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The Top 7 PCB Layout Tips for Manufacturing

My mom was an excellent cook who taught me to appreciate a well-prepared meal. Over the years, I have continued to expand my culinary experiences and tasted the works of other exceptional cooks, typically relatives or friends. Lately, my curiosity has overcome me and I have embarked on a quest to prepare meals that rival some of the best ones prepared by others. After some successes and failures, I have learned that the best way to create a good meal is to follow a well-defined recipe.

Like with successfully creating an exquisite meal, following a well-defined plan can ensure a positive outcome for your PCB design. For your PCB design endeavors to yield the best results, you should follow design for manufacturing (DFM) guidelines, which significantly affect the steps of the PCB manufacturing process and how and whether your board can be manufactured. Understanding which manufacturing steps to consider during design and successfully addressing them will yield reliable, high-quality boards.

PCB layout is fundamental yet critical to PCB design and manufacturing. The best way to ensure a well-built and reliable PCB is partnering with your contract manufacturer (CM) and following a simple seven-step recipe of PCB layout tips for manufacturing, based on your CM’s equipment capabilities and processes.

PCB Layout Tips for Manufacturing

Below are the top seven PCB layout tips for manufacturing:

PCB Layout Tip 1: Choose the right material

The first thing PCB design consideration is choosing the right material. Attributes that can impact your design include thickness, rigidity and flexibility, fire retardation, color and the usage of high-bandwidth, high temperature and high thermal resistance components. Material selection affects the manufacturing process and specific material options can vary by CM.

PCB Layout Tip 2: Use the right stackup

The number and types of layers included in your design are important factors that greatly affect your board’s size, drill hole layout, signal integrity, thermal dissipation capability, electromagnetic capability and vias. Surface mount device (SMD) type, like ball grid array (BGA) for example, as well as various signal layers and ground planes, can also impact layer arrangement or board stackup.

PCB Layout Tip 3: Prioritize trace routing

Although most designs employ basic trace routing guidelines, there are important considerations that are sometimes overlooked. When you have differential signals or high-frequency devices, long, unbalanced or uneven trace lengths can cause significant problems like signal distortion, impedance imbalance and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) issues. Therefore, it is important to prioritize signal routing. For example, first route clocks and timing devices, then high speed and sensitive signals, low-speed signals, and so on. It is also important to separate analog signal routes from DC, as much as possible.

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PCB Layout Tip 4: Use the correct drill hole type and size

Virtually all PCBs contain drill holes, which may be mounting holes or vias. Regardless of your design, you need to follow drill hole tolerance and aspect ratio guidelines when locating drill holes, as your options may be limited by your CM’s drill equipment.

PCB Layout Tip 5: Confirm footprints are accurate

To ensure accurate mounting of your components, it is vital to ensure that your PCB footprints match the BOM components; are directionally laid out correctly; include essential markings like pin 1 designators for integrated circuits (ICs); and include keep outs when and where recommended by part manufacturers. Incorrect footprints will most likely require new boards to be made.

PCB Layout Tip 6: Use adequate surface element clearances/spacing

It is also important to space components, traces and drill holes according to your CM’s guidelines. This ensures that the board can be fabricated and assembled. For example, placing surface elements too close can make it impossible to have solder dams, which prevent solder bridges from forming and protect your board from premature failure due to exposure.

PCB Layout Tip 7: Leave enough board edge clearance

Providing adequate spacing away from the board edge is just as important as proper spacing between surface elements. Designing your PCB layout without enough board edge clearance can impact solder mask application, hinder soldering and panelization, which is the removal of individual boards from the panels or sheets utilized during manufacturing.

Designing good boards is just like making a good meal. Each requires following a well-defined recipe or set of steps that, if followed, will yield reliable results.

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.

At Tempo Automation, we know the importance of maintaining a well-defined and reliable process. Our systematic software-driven approach to custom PCB manufacturing allows us to consistently outperform the competition in turnaround time and quality. As your CM, we will strive to form a symbiotic relationship with you from day 1 of design that will promote an optimized PCB design-manufacture process.

And to ensure that you have the right ingredients, 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. If you want more information on PCB layout tips for manufacturing or how to incorporate these essential steps into your design process, contact us.

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