The barrier to entry for PCB design has been greatly lowered, which has made it easier than ever for hobbyists to get in. Some may find that they are more skilled than others and eventually consider production. However, many beginners and hobbyists make some classic mistakes that make their designs difficult or impossible to manufacture. By addressing these simple mistakes, you’ll be able to speed up production, limit costs, and create more efficient designs. Here are a few common PCB design mistakes beginners and hobbyists make and how to avoid them.
Overlooking the Fab House’s Specifications and Rules
A lot of people start working on projects but don’t have a specific fab house in mind. Others choose a fab house but overlook things like required layers, the exact format or how to communicate your designs to them.
Another thing you have to consider is how your design is going to affect the price. For instance, some companies will charge per design and will have a specific set of rules on how the designs will need to be separated. If you don’t do your research, you might end up paying much more than expected, reviewing your budget or redoing the design.
It is also essential that you learn as much as you can on how to create layouts that will reduce costs and be easier to manufacture. You can learn how to program a PCB board with a tool like Altium. Tools like these come complete with step by step tutorials, a complete library, integrated tools, and a unified environment to make the design to manufacturing process as easy as possible for you.
Think Twice About Using Cheap or Free Tools
If you really want to get into PCB design and your goal is to make workable circuits that can be manufactured, you should think twice about using indie or free tools. These will usually require you to use all sorts of third-party solutions, which may or may not work well with each other. You’ll end up with a behemoth that will make designing painful and limit you. Not only that, but it’s better to work with a tool fab houses are familiar with. Obscure tools might not have the same amount of support either.
PCB capabilities are greater than ever. While you might want to add some fancy elements like impedance control or fine pitch components, these will ramp up your production costs. So, if we were to keep you one piece of advice, it would be to keep things as simple as possible if you want to keep costs down.
Not Thoroughly Checking Your Work
While fab houses will usually scan for issues like DRC violations or shorts, they have no way of telling if traces are routed incorrectly or missing pads. This is why you have to make sure that you thoroughly check your work before you send anything for production. Do not rely solely on the manufacturer for error checking; it’s your responsibility to understand your design, not theirs.
Designing your own PCBs can be fun and exciting, and possibly turn into a full-time business. However, make sure that you avoid these pitfalls if you don’t want to waste valuable time and resources.