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.