How to Leverage Pre-Built Modules to Speed Up PCB Electronics Development

February 7, 2019 , in Blog

According to Sigmund Freud, we are constantly trying to balance the influences of the id, ego, and superego. The id, which seeks instant gratification, acknowledgment or fame, can be a motivating force to carve out a new course. The ego, on the other hand, guides us to be more practical and consider longer-term or overall implications of our actions. Finally, our superego serves to remind us that we are part of a larger whole whose purpose supersedes our individual desires. When balanced, these three aspects of our personalities can help us choose the best course of action.

System on chip (SoC)

Many times when developing PCBs, a similar balance must be struck to arrive at the best design. The desire to create something new is a prerequisite for being for a PCB designer and that desire always exists. However, there are times when the functionality we need can be achieved by using a previously developed module instead of reinventing the wheel. Opting to utilize an existing module may be more economical in time and costs than designing something new. By knowing how pre-built modules can impact the speed of PCB electronics development, you can make the best overall choice for your design.

PCB Electronics Development Speed

It is well known that PCB design is trending toward boards with more functionality. More functionality means greater complexity. More complexity typically translates into longer design and development time. Yet, the demand for new products requires that the development cycle is minimized as much as possible. PCB development consists of three stages:

  • Design

This initial stage is where the schematic is created, components selected and board layout is done. The decisions made here impact both manufacturing and testing.

  • Manufacturing

The manufacturing stage is where your board is constructed. This consists of the board fabrication, PCB assembly (PCBA) and for turnkey component procurement.

  • Testing

For prototype development, this is where the design is experimentally tested for functionality. For all but the simplest designs, this will initially point to areas where the design can be improved. Ultimately, this stage has to meet design performance objectives before the PCB design can be transitioned from prototyping to production.

These three stages are cycled through until the design objectives or level of quality are achieved. The amount of time spent on prototyping depends primarily on the redesigns or prototype iterations required, and the need for a redesign can be minimized by leveraging pre-built modules.

Pre-Built Module Options for PCB Electronics

Fortunately for PCB designers and developers, electronic components manufacturers are steadily enhancing their products and today are not limited to discrete elements. In fact, complete circuits are available in System on a Chip (SoC) ICs, System in Package (SIP) and System on Module (SOM) packages that are designed to be mounted on larger boards. This is typically done by castellation where the smaller board has plated open vias that serve as pads for soldering to the larger board. The utilization of these module types along with pre-designed system board modules can significantly impact the speed of PCB development.

PCB ELECTRONICS PRE-BUILT MODULE TYPES

Development Requirements

SoC and SIP SOM

System Board Module

Design

Not required Not required

Required if modified

Fabrication

Not required Not required

Not required

Assembly

Same as for other ICs Same as for other SMDs or through-hole components

Not required

Testing

Required as part of the larger system Required as part of the larger system

Testing is usually required as these modules are typically augmented with other components or full board functionality is not used

* Testing on the module itself is not required but may be done for performance verification.  

As the table above details, both design and fabrication are usually not necessary for the module. The exception is for system board modules, such as by Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Electric Imp, Si Five and Beagleboard, if the design needs to be modified. Removing these stages decreases the time for each cycle or iteration during development. Additionally, using modules does not negatively impact assembly and testing. Since the module itself does not require testing, time may actually be gained at this stage.

Tempo‘s Custom PCB Manufacturing Service
  • ISO-9001, IPC-600 and IPC-610 commitment to quality certifications.
  • Accurate quote in less than 1 day.
  • Performs entire turnkey process in as fast as 3 days.
  • Emphasizes DFM to eliminate time-consuming back-and-forth design corrections.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry to reduce procurement time.
  • Performs multiple automated inspections during assembly to ensure PCB quality for prototyping.
  • Provides support throughout the PCB manufacturing process, beginning with design.
  • Smooth transition from prototyping to production.

As for all PCB development, the optimization of your board’s manufacture depends upon your incorporation of DFM rules and guidelines, tailored to the equipment and capabilities of your contract manufacturer (CM).

At Tempo Automation, the fastest PCB prototype manufacturer in the industry, we help you get started on the best path by furnishing information for your DFM checks and enabling you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software.

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 PCB electronics manufacturing by using pre-built modules, contact us.

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