Optimizing Component Selection in PCB Design

Back in school, the teachers had a favorite phrase they recited to remind seniors to not start celebrating their graduation before graduation had actually arrived. They’d remind us how silly we’d look “all dressed up with no place to go.” Their objective was to remind us that, despite numerous distractions and extracurricular activities, we shouldn’t forget to take care of the most important thing: successfully completing all of our classwork. In the PCB world, a comparable situation may arise if you’re eager to launch your electronic product but haven’t paid adequate attention to component selection in PCB design.

During PCB design, components exist as virtual entities, making it easy to overlook the fact that your product ultimately depends on its actual physical existence. It isn’t uncommon to include components in your database that are no longer available, and situations like these can result in major hiccups during PCB assembly and prototyping. If a critical component reaches the end of its lifecycle after entering high-volume production, even more severe problems can arise, including product redesign and delayed deliveries to clients. Furthermore, lack of preparation can lead to the potential proliferation of counterfeit components, which is a serious concern that could negatively impact relationships with certain clients, such as the government. Luckily, the probability of these problems arising can be significantly reduced by taking a few steps to optimize component selection in PCB design. Before defining the steps involved in component selection optimization, however, it may be beneficial to more closely examine component selection in PCB design and component procurement for product development.

Component Selection and Procurement for Product Development

Component selection in PCB design is usually the first task in product development; all other tasks are performed to ensure that the components are integrated such that the device meets its overall functionality requirements. Typically, each component has a production lifecycle similar to the one shown in the figure below:

Typical component production lifecycle

As demonstrated in the figure above, the availability of a component varies over its production lifecycle, beginning with modest distribution during new production, peaking once it’s established, and finally becoming obsolete due to declining usage, typically because it’s replaced via technological advancement. Most major component manufacturers publish their intention to end the production of a particular component. Nevertheless, continuously tracking this information so it can be seamlessly incorporated into your PCB design and development in a timely manner requires dedicated monitoring that is simply not performed by many distributors and isn’t practical for many PCB designers.

The lack of up-to-date information about the status of a component provides an inherent disconnection between component selection in PCB design and component procurement for PCB assembly. Although a component may be listed in your database, it may not, in fact, be available from your supplier; this may delay PCB assembly while an alternative procurement source is found. Additionally, a component in the early stages of obsolescence may be available in sufficient quantity to satisfy your prototyping needs or initial production; however, basing your high-production schedule on the availability of a specific component can increase the likelihood of product delays due to redesign and board remanufacturing, which can, in turn, postpone customer delivery. To reduce the likelihood of falling prey to these or other contingencies, like ending up with inferior or counterfeit components on your boards, you can employ certain steps to optimize your component selection in PCB design.

Optimizing Component Selection in PCB Design

As we have seen, component selection in PCB design is important to minimize the possibility of significant contingencies during PCB assembly and production. However, following a few simple steps will help reduce your susceptibility to the consequences of not having the needed quantity of components.

Step One: Check component quantity availability during design. This will help prevent PCB manufacturing delays to search for alternate (equal or better quality than original) components from alternative or aftermarket sources and minimize the need for bridge buys.

Step Two: Use components from reputable suppliers/distributors. This will help guard against substitute (often inferior to original) or counterfeit components that may make reengineering very difficult, in the event that it becomes necessary.

Step Three: Use components that have comparable replacements. This backup plan will minimize any redesign or requirement redefinition that may be needed in the case of a component availability contingency. It can also help prevent the need to uprate.

Step Four: Maintain access to current component lifecycle data. With up-to-date component production data, you’ll be able to determine whether it’s wise to proceed with a component. You will also have maximum lead time to make component or design changes, if needed.

Step Five: Investigate the component quality control of your contract manufacturer (CM). If your CM procures your components, this step is especially important to ensure that quality components are used.

Step 6: Make lifetime component buys. This will protect you against obsolescence.

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In addition to the above steps, you can build a buffer against component obsolescence by purchasing sufficient component quantities to sustain your production well into the future.

Tempo‘s Custom PCB Manufacturing Service

  • Performs entire turnkey process in as fast as 3 days.
  • Emphasizes DFM to eliminate time-consuming back-and-forth design corrections.
  • Performs BOM verifications to reduce possibility of component obsolescence issues.
  • 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.

Tempo Automation can assist you with optimizing your component selection by providing component selection advice and assuming the responsibility for procurement. We source components from three of the most reputable suppliers in the industry and verify component availability before starting the PCB manufacturing process. We also employ advanced quality control measures throughout PCB assembly and help you guard against component contingencies. By engaging Tempo early in your design process, you can minimize various issues that may adversely affect the manufacture of your boards; to facilitate this, we furnish information for your DFM and enable 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. For more information on component selection in PCB design and how your selection process can be optimized, contact us.

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