Mike Garner

Managing Director at Garner Osborne Circuits Ltd

10 things to consider when planning your PCB Layout

Before we provide a quote to any potential customers, we review their Gerber files to help us get an understanding of exactly what it is we are dealing with. Aside from evaluating the Gerber file for printing, when we review a Gerber file, our technicians will look for two things on a PCB layout:

  • Opportunities for our clients to save money on PCB production without compromising on the quality and performance.
  • Potential risk areas where, due to design, the board will be prone to shorts and opens.

Here are ten tips to help you keep cost down when looking at your PCB layout and minimise risk areas when designing your Printed Circuit Board.

1. Technology’s great, but run a manual check too.

Before sending your Gerber files to be produced, print a checklist of all the connections needed for your PCB layout to work, and manually cross off each one as you check that it’s been incorporated into the design.

2. Create a useful Silk Screen layer.

Use the Silk Screen layer to identify any board details, LEDs or connecters. Consider adding your order number or a batch number too.

3. Do you really need a 4 layer board, or will a 2 layer board suffice?

You could make substantial cost savings if you can get away with using a 2 layer board in place of a 4 layer board.

4. Plan trace thickness.

Use a trace width calculator to work out how thick and wide your traces need to be to deliver the performance you need, accounting for the voltage drop, power dissipation and increase in temperature that will take place once current starts to flow through the copper.

5. Consider cooling time within your layers.

When designing your PCB remember that traces in internal layers cool slower than those in external layers because heat has to travel through the external layers to dissipate.

7. Don’t use an auto-router.

Using an auto-router can lead to convoluted paths. It may be challenging to plan your PCB routes manually, but in terms of speed and capacity, it will deliver the best result. If you need help designing your PCB layout there are plenty of PCB design agencies that can help you, or give us a call and our team can advise you or put you in touch with some agencies that we work with regularly.

8. Optimise the lifespan of your heat sensitive components.

Ensure heat sensitive components are kept away from ground plane and heat generating components such as bridge rectifiers, diodes, MOSFETs and resistors to avoid reducing their lifespan.

6. Make loops as small as possible.

Small loops reduce high frequency voltage spikes and reduce the amount of signals inductively coupled into the node from external sources.

9. Use design to decrease impedance.

Where possible place a ground directly below signal traces to lower the impedance on traces.

10. Design to reduce inductance

By placing multiple vias from the capacitor’s pin to a ground plane, you can minimise inductance. Larger vias produce less resistance so it’s important to get the right size via for your requirements. Use a via size calculator to get it right.

Want a quote for production of your PCB? Send us your Gerber files and we’ll review them properly, giving you a quote you can trust, and maybe saving you a few pounds in the process.