Electronics designer dealing with pressure

Designing Pressure Tolerant Electronics for Harsh Conditions

For PCBA design engineers, there are a precious few days—if any—where you’re not under pressure. Laying out boards within constraints, choosing components and materials that your supply chain can furnish on time, meeting ambitious delivery schedules, and countless other variables can make it seem like there’s substantial weight on your shoulders. It’s a tough balancing act, and one that only the best engineers can manage.

When designing boards for hazardous environments, resilience under pressure is much more than an asset. Designing and building pressure tolerant electronics is a requirement for PCBAs that operate in harsh conditions, such as those commonly used for defense and aerospace applications.

PCBA Requirements for Harsh Environments

Most electronic circuit boards are built to meet or exceed classification levels, as defined by IPC 6011. For validation of PCB assemblies, IPC-A-610H and J-STD-001, Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies, and Requirements for Soldered Electrical and Electronic Assemblies are used by CMs. For especially challenging environments such as defense, space, and automotives, additional guidelines and requirements are warranted, as listed below.

PCBA Standards for Harsh Environments

  • IPC-6012DA: Automotive Applications Addendum to IPC-6012D, Qualification and Performance Specification for Rigid Printed Boards
  • IPC-J-STD-001HS: Space and Military Applications Electronic Hardware Addendum to IPC J-STD-001H Requirements for Soldered Electrical and Electronic Assemblies

The standards above provide requirements and recommendations for boards that are deployed in environments subject to very high or cold temperatures, temperature cycling, constant motion, vibration, and low or high pressure. Adhering to these standards is critical as succumbing to pressure exertions can compromise the structural integrity of the board; for example, bending, cracking and even breakage.

PCBA Manufacturing for Extreme Environments - Part 1

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Developing Pressure Tolerant Electronics for Harsh Environments

Developing boards that can meet performance objectives and maintain their structural integrity in challenging environments requires a comprehensive strategy that impacts the entire design, build and test (DBT) iterative cycle.

Guidelines for designing pressure tolerant electronic PCBAs

  • ☐ Know the pressure characteristics of your deployment environment
    Pressure differentials can exist in both low and high-pressure environments. These variations can result in inoperable boards and electronic systems. Therefore, to design and build for reliability, it is imperative that you are aware of the environmental conditions for the installation location of your board.
  • ☐ Select high-performance components and connectors
    Utilize Commercial-Over-The-Shelf (COTS) components when developing critical area boards for automotive, defense, aerospace, and medical devices. When pressure is a major consideration, performance characteristics are a priority due to the potential catastrophic results of board structural failure.
  • ☐ Choose resilient materials
    Material selection is usually an afterthought for board designers, and many opt for FR-4 by default. For harsh environment board design, however, further consideration is required as boards may succumb to immediate or long term degradation.
  • ☐ Employ structural testing
    Probably the most important action you can take to ensure a pressure-tolerant design is to incorporate testing into your development process. Not only does this include essential testing, but it should also include Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT) or other Destructive Physical Analysis (DPA).
Tempo's Custom PCB Manufacturing Service
  • ISO-9001, IPC-600, and IPC-610 commitment to quality certifications.
  • Execute your full development cycle from proto to validation, NPI, and low volume production.
  • Accurate quote in less than a day.
  • Performs entire turnkey process in as fast as 4 days.
  • DFX support, including DFM, DFA, and DFT from Day 1 of design.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry. to reduce procurement time.
  • Software-driven smart factory with monitoring and control throughout the manufacturing process.
  • Performs multiple automated inspections during PCB assembly to ensure PCB quality for prototyping.
  • Smooth transition from prototyping to production.

Following the guidelines above will aid you in designing boards for pressure tolerant electronics that will be exposed to extreme environmental conditions. At Tempo Automation, the industry’s leading manufacturer for high-quality PCBA builds, we’ll partner with you early on in the development process to ensure that your boards reflect your design intent. By doing so, we can perform inspections and evaluations, and aid you in testing your boards for functional and structural soundness.

Tempo employs a white-box turnkey PCBA manufacturing process that promotes collaboration and transparency between engineers and CMs. This allows us to quickly deliver high-quality boards for both standard and non-standard designs that meet rigorous defense and aerospace industry criteria for prototyping and on-demand production. We also provide downloadable DRC files in Altium Designer, Cadence Allegro, Mentor Pads, other CAD formats, and Excel.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on CAD files or how to incorporate your design into a CAD format, contact us.

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