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10 Tips For Your PCB Prototype Design

When it comes to designing your PCB prototype, one aspect that requires close attention is its manufacturability. Poor manufacturability can lead to all kinds of potential problems with your electronic assembly, including delays on the assembly line as well as increased costs in terms of overall development and production. To ensure that your PCB development and production go as efficiently and effectively as possible, the following are 10 tips to optimize your PCB design for manufacturability:

1. Consider design alternatives

Thoroughly evaluate your PCB design at the beginning of development. You should analyze the number of parts that you need as well as your tolerance requirements. It’s also important to consider the ease of handling as this will be essential to reducing the risk of rework. Look for alternatives in your design that can help make development and production more efficient.

2. Involve your vendor early on

Communicate with your vendor early on when you have the first draft of your PCB layout ready. Doing so will allow them to provide valuable input about your design. They might be able to pinpoint issues with your design that are not obvious on paper. The chance to address such issues before you begin ordering parts can help save you a lot of time and money–not to mention a huge headache.

3. Don’t overcomplicate your design

It can be tempting to add elements to your design that are unnecessary just because you can. However, doing so can overcomplicate things, which can increase the cost of production or increase the risk of something going wrong. For example, just because undersized parts are available doesn’t mean that you should use them, especially if you have plenty of space on your board for larger parts. Simplifying your design wherever possible will help speed up the production.

4. Use fewer parts

The more parts your PCB needs, the more work needs to be done putting it together. It also increases the risk of something going wrong. By reducing the number of parts that are needed for your PCB design, you’ll decrease the number of purchases you need to make as well as reduce the amount of time and resources that will need to go into engineering, testing, processing, handling, and stock management. By using fewer parts, you’ll save a significant amount of assembly time.

5. Use components that are standardized

Standardized components are going to cost less to obtain. They will also help to cut down your lead time and reduce the risk of error when it comes to the handling and assembly stages of production. It’s also worth noting that by standardizing designs, you increase the potential of future innovations.

6. Implement a modular design

A modular design will help isolated issues from affecting the entire production. Using modules will end up simplifying the manufacturing process and will help provide more flexibility and versatility when it comes to the design and structure of your PCB assembly.

7. Find an EMS with quality certifications

Outsourcing your PCB assembly will go a long way in helping to speed up the production of your product. However, this depends greatly on the electronic contract manufacturer (ECM) that you choose to work with. A poor quality ECM can cause delays in the manufacturing of your product due to a variety of reasons (poor quality materials, not on time, etc.). To find a quality ECM, look for certain certifications, such as AS9100 certification and ISO 9001 certification.

8. Reduce manual handling wherever possible

The less manual handling is required during the production of your product, the smoother your manufacturing process is likely to be. The use of process automation and symmetrical parts can go a long way in helping cut back on the need for manual handling.

9. Reduce assembly steps wherever possible

The faster you can design and manufacture your product, the better. By minimizing the assembly steps wherever possible (which can be done by reducing manual handling and reducing the number of parts used), you’ll improve the efficiency of your manufacturing process. You should also minimize the tooling and setups wherever possible.

10. Utilize in house testing to reduce production errors

Testing is incredibly important. Hopefully, you choose vendors who have thorough testing processes implemented. However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to have testing capabilities in-house as well. By performing thorough testing in house, you’ll help to greatly reduce the risk of production errors.

When it comes to manufacturing your PCB assembly, you’ll want to make sure the process goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. The faster your development and production processes and the fewer delays that there are on the assembly line, the lower your costs will be. To achieve this efficiency and effectiveness, make sure to use these 10 tips to help optimize your PCB design for manufacturability.