When starting a new design, it’s easy to get wrapped up in component selections and circuits and leave the PCB guidelines as an afterthought.  However, if you don’t pay enough attention to your PCB design, you’ll soon find that it becomes troublesome to turn your digital idea into a physical reality.  This won’t only cause issues for you, but for the manufacturers as well.  Whether you are designing your first product or your 31st, let’s take a look at some of the most important PCB design guidelines every engineer needs to know.

Fine Tune Your Component Placement

The component placement stage of a PCB layout is both a science and an art, and you need to pay a lot of consideration to space you have available. While this can be challenging to get right, the end result will determine how easy your product is to manufacture. If you’re new to PCB design, it can be a good idea to follow a PCB layout tutorial to see how the experts recommend doing it. The one provided by Altium is ideal. If you’re not a beginner, though, remember to orient your components in the same direction, and consider the placement of things like through hole components.

Keep Things Separate

If you’ve completed a design before, you’ve likely seen how spikes and the large voltage in circuits can interfere with current control and low voltage circuits.  Because of this, you’ll want to keep things separate as much as possible. Ensure the control ground and power ground are both kept separate in your design, and if you have no choice but to lump them together, try and do this towards the end of your control path to minimise the amount of interference.  If placing your ground plane on the middle layer of the design, you can also include an impedance path. This will protect your control signals while also reducing interference in the power circuit. You can do the same if you need to keep analogue and digital grounds separate.

Find a Solution for Overheating Issues

Finally, if you find that your board has overheating issues, this needs to be resolved before it is sent for manufacture.  Heating issues can lead to degraded performance and can also be dangerous as well.  The first thing you’ll want to do is determine which components are causing the problem.  With this knowledge, you can then check out the ‘thermal resistance’ ratings in your datasheet and use these to divert the heat being produced.  Cooling fans and heatsinks are other solutions, but when using these, you’ll again need to consider the placement to ensure they work at their most effective.

If you want your product to be a success, it is vital that you follow the guidelines above on each and every project you complete.  Failing to do so could not only cost you more money, but it may lead to problems during manufacturing which will require a large time investment to fix.

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