PCB Design Tips


A Roundup of PCB Tips

Sierra Circuits has been providing services to the PCB industry for over thirty years. In addition to designing, manufacturing, and assembling circuit boards for our customers, Sierra is passionate about educating customers on best practices, tips, and ways to improve their designs. We’ve begun asking industry leaders and experts for tips to share with our customers. Continue reading for a roundup of all our interviews, articles, and posts with tips on your next design.

Tips Every PCB Designer Should Know
There are two things every designer should focus on: footprint development and fabrication complexity versus yield. The footprint—your schematic, stackup, and complete BOM are the backbone of your circuit board. Knowing the size of your board, the number of boards or panels you require, and the complexity of your design as early as possible in the design process saves you both time and hassle later on in the process. Figure out your board’s requirements before manufacturing begins.

Flex Tips

A Must-Know Flex PCB Tip
Flexible and rigid-flex PCBs differ from rigid boards in many ways: material, application, and even stackup design. Identifying the type of board you need as quickly as possible is crucial, as switching between board types require significant changes to your board’s design. Read about how we edited a customer’s four-layer flex board to be as reliable and manufacturable as possible.

Five Must-Knows For Your First Flex Design
Depending on your design and application, flexible PCBs can save you time and cost. Make sure you pay attention to these five tips before designing your first flex PCB:

– Understand the bendability of your flex PCB
– Know your flex PCB materials
– Keep an eye on flex trace routing
– Place the flex layers in the center of the stackup
– Mitigating risk in flex vias

Avoiding Common Flex Errors
To manufacture a successful flexible PCB, make sure you’ve checked the manufacturability of your design, and begun talking with your supplier as early as possible. Manufacturing a flexible or rigid-flex PCB requires more than changing material selection or tweaking a rigid design. The requirements for these designs are more rigorous. Learn how to avoid common flexible PCB design errors, which includes:

– Circuit traces that are too close to the openings
– Confusion about the coverlay
– Incorrect hole sizes

Behind the Scenes with Flex
We’ve written two articles on things to know before working on flexible PCBs. Behind the scenes with flex PCBs part one discusses the best way to ensure maximum reliability and manufacturability in a flex PCB—consider application, design with your PCB stackup in mind, and working with your PCB supplier. Keeping these three tips in mind from the outset helps decrease the review and check-in time before manufacturing can begin.

Behind the scenes part two discusses design rules and your flex stackup, as well as testing and modeling. There are many aspects to flex PCBs, and each has its own set of specific design rules. We suggest optimizing your stackup in accordance to your particular design as immediately as you can.

Rigid PCBs

Four Cost Drivers for Rigid PCBs
Watch out for these cost drivers in rigid PCBs. When possible, avoid unnecessarily complex or tight designs.
Before manufacturing, double-check your design’s:

– Layer count
– Trace/space
– Hole size
– Drill-to-copper

HDI and Signal Integrity

Three Things to Consider Before Designing with HDI
Happy Holden, HDI expert, shares the three most important things to consider before using HDI, or high density interconnect. No matter what kind of PCB design you are working on, one of the most common mistakes made is making your design more complex than it needs to be. Ask yourself the following three questions before using HDI.

– Is there an HDI material that suits my design?
– Have you checked the testability of your board?
– Does your design require HDI?

Tips on Designing HDI PCBs
Using HDI within your PCB design may reduce the overall cost of your board. Depending on the design and application, HDI’s through-holes and blind and buried vias may also reduce layer count.

Signal Integrity Tips
Eric Bogatin, signal industry expert and the 2016 DesignCon Engineer of the Year, shared some tips and words of wisdom in regard to signal integrity. Click here for his interview from DesignCon 2014. Topics of discussion included:

– The difference between signal integrity discipline for analog and digital circuits
– The relationship between signal integrity and EMI
– Best practices for designing ground and power distribution for good signal integrity
– A few rules for estimating crosstalk between two coplanar conductors

He was also kind enough to sit down with us at DesignCon 2016 to answer some questions. Watch the interview below or click here.

Tips from Industry Experts

Advice for PCB Designers
At DesignCon 2015 we asked attendees, speakers, and industry leaders to share one piece of advice with PCB Designers. Griff Derryberry suggests leaving time to simulate; Heidi Barnes says when looking at equalization, focus on repeatability in addition to loss. Watch the video below to see everyone’s ansewrs.

Tips for the PCB Designer
PCB West is one of our favorite local shows. The specific focus on circuit boards means the sessions and presentations are all ones of interest to ourselves and our customers. This also means we received excellent tips for designers from attendees, speakers, and industry leaders. Here are tips for designers from attendees at PCB West 2015. Includes tips from Judy Warner on working with your fabrication partners and Doug Brooks regarding your return loop.

PCB Tips from Experts
DesignCon is the largest design show in the world; as such, it’s an excellent source of industry news, breakthrough technologies, and tips from leaders! These tips from DesignCon 2016 includes wise words from Cathy Liu on crosstalk, Heidi Barnes on capacitors, and several more industry leaders and experts.

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