Too often, people want actionable tasks that they can jump into and see results. Especially now, thanks to technology giving people instant gratification in so many ways, it’s easy to overlook the value and the necessity of proper planning and testing. Especially in the world of circuit designs, testing and planning can do a lot for the end product and the end user, alike. Not only that, but it can save teams thousands of dollars on research, development, and execution of new circuits and PCBs.
A lot of people talk about using a prototyping board to help them figure out their designs and requirements and to see whether their ideas will function in practice. Unfortunately, some people are misled into thinking that this means there is only one prototype. The process of designing and creating circuit boards, including printed circuit boards (PCBs), involves multiple stages and at least three or four different prototypes before a final design is sent to production. It’s this kind of testing and planning that can save a small fortune and a lot of stress.
The Hierarchy of Prototyping
Every project starts with a concept or idea. There is no guarantee that even the best ideas will function in the real world, which is why they need to be tested. It can be tempting to just build something and put it out there, but that’s not reliable or effective. At best, people will luck into only having a few minor issues and not losing a fortune in quality control. At worst, well, companies have gone belly up just from hitting the market without appropriate testing and prototyping.
This is why every stage of the process has its own prototype, from the visual design to the functional end product. The visual prototype serves to provide an impression of what the PCB will look like in the physical sense. It shows dimensions and spatial requirements and allows engineers and designers to look at the finer details of how they can actually put the board together so that it is functional, efficient, and does the work that it needs to do.
Once the visual design has been nailed down, the project will move onto the concept phase. This is when the general idea or concept of the board will be tested. For example, if the primary function of the PCB is to provide data storage, the data storage abilities will be tested, while other features and functions won’t be activated until later. It also probably won’t resemble the final design just yet, but it’s getting closer. This process is just about making sure that the concept of the board works.
Circuit boards that have been approved for visual design and concept will then move onto the functional or working prototype phase. This is where they will create a prototype that functions similarly to the end product, but without all the finishing touches. Essentially, the testing of the major functions is done at this point and there may still be final adjustments to come.
The Final Design
Now, and only now, will projects be turned into a final prototype that is essentially a replica of the end product, in all aspects of function and design. This ensures that the PCB can be tested as a fully functional product before being mass-produced. The great thing about PCBs is that when surface-mount technology is used, they become very easy to replicate, which makes automation an affordable, efficient solution.
However, if designers are not testing their final designs before sending them to production, they’re still risking a significant amount of money because of potential quality control issues. Not to mention that their reputation could be at stake if things go too seriously wrong. It’s simple, affordable, and fairly quick to create a prototype for testing to save all the hassle and expense of putting out an untested product.
Even once the product has been put into a “final prototype,” it can still be tweaked, changed, or scrapped entirely if it turns out that it doesn’t deliver after all. There have been many projects that have made it to this point passing the various tests, but once all the elements came together, it just didn’t work out. Being able to print and test a single prototyping board will save a lot of hassle and money for everyone.
Using Surface Mount Technology
The best modern circuit designs include surface mount technology. This technology is designed to allow components to be soldered directly to the surface of the board, rather than having to drill through-holes. This allows for more components in a smaller space, as well as the use of both sides of the board. For prototyping, it becomes even easier to develop concepts and prototypes to be tested before projects are sent for final production.
Surface mount technology has been in use for decades, but it is only now becoming commonplace in mass production and the manufacture of electronics on a scale that is affordable beyond the large corporations and global brands. Today, every company has access to PCBs with surface mount technology, and with the team at Advanced Circuits on your side, you can order single prototypes for every stage of your projects to ensure that designs are flawless before production.
Surface mount technology makes products more reliable, increases the efficiency in manufacturing, improves quality control and ease of replication, and so much more. It just makes sense to take advantage of this technology to create even more effective PCBs that can perform better and be produced more efficiently, because everybody wins.
Let Advanced Circuits Help
Whether this is your first project or just your latest, let Advanced Circuits work with you to plan and prototype your PCBs throughout your design process. Our team of experts will be able to help you come up with the best designs and most effective solutions, no matter what electronics or components you are trying to create. We have experience with all types of prototypes and PCB projects and can help you get started.