What Electrical Engineers Need to Know About PCB Design

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If you are an electrical engineer, you may mistakenly believe that printed circuit boards, both in their design and assembly, don’t have anything to offer you in terms of your career or ongoing learning. The truth is that although circuit board prototyping was not a part of your engineering degree, it is something that you will very likely be called upon to do at some point in your career. To avoid getting egg on your face, here are a few tips to get you started. After all, engineers need to stay on top of their ongoing learning to stay competitive in today’s market.

Besides the PCB, there are also the closely related IC, or integrated circuit, and the hybrid circuit. Today let’s focus on the more common printed circuit board. The website Electronic Design insists that every electrical engineer can learn how to create a decent printed circuit board, so long as they follow the right design process while utilizing the correct strategies and final checks. To start, simply consider what tasks will be required of the PCB. This step will actually give you an idea of the final concept, because you will need to consider:

    -Design features
    -Functions to perform
    -The interconnections it may have with other circuits
    -Placement (this may get tricky)
    -The final dimensions, i.e., how much room there will be for the circuit board in the device

Soldering is a little different when being done by hand for a specific prototype. There are actually a few different ways to solder the components depending on the size. For example, when completed by hand you can solder pieces as small as 0.02 or 0.01 inches for a 0201 package, whereas for high volume production it is common to use a SMT placement machine with reflow ovens.

The one step that might give you trouble is having every component fit. Prototype circuit boards are purposely a little larger, so as to give the engineer plenty of room to place components and solder them. A basic printed circuit board may come easily to you. It is when the board needs to run complicated programs, or have an unusual shape due to fitting in an awkward position in the final device, that prototype PCB assembly is an absolute must.

If the prototype goes wrong, whether with a lack of space or improper soldering, that is why it is a prototype. You can start again. However, it is better to learn how to avoid these mistakes on your own and for your own knowledge, than to make these easily avoided mistakes when on the job. Simply put, mistakes can be costly. Learning printed circuit board assembly makes an electrical engineer more competitive in the job market.

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