Today’s Prototype Printed Circuit Boards

Printed circuit board

The world of printed circuit boards (PCBs) is rapidly growing, changing and expanding. For engineers looking to design or manufacture prototype pcbs, there are some important things to consider:

1. Design for Manufacturing (DFM)

When it comes to prototype PCBs
, DFM is extremely important. Designing PCBs is a multi-stage process that involves having a specific set of design rules. According to the Petalogix website, this ensures the “integrity of the design and [results] in a set of Gerber and files that can be manufactured reliably”. Quality DFM is essential for a good printed circuit board.

2. Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM)
CAM software is extremely important in the production of PCBs. It performs several functions:
a. input of pcb fabrication data
b. verification of the data
c. compensation for any deviations in the manufacturing process
d. panelization, a process where PCBS are grouped on a larger board for manufacturing
e. output of the digital tools

Since CAM software plays such a big part in the manufacturing process, it is important to choose a high quality program.

3. Legends

Typically, a legend is printed onto one or both sides of the PCBs. This contains component designators, switch settings, test points and other indicators that are helpful in the manufacturing process. The legends can be printed in one of three ways:
a. Silk screen printing which was the initial established method.
b. Liquid photo imaging which is considered a more accurate method than screen printing.
c. Ink jet printing which is new but becoming more popular because it can print variable data such as text or a bar code containing a serial number.

PCB designing and manufacturing is a detailed and multi-step process. Before beginning that process, preparation has to be done and many decisions have to be made. Essentially, the more prepared you are, the better your product will be in the long run.