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5 Tips to Developing a Better PCB Prototype

Fast pcb prototype

When it comes to prototype printed circuit boards (PCB), there are things you can do to make the design easier and better. The industry itself is crucial to a number of other industries as so many products depend on reliable prototype PCB assembly. In fact, many now look to quick turn PCB assembly services to get what they need.

According to Electronic Design, there are some tried and true ways to get the prototype PCB fabrication process right. Here are a few:

  1. Start looking into your suppliers before you need them. When you start the design process, you need to start looking into what quick turn PCB assembly company you will use. Many companies wait until they have finished the prototype PCB design process before they start to talk to the suppliers who will be responsible for the actual production. That can create problems which can be avoided by getting the supplier involved earlier in the design process. You can go to a “one stop shop” to have all of the PCB fabrication process taken care of. You should think about your priorities. If you have limited time, you will want to go with a supplier that can provide quick turn PCB assembly but that may not be as important if your main priority is saving money. It is often tempting to go to different suppliers for your different projects but it can often be better to stay with one company with whom you can develop a long term relationship. If you know you have projects that will have different needs, talk to the supplier and see what they ca do to help you across a variety of projects. Different suppliers may be able to help you improve the design of your prototype PCB design. They can also help you make your design more efficient. It is just always a good idea to get them involved in your design process earlier than you think you need to do that.
  2. Before you complete the layout, work on optimization for performance and cost. A general rule of thumb to follow is that the fewer components that are needed by your prototype PCB design, the better. When fewer components are required, the end result is a more reliable product. You should think through each component and see if any can be removed. You have to look at the board as expensive real estate. The costs related to any kind of PCB assembly, including quick turn PCB assembly, will be impacted by the number of components you use and how they are arranged. Before you complete your layout, you should think through all of this.
  3. Look to your supplier’s strengths when working on your design. If you know that the company you are going to use for your PCB fabrication process is really good at one thing, or really bad at something else, you may want to take that into consideration when you are designing your prototype PCB. All manufacturers have strengths and weaknesses. If you can play to their strengths, you will end up with more reliable products and fewer problems.
  4. Use the same tools manufacturers use to check your design. One tool that companies who handle PCB fabrication use is called a “design for manufacturability” (DFM) tool. They use this to check prototype PCBs for problems. This tool can be used earlier in the process to fix any issues before you send your prototype PCB to the fabricator. This DFM tool also helps to determine if the PCB can even be made by that manufacturer.
  5. Work on your hidden costs. There are a lot of costs involved in the prototype PCB design process. Doing the proper preparation work in advance will help you cut down on those costs a lot more than may be evident when you start out. Look at the costs of your team. If you have a fiver person team, every five days is really 25 person days so any time you can cut from the process will give you more savings than you may realize.

Getting your prototype PCB design process right is important to your brand and your bottom line. These tips can make a big difference.

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