How to Use PCB Design Verification to Streamline Development

June 25, 2020 , in Blog

Verification is an essential part of human life, and yet, many still consider it a double-edged sword. Since the inception of what is currently known as cybersecurity, verifications of every type are front and center for those aiming to keep information safe. However, it was not always this widely accepted, and many did not consider it a priority. The people who disliked the concept of verification often cited the nuisance of forgetting their password or pin.

Over time, verification became an everyday occurrence in personal and professional settings. In the case of PCB development, rather than being a nuisance, verification is a critical tool that defends data privacy against would-be hackers. Furthermore, PCB design verification plays a critical role in optimizing the PCB development process and reducing the likelihood of potential issues later on.

PCB prototype design and verification process

Tools and Tests for Verifying PCB Designs

PCB design and manufacturing are driven by the principles of performance, functionality, lifecycle, and cost-effectiveness. The likelihood of converting your designs into a finished product smoothly and efficiently that meets previously specified goals increases significantly if PCB design verification is employed. And, like with all tasks, the extent of your success depends on both your skill and the tools you use for the job. Utilizing the right tools, in particular, can help you bypass complications and layout violations that are difficult to diagnose and resolve. Consulting a qualified and experienced contract manufacturer (CM) can be helpful in selecting the right tools and tests to optimize the overall PCB development process.

Although there are tools, like flying probe and bed-of-nails in-circuit tests (ICTs), that your CM may utilize to assess your board after development, the principal goal of PCB design verification is to evaluate your board design and reduce or eliminate any issues that may extend the development process. Moreover, using these types of circuit board testing will require that you employ design for testing (DFT) principles and will likely result in longer development times.

Another tool one can utilize in the process of perfecting a PCB design is the Algorithmic Modeling Interface or IBIS AMI. IBIS AMI is an interface between AMI models and EDA tools, which allows for the high-speed simulation of the electrical aspects of a PCB. This capability can certainly be used to assist in your PCB design verification; however, it is probably more efficient and convenient to have a PCB layout software tool that includes functionalities that allow for extensive design review. Let’s take a look at some of those functionalities that are most helpful for PCB design verification.

Essential PCB Design Verification Software Capabilities

Without a doubt, the ability to perform design rule checks (DRCs) to determine if the physical layout of a design complies with the proposed parameters called design rules is an essential aspect of electronic design automation (EDA). DRC is a robust tool that includes the following types of testing.

DRC Tests for PCB Design Verification

  • Spacing and clearance violations
  • Electrical rule check (ERC)
  • Layout versus schematic (LVS) simulation
  • Trace width violations
  • Unconnected pads and traces
  • Trace length issues (i.e. for differential pairs)
  • Drill hole violations
  • Unconnected
  • Stackup violations
  • Impedance matching
  • Solder mask clearances

Keep in mind that the above list is only a partial list of the essential design rule checks in use during the DRC process necessary to optimize PCB development. DRCs are great for identifying layout issues that may impact manufacturability. However, there are other simulations that should be included as part of your verification process. These include the following:

Other PCB Design Verification Simulations

  • Power distribution

Analyzing your power distribution network (PDN) is important to ensure that all components are adequately supplied. This analysis also is beneficial in identifying potential board hot spots that could be troublesome during assembly.

  • Signal processing simulation

Obviously, it is important to analyze your board for signal integrity. Signal issues, such as excessive reflections, low SNR, or low amplitudes, can negatively (and severely) affect your board operation.

  • Thermal distribution simulation

Knowing the difference between and the effects of thermal dissipation and distribution is imperative. Insufficient distribution can impede board assembly, while inadequate dissipation can lead to performance problems and even board damage in the field.

For the most efficient development of your boards, all of these PCB design verification methods should be utilized.

How PCB Design Verification Can Streamline Development

As discussed in the section above, achieving accurate and optimal PCB designs requires more than just performing design rule checks. While DRC is a critical part of the overall process, some “other” checks can aid in the process of achieving accurate designs including thermal simulations, electrical simulations for signal quality, and electrical simulations for signal integrity.

In general, PCB development usually consists of multiple design-build-test iterations or board spins to improve power integrity, signal integrity, electromagnetic interference (EMI) or other design quality issues. Therefore, you must utilize simulation software to maximize the success of your designs, and the speed of this iterative process is even more critical for more extensive design projects. Simulation software packages provide targeted and focused solutions that enable you to use simulation to verify the effectiveness of your designs and minimize the number of respins required.

Practice makes perfect, and as they say in construction, it is always better to measure twice and cut once. Regardless of the specific tool used, the importance of checking and verifying every aspect of your PCB design cannot be overstated. DRC, in particular, makes it possible to eradicate error-prone manual inspections as well as reduce costly design respins that may affect overall development turnaround, functionality, and even PCB yield rate and time-to-market.

Streamlining PCB Development with DRC and Beyond

Performing verification and using simulation during the design process reduces the number of iterations necessary to achieve your design goals. Benefits include reduced rework, board quality improvement, life cycle expansion, improved performance, and enhanced functionality.

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.

At Tempo Automation, we can help you streamline the entire PCB development process. First, by assisting you during design to make choices that will result in manufacturable boards without the extended delay for quote associated with a more black-box or isolated development. And, more importantly by getting your back to you faster than anyone in the industry.

And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium Designer or Cadence Allegro user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software. For Mentor Pads or other design packages, we furnish DRC information in 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 PCB design verification or how to use it to streamline your board’s development, contact us.

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