How to Design a PCB Layout
December 13, 2017
A good PCB is at the heart of many great DIY projects. When you can design and develop your circuit board, it is easy to create a wide range of DIY electronics. There are kits that help you bypass this process, but PCB design is still a skill that you need to master if you are serious about exploring DIY electronics and circuitry.
Designing a PCB layout is a lot simpler than you think. Aside from the many PCB layout tutorials, there are also design software and additional tools you can use to simplify the process. In this article, we are going to focus more on the basics and how you can get started.
Start with Schematics
Before you start working with a blank circuit board, you need detailed schematics. A schematic helps you design a better, more efficient PCB in two important ways. First of all, you can fine-tune the design of the circuit board without having to develop a new board every time; simply make the adjustments to the schematics that you’re making.
Schematics are also handy for figuring out details about the circuit board itself. Component positioning, channels and linkages, and even the size of the board itself can be determined accurately when you have a functional schematic to work with.
As mentioned earlier, you don’t have to rely on paper and pencil to create a schematic. There are software and even mobile apps that will help you work on your schematic seamlessly. Top PCB design solutions such as Altium will even streamline the process from start to finish.
Invest in Optimization
The next step to complete is optimization. Regardless of how simple the PCB is, you must always take the time to figure out ways to optimize the circuit board further; in most cases, there are ways to do that, and they are easy to discover.
You don’t always see the big picture when designing a schematic for the first time, which is why this stage is important. If you do use a design software or follow a good PCB layout tutorial, you’ll start seeing ways to optimize the board’s layout almost instinctively.
At this point, you can also work out additional details. How many layers will the PCB have for maximum efficiency? How is power routed to each section of the board? Is there a sufficient ground layer? The more questions you answer, the closer you get to production-ready design.
3D Modeling and Production
3D modeling is an optional step, but it is a step that can be completed rather easily when you use Altium thanks to the built-in features. Once the schematic is completed, the software will take care of converting the design into 3D model automatically.
The last step is production. For many DIY enthusiasts, this is the fun bit. You get to turn your schematic into a PCB that can be used to create great electronics and gadgets. With the traces in place and the components installed, you now have a well-designed PCB that works perfectly from the start.