerber files without recognizing a design glitch. Because they are a no-touch producer that just takes files and makes boards, it can often mean that the entire batch of custom PCBs is created, and only upon arrival will problems be recognized. Clearly, this will always create a financial, production, or scheduling dilemma.
This puts a lot of responsibility on firms using custom-printed circuit boards. It means they should find the optimal custom PCB design software and any resources available for avoiding major issues. It could be said that it also makes the company’s design team responsible for knowing where any flaws in their Gerber or other files might appear and how to best avoid such issues.
Does that sound like companies using PCBs have to find solutions even if they don’t yet know the problems? Yes, and it is vital to find manufacturers who support custom PCB design with risk-reduction solutions like evaluative tools and design resources.
Complimentary Custom PCB Design Software and Analytics
Advanced Circuits is among the most trusted and popular domestic producers of custom PCBs and prototypes. They provide full design-to-shipping services, as well as assembly.
More importantly, they are a company committed to ensuring their clients avoid expensive mistakes like those described earlier. They do this through an array of approaches, including an astonishing collection of free design tools and resources.
Whether it is Gerber files or another design program, Advanced Circuits enables customers to export design files into the site’s free custom PCB file check software – FreeDFM. This runs a comprehensive analysis of the designs uploaded to the program. It sends the results to the specified contact person, including glitches fixed and issues left unaddressed but which warrant a red flag.
The program rapidly evaluates and repairs issues in the custom-printed circuit board design files, and tags “potential showstoppers,” or issues left uncorrected. This promises a waste-free process that eliminates delays or useless production runs. Running Gerber files before submission also provides a discount on a project.
On top of evaluating plans, industry-best design software is also made available entirely free of charge. The custom PCB layout software, known as PCB Artist, is offered in its unrestricted format. It can be quickly and easily used to design custom PCBs with up to 28 layers, and each can feature elements from a library of more than 500,000 common parts and components. It is empowered with auto-routing design tools, digital schematics, and much more. This nearly eliminates any risks of a flawed design. These custom designs can also be sent through the file check to ensure error-free results and get a discount for the work.
Cut Down on Common Custom PCB Problems
Just what sort of issues will such tools identify and/or erase from Gerber files? The most common include:
- Conflicting layers – Gerber files feature design specifications at every layer. The designer has to ensure that the specs function synchronously or there will be errors at every subsequent layer.
- Missing data –Incomplete data is as damaging as missing data. Using the free custom PCB design software and checking services will indicate when details don’t line up with specifications or when there is mismatched information. Eliminating such errors will save a lot of time, money, and headaches.
- Flawed file names – It is not at all unusual for Gerber files to use a flawed naming protocol. This causes confusion within the process and can only be detected by file checking or troubleshooting ahead of the game.
- Empty files – Designers frequently move, erase, or negate data, and this inserts empty files into the process, increasing the risk of problems with the fabrication process.
Custom PCB design should be as error-free as standard design. There are reasons that such issues can occur, but with the free resources that Advanced Circuits makes available, such risks, delays, and problems are avoidable.