5 PCB circuit protection tips

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When designing and manufacturing PCBs, one of the key considerations is ensuring that the circuit is protected. So what steps should you take to ward off potential problems once your design becomes product?

Keep circuit protection in mind from the start

Leaving your circuit protection considerations until late on in your project can create problems for a design engineer. For instance, imagine there is insufficient space available for your ESD. Worse still,  you end up with a non-optimal location, and the device won’t function correctly.

Get in the habit of thinking about these matters as soon as you’ve picked out the chip set and started laying out the printed circuit board. By doing this, ESD ratings are accessible and designers can assess how robust or sensitive the chips are. Some will be running at 1.5 volts and can be sensitive.

Assess the threats

I’m sure we all understand fuses but how familiar are you with the potential consequences of over-voltage. Although less ruinous than over-current, it can still cause serious problems – its been responsible for damaging the Hubble Telescope, closing refineries, destroying smartphones, and even halting roller coasters in mid-flow.

Over-current and voltage, can come from a variety of sources such as lightning storms,  motors, and even running shoes and hosiery. In fact lightning can travel across the ground and knock out power lines miles away. Being aware of and understanding the potential threats is vital.

Define a PCB’s protection needs

If you know how an electronic product is going to be used once manufactured, you’re more likely to assess correctly what that product’s protection needs will be.  Where will it be used? What might be next to it? An electronic device in a factory may need more protection than those in an office.

Once you fully understand the PCB’s working environment, you can allow for this,starting with the connection points.

Be aware of standards

There are standards in place that determine every product’s design, right the way to circuit protection and there are plenty to be aware of. Standards can differ for international, regional and even local markets.
They are a fundamental element of every project, no matter which industry, and a PCB design engineers needs to know all relevant standards before starting a project. Once a product has been manufactured, it’s obviously too late to check out the standards that enable it to function correctly in a certain market.

Stay up to date

Most PCB and electronics design engineers have a better understanding of the ins and outs of printed circuit board design than they do of over-current and shock protection. Yet, as we stated above, it’s vital that engineers understand this area well by staying up to date with the latest industry thought and developments. Keep abreast of circuit protection news through white papers and case studies to ensure you can apply the latest techniques but more importantly have a reference point of what may have worked in similar situations to those you might find yourself in.

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