Printed circuit boards play a major role in our day to day lives, even if we don’t realise it. At the heart of the majority of the electronic devices in our homes, there are printed circuit boards.
Most people are familiar with the concept of a circuit board, a board that connects electronic components. Traditionally, this has been achieved using wires to carry electricity between components. However, a printed circuit board uses copper traces that are etched into the board during its production.
Anyone can design and produce their own PCB if they so desire. Whether you want to do this as a hobby or because you want to start a small business, you will need to understand the basics of how PCB design works before you can attempt your own. If you want to know how to design PCB boards, this guide is for you.
Start with a Schematic
Before you can set about actually making your PCB, you will want to produce a schematic of your circuit. A schematic for a PCB is like a blueprint for a building, showing the overall architecture of the circuit.
It is usually easiest to use something like EasyEDA to design your circuit board schematic and then import them into PCB design software such as Altium. Most PCB design software will also import components, footprints and wires and can convert this to a PCB design automatically.
Optimize Your Design
Once you have the basic design of your PCB down, you can then move on to refining and optimizing that design. This part of the process is just as important as your initial designing.
You should establish what each part of your circuit does and then divide it into sections, with each section performing a different function. You might find it easier to produce some rough sketches to help you visualize the final design.
As a general rule, you want to ensure that the path the electrical current takes is as linear as possible. Remember, all the signals in your circuit should flow from one section to the next using the most direct path possible.
While most of the components on a printed circuit board are fixed in place and hidden from the user, your PCB may well contain components that the user interacts with directly. For example, headphone jacks and power switches. You need to think about how you position these components and whether they require any additional touches, like an LED light to indicate whether the power is switched on.
Once you have finalised your PCB design, you can then move on to actually making the circuit. There are a variety of CAM and 3D printing options that you can take advantage of in order to produce the final board. It might take you a while to finally master the art of PCB design, but anyone can start learning how to do so whenever they do choose to. Have a look at all the PCB design software available online before you commit to a particular one.
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