10 Mistakes You Should Avoid about the PCB

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Sat, Oct 26, 2019

Whether you are a pro at PCB design or just an amateur still trying to figure out your way around the process, mistakes are always bound to happen at some point. Nevertheless, it does not take away the fact that taking missteps in the design process can be a real nuisance especially if you only get to realize later the mistake that you’ve done.

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Most mistakes people commit when designing PCB often are little ones that often has to do with not paying much attention to the little details. It helps when you are well aware of what these common sign process.



1. No proper planning

If you want to make sure that your PCB design process will be a success, spend enough time envisioning how you will go through the whole thing. PCB designers today can take advantage of the presence of easy-to-use yet powerful software packages for design automation, which would immensely help the proves. Do your homework and make sure that you have gathered everything that you need ahead of time so once you start getting the work done, there won’t be unnecessary interruptions and pauses.


2. Using the wrong tools

Every design software usually comes with numerous tools that will help you design PCB. See to it that the one you are using is appropriate for your needs. The wrong tool will not only cause you to make mistakes in designing the board, it will slow you down unnecessarily too. You’ll likely experience manufacturing problems too with the wrong tools at hand. So, get it right the first time.  


3. Bad layout techniques

PCB boards often come with restrictive sizes or shapes, which requires you to use more imagination on how to get the layout pat-down.   However, even those designers that have been doing this for a long can still come up with a layout that just does not work. In most cases, this can be due to improper placement of components or connections that fail.


To avoid this mistake, focus first on the design and do what you can to improve it. Be on the lookout for techniques that may possibly lead to component failure. Your experience in the design process can also help especially when you are trying to work your way around a new or unfamiliar layout.


4. Not backing up your work

During any PCB design process, you will be using a variety of data to come up with even more complex designs. While most PCB design software are created to ensure high flexibility and speed during the design process, it is also a fact that data and packages might get easily lose if you are not able to properly save them. The last thing you want is to make a repeat of a day’s work or more. Saving your packages regularly and creating various saving points is key towards ensuring that you will never have to deal with the loss of data.


5. Wrong footprints

It is common for PCB design software to have libraries of component software. This means that you won’t have to spend a lot of time creating your own solder marks, package, silkscreen and footprint from a variety of scratch libraries that may even have errors on them. Always take the time to check your footprint and make sure that every pinout and component is correct especially if you have modified the footprint. Taking even just a few minutes to pay close attention to the footprint you are using can save you from the inconvenience of having to redo things simply because you picked the wrong one.


6. Incorrect part substitution

Part substitution is a crucial part of every PCB design. However, it can be the reason why yours fail too if you are not paying close attention to the substitution you are making. Selecting components outside of their acceptable range can often lead to component oscillation, which can then cause errors. Make sure to get the component datasheet updated every time you introduce new equipment or a new replacement to avoid this.


7. Incorrect application of the solder

The solder mask is a crucial aspect of a component footprint. However, applying too much solder can leave some of the pins unconnected in the process. Carefully applying the solder mask is important especially when using a stencil or a solder paste, as solder masks with openings can lead to excess solder flowing to the rest of the board if the hole is large enough. It is always advisable to use a modified solder mask with 50% coverage especially in areas with high QEN and power.


8. Not testing early prototypes

Prototype boards are useful for proving that the PCB design works to its original specifications. Prototype testing is essential to validate the quality and functionality and the PCB and its performance. This is crucial before giving the green light for mass production. Make sure that there is a clear objective and robust test plan when conducting these tests to ensure their effectiveness.


9. Lack of communication-

Always make sure to keep in touch with the rest of your team especially when working in professional PCB design. A whole range of problems can be avoided when you keep an open line among each other so any concern from changes to the design to changes in deadlines will be properly communicated to everyone involved.


10. Not holding code design reviews

It is easy to think that you are just wasting precious time on code design reviews. However, becoming a one-man island and not referring to other people in your team to get the design reviewed is one of the most common mistakes people commit about PCB. It is always easy to think that the design you are working on is flawless. It is exactly one of the reasons why it is easy to overlook details and the little things that might turn into bigger problems later. Having somebody less intimate with the work you are doing may be most helpful at spotting possible issues and valuable insights.


Being well aware of these common PCB design mistakes is one way of ensuring that you’ll never have to lose time redoing things. This is especially true if you are working against a deadline. You’ll be better at designing PCBs moving forward when you know which things to avoid and which things to incorporate in your process.