In the 21st Century, electronic equipment can perform an incredible array of tasks, from automatically recording Antiques Roadshow… to automatically hovering round your feet as you watch it. However, at the heart of any piece of electronic equipment is its circuit board… its neural wiring. And if you get that wrong, you may find your dream design of an automated hoover becomes an antique itself, before you can find the off switch.
Think of it this way: our bodies, with all their integral organs, are really just the mechanics for moving the brain around. And the same holds true for electronics, where the design of the circuit board remains integral to the success of the final product. It’s natural selection… only artificial. So it follows that it makes sense to get your circuit board perfectly designed, and correctly manufactured, from the off… and then everything else should fall into place.
Of course the design process covers a variety of aspects. Electronic life begins with the individual transistors that combine to form an integrated circuit. With more simple circuits, you may well be able to handle the design process yourself, without overcomplicating things with the sort of structured design process that might turn a mouse into a platypus.
However, soon you will find thoughts turn to much more complex systems and designs. Here you may find that you’ll need to turn to professionals. With very complicated designs you may even need a whole design team, trained to follow a designated approach to design, even creating computer simulations of the design to test them out digitally, before the costs of actual physical manufacture.
In such cases, a specialised electronics engineer will design the board itself. Perhaps not surprisingly, this person will have a very particular skillset, able to understand not only the design and layout process itself – including the PCB CAD system and design software – but also to have a vision for the end product. They must understand how a design from someone’s imagination can actually be realised as a PCB that can be usefully and efficiently be then manufactured, bearing in mind all techniques and electronic industry standards. A layout will then be based on the PCB CAD system’s schematic and a layout specialist will control its physical creation… breathing life into your grand design.
So, if you are still looking to handle the design and build itself, you need to feel confident with these processes and guidelines. Of course no manuals or books can compete with experience, and that’s where Hi5 is more than happy to step in, if you would like us to assist. In the interim, here are 8 pointers to help you on your way to successful printed circuit board design and build.
The best tip is to talk to us, even if you’ve been designing for years. Naturally with developments in electronics things can change, and helping us to help you saves both money… and grey hairs!