Printed circuit boards have been an important part of our lives on this planet for close to 70 years. PCBs have become part of most electronic devices that people use today, and most people take them for granted. They are hidden within our electronics, out of sight and out of mind. However, without printed circuit boards, the world of today would be a very different place. While the PCBs made today have similarities to the early boards, they are far more complex and sophisticated than those of the past.
PCB designers today can create impressive boards that have a lot of capabilities. Whether you are a designer looking to create a board for a personal project or you are a designer on a team creating the next great gadget, it is important to ensure the design is right before moving ahead with manufacturing. A huge part of that process is getting a prototype PCB.
What is a PCB Prototype?
A prototype is the initial realization of your design once it is complete. After you or your engineers have created a PCB in the design software, it is still theoretical if it has not been tested. While some of the software options available, such as PCB Artist from Advanced Circuits, can virtually test the PCB and locate and fix errors, it is still done virtually. Even with a check of the files by engineers, you will still want to have a prototype.
This will give you a real-world example of your board, which you can put to use. This allows you to see how it handles its job when it is applied. For example, the design might work in theory, but you might discover that the housing for the electronic device you are creating does not provide enough ventilation and the board overheats. You want to see how the board works, and the prototype allows this.
Do You Really Need a PCB Prototype?
You might be thinking that you could get away without getting a prototype. After all, you want to get to production as soon as possible. However, this is not a step you will want to skip. Imagine how much money you could lose if you were to buy 5,000 boards all with the same flaw that you could have detected with a prototype. Even though it might take a few days extra to get the prototype and to test it, you will find that it is well worth it. You do not want any unwelcome mistakes making it into production.
When you are creating PCBs, it is important to work with a company that can provide you with small runs of boards without it costing you an arm and a leg. Check to see the minimum number of units you can order. If they do not allow you to order small batches or just a single unit, you will want to look for a different company.
Benefits of the PCB Prototype
When you have a prototype, you will likely be going through several different versions of the board before finding the solution that works the best. Prototyping helps to ensure how these work in real-time, and they will take the guesswork out of production. You will see whether they need to be changed or not, which helps to minimize the number of revisions you will ultimately need. This will reduce your timeline, which means you could still get to production faster since there will be fewer problems. The prototyping allows you to perfect your design, and if there are errors, it will often be easier to see where those errors are located and how to fix them.
Additionally, when you use a service like Advanced Circuits, you will find that there are helpful reviews along the way that can reduce the risk of errors in the first place. The software can catch many of the errors and fix them, and so can the engineering check. This means that it is likely that the prototype will work perfectly when you get it, so you can then move on to production. However, likely does not mean always.
What If the PCB Prototype Does Not Work?
There is always the possibility that the prototype will not work properly for one reason or another. If you get a prototype that does not work and that matches your design, it is not the end of the world. In fact, it means that you have avoided a costly mistake. Finding the errors now ensures that they do not make it through to production. Prototyping will reduce the cost of production because you will not have those errors.
Maybe the prototype gets too warm in the housing you are using, as mentioned. Perhaps you realize that you aren’t getting the power you need. Finding out all of these issues so you can make changes now during the prototyping phase is important. Look at any errors with your prototypes as ways to learn and improve your design. You will find that the more you design PCBs, the better they become, and the fewer errors are made in the early stages.
Let Advanced Circuits Provide Your PCB Prototype
Now that you have a better understanding of why having a prototype is important, it is time to move forward with your project. You should always make sure to work with a quality company like Advanced Circuits for your prototypes and for your full production of PCBs. We have decades of experience in the field, we are the third-largest PCB company in the United States, and we can provide you with quality boards quickly. You will find that it is hard to beat our quick-turn PCBs. In some cases, we can have items shipped out the same day that they are submitted to us.
Choosing a quality company like Advanced Circuits helps to ensure your boards are perfect, which means whatever you are making with them will be top-quality!