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VR Industries Blog

What To Remember When Prototyping PCB Designs

by VR Industries

It doesn't matter whether you're a single engineer at a small company working on your first product or a decision-maker on a team at a major industry player, you understand the importance of getting circuit board designs right. As a result, you care a lot about prototyping, right? After all, this piece of the PCB manufacturing puzzle is key to getting a fantastic final product that lives up to your expectations as well as consumers'.

Circuit board design prototyping isn't easy, however. There are many moving parts when it comes to ensuring the accuracy of boards before they are sent to the production phase. It's not hard to get overwhelmed and forget a few things.

Here are a few aspects of the prototyping PCB design process that you should always remember.

Design commitment
There are many facets of PCB design calling for your attention. From layout to component considerations, each step you take in those processes brings you closer to actually building the prototype board. You cannot rush, no matter how quickly you hope to get to market, and you must consider each aspect of your boards thoroughly to ensure maximum performance. But more importantly, you don't want to manufacture a prototype only to discover a small design flaw that would have taken seconds to correct otherwise.

The importance of only committing to designs that you're 100 percent ready to prototype cannot be overstated. Rob Frank, marketing professional at Optimum Designs, backed this approach on Twitter recently in response to an article that asserted hardware development can be agile. Suffice it to say, Frank disagreed with the notion that it's smart to take an interactive approach to PCB prototyping.

Don't discount layout
When prototyping board designs, you must consider performance and cost. However, Tech.co contributor John Teel asserted that at the end of the day, the layout of your board will have an effect on the final product, so it's fair to say that layout trumps all. In that regard, you should take great care in optimizing that aspect of your boards.

This means a few things. First, Nolan Johnson of Electronic Design wrote that your layout must factor in manufacturability. Johnson said that you should have your PCB manufacturer run a design-for-manufacturability test and use those results to improve your boards' layouts before sending them for production. Second, your layout could depend on the materials that manufacturers have access to - make sure you're within a "sweet spot," Johnson stated. Lastly, the product that needs the board should have some influence on layout. Will certain components or layouts affect the final manufactured product?

"A great PCB manufacturer has expert consultants for prototyping."

The manufacturer matters
Manufacturers should play a major role in the design of your prototype boards. As outlined above, they will perform design-for-manufacturability tests, but it goes beyond that if you partner with an outstanding organization. For one, YourStory contributor Yatin Varachhia explained that a great manufacturer has expert consultants who can help with designing for the end users as well as for manufacturing. In that regard, that company could save you time and money, but you want to start working with that manufacturer as soon as possible. Varachhia suggested getting those experts in on design from the start.

Essentially, you should use the experienced engineers as consultants up through prototyping, as this can make the time to manufacturing that first board shorter, which means faster go-to-market times for you. As Johnson explained, a bigger team of professionals and a larger investment in design prototyping can save major time - more expert eyes mean fewer mistakes and therefore iterations.

There are a lot of things to remember when prototyping circuit board designs, but with some extra attention paid to those three areas above, you can ensure your bases are covered.

Topics: News, Printed Circuit Board Assembly

Written by VR Industries