A lot of engineers often pay too much attention to circuits, electronic components, and code. They consider these as vital parts of an electronic project but often overlook the more critical part which is the PCB layout. Poor PCB layout can lead to function problems, and this is something we don’t want to happen. Not now nor in the future. Printed circuit boards are essential in every electronic device, hence it is important to plan strategically and properly when designing one.
To avoid problems with your PCB layout, below are some practical tips on how to design a more effective and reliable PCB. If you’re ready, then let’s start.
- 1 Nodes Must be Accessible
- 2 Components Must Have Enough Space
- 3 Components Must be Under the Same Orientation
- 4 Swap Wiring Directions
- 5 Initiate Printing of Layout
- 6 Knowledge About Manufacturer Specifications
- 7 Choose Line Width Based on Current
- 8 Make Use of Silk Layer
- 9 Using 90º Angles with Traces is Highly Discouraged
- 10 Make a Ground Plane
- 11 Don’t Forget the Bypass Capacitors
- 12 Schematic Pattern Should Match Your Layout Comparison
- 13 Know the Areas of Heat
- 14 Create Parallel Footprints
- 15 Differential Signal Traces in Parallel Style
- 16 Make Enough Space
Nodes Must be Accessible
Determine which points will be vital to troubleshoot your circuit, prior to designing your PCB. If you don’t, measuring a signal from your PCB will be troublesome and will take you time to figure out why something is not working. Also, in case the circuits are not easily accessible, you can add a test point that connects to them. Several test points are available for you to use, however the ones that form a loop are ideal.
Components Must Have Enough Space
While it is tempting to place components close to each other, there is a huge possibility that there will be no space for transmitting of wires. It is advisable to give space between components for wires to spread evenly. If your component contains surface mount pin header, you will need more space. Having enough space for all wires will make soldering hassle-free and will assist auto-routing.
Components Must be Under the Same Orientation
You will not commit any mistakes when soldering if components are uniformly oriented. This is also important since they often have a standard pin numbering. Pin #1 is often located in the upper-left corner of a component.
Swap Wiring Directions
Creating traces in a vertical form on one side and horizontal on the other aids wiring of lines. You may exchange between directions when there are multiple lines that cross over layers.
Initiate Printing of Layout
Once you are done with the components, start with the layout printing. Components must be placed on top of the layout to determine if both match together. Errors are sometimes uncontrollable on datasheets.
Knowledge About Manufacturer Specifications
It is important to know a manufacturer’s specifications, such as spacing, trace width, number of layers, diodes, etc. because every manufacturer has its own. Consider the things you need before designing your PCB layout. Look for a manufacturer that fits your needs and standards.
One of the things you need to consider is the grade material of the PCB. Grade material ranges from FR-1 to FR-5. Most manufacturers use FR-4, but FR-2 is commonly used for consumer applications. FR stands for Flame Resistance.
Choose Line Width Based on Current
Lines with larger width often reduce resistance. This decreases the heat caused by diffusion. The basis for line width is from the estimated current that flows through it. Hence, power lines should be wider since all currents are supplied by these wires. You may use online calculators to calculate the width.
Make Use of Silk Layer
In professional PCB manufacturers, using of silk layer is the standard protocol. It is also useful for labeling circuit boards. You can label your components and add details about the board’s meaning, purpose, revision number, and owner.
Using 90º Angles with Traces is Highly Discouraged
It is hard to keep the trace width when angles have a sharp right turn. Especially, when traces are too narrow. You can combat this by making two 45º bends.
Make a Ground Plane
It is highly important that ground planes have the same level of voltage all throughout the PCB. There will be voltage drops if you use traces to transmit ground signals. To ward this off, create a ground plane where components can directly transmit signals to the ground. Ground planes can be suffused with copper. However, the only downside of creating a ground plane is the difficulty in soldering. The heat gets used up quickly.
Don’t Forget the Bypass Capacitors
These filter the AC components from a continuous power supply. Bypass capacitors decrease waves, loud noises, and other unwanted AC signals. This is done by bypassing AC fluctuations to the ground. An ideal place for you to look for bypass capacitors is at the PCB power inlet. The wires that connect the power supply to your PCB are often long and serve as antennas. These wires collect tons of RF signals.
Schematic Pattern Should Match Your Layout Comparison
Most PCB layout software comprises of a comparison tool. This tool compares the schematic and layout pattern to ensure that these two matches accordingly.
Know the Areas of Heat
Heat can alter the circuits’ performance and reliability. Not to mention, it creates impacting damage if not properly dissipated. Determine which components take up more power and how heat is diverted by the package. Thermal Resistance knows how much temperature increases per Watt of power. Remember, you need to keep crucial parts of the PCB away from sources of heat.
Create Parallel Footprints
Creating parallel footprints is essential for hard to find electrical components. There are times you can’t help but opt for the cheapest components if the ones you use are unavailable. This is one of the instances where you choose to change components based on external factors (unavailability of preferred components), regardless if they have the same footprint or not, however, the PCB layout must remain unchanged.
Differential Signal Traces in Parallel Style
These are the type of signal traces that are mostly used to enhance noise and amplify different dynamic ranges. However, it will only be feasible if traces follow the same paths. With this, the noise will be distributed equally. Differential signal traces must be parallel to each other and are close together.
Make Enough Space
It is completely important to have enough space between copper traces and fills. This is to avoid possible shock hazards. When these two have a decent amount of space, there will be a proper distribution of electric current. Solder isn’t the best choice since it’s not a reliable conductor, thus creating space really helps.
For a feasible and efficient PCB layout, follow these simple steps. It can be really challenging at first, but as you go along and walk your way to familiarize every step, you will surely get the gist of it. These helpful tips will give you the support you need. Follow these simple tricks and make your PCB designing more effective and reliable. These are valuable information that adds up to your PCB knowledge. Have fun designing!