The Complex Printed Circuit Board Design Process

Prototype printed circuit boards

What do your TV and radio have in common? They are both complex and carefully designed electronic boards. They both have inner prototype printed circuit boards inside of them. They both started with a basic idea that eventually turned into devices that allow us to watch media or listen to music. The majority of electronic devices start from prototype PCBs. The printed circuit board allows for easy customization and build techniques. The following steps are usually a part of the prototype manufacturing process.

Initial design and brainstorming
Any great idea involves a great amount of initial design and brainstorming. There is no point in moving an idea onto the prototype printed circuit board without first ensuring that it is a good idea. The design process is lengthy and should evaluate many factors of the design process, before a printed circuit board is ever touched. Things like purpose, goal, and specific design features should be considered. Additionally, a base idea of the completed project should be evaluated. How long will the design process take? What types of printed circuit boards are needed? Who will complete the prototype PCB assembly process?

Beginning prototype printed circuit board design
Once the initial brainstorming is completed, beginning prototype printed circuit board design begins. There are multiple types of printed circuit boards that can be used. Two types of circuit assemblies are related to the printed circuit board, an integrated circuit, sometimes called an IC or microchip, and a hybrid circuit. The specific type of circuit board that is used will likely depend on the specific project and the goals and intentions of the overall design product.

Many months of changes and redesigns
You will also find that the design process requires many improvements and redesigns. The final printed circuit board prototype often requires many changes to improve functionality and user efficiency. You also do not want to send your printed prototype to the manufacturer to have it printed, until it is fully complete. You will waste money and important resources. Soldering is also an important part of this step. Very complex of printed circuit board designs can sometimes have multiple layers.

There are a variety of soldering techniques used to attach components to a PCB. High volume production is usually done with SMT placement machine and bulk wave soldering or reflow overs, but skilled technicians are able to solder very tiny parts (for instance 0201 packages which are 0.02 in by 0.01 in). The most important thing is to solder it in a way that makes sense to your product.

Choose a PCB manufacturer
After numerous redesigns and a completed PCB, it is time to choose a PCB manufacturer. The PCB manufacturer will print the legend, allowing it to be duplicated in the future. They will also turn around the final product to you and your design team. There are three methods to print the legend, which contains the component designators, switch settings, test points and other indications helpful in assembling, testing, and servicing the circuit board, silk screen printing, liquid photo imaging, and ink jet printing. The PCB manufacturer will make a lot of these printing decisions, based on the levels and type of circuit board used.

Printed circuit boards are a necessary part of the design process of many electronical components. The radio that you listen to and the TV that you watch were once in the printed circuit board design process. Although the specific design processes of different technological plans differ, some of the steps are the same. The initial design process is shortly followed by the testing. Testing is a lengthy process and usually involves many changes and redesigns. Once a final product is completed, the prototype PCB is sent to the manufacturer, where it is printed.

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