Why PCB Component Placement is the Most Important Design Decision

“Location, location, location!” is more than a cliché slogan belonging to the real estate industry. In general, location affects every aspect of our lives in one way or another. Examples of this are all around us and include important details like where we work, which schools our children attend, or even which ISP services our homes.

In the field of electronics, location is a critical consideration because placing a component where it doesn’t belong is like trying to build a jigsaw puzzle with mismatching pieces. PCB component placement affects everything from testing and accessibility to functionality and performance. In essence, all design decisions are impacted by the exact placement of components on a PCB.

Therefore, when designing a PCB, it is a requirement that components fit together in a specific way. For example, your components need to be near their connected circuitry to provide electrical functionality. The placement of your components should be optimally positioned for thermal and mechanical considerations. And finally, you should utilize correct component placement that facilitates the manufacturing process as a whole. Failing to prioritize component placement early in the design process can lead to pitfalls that can compromise the entire PCB development process.

The Pitfalls of Failing to Optimize Component Placement

In general, incorrect component placement can result in soldering issues as well as massive roadblocks during manufacturing. This includes issues like circuit failures, shorts, and the inability of the PCB to undergo some or all of the manufacturing process. To avoid delaying or even halting the manufacturing process, it is vital to discover these issues before the production phase.

Aside from the apparent manufacturing delays, incorrect component placement also creates a domino effect of broader issues, including:

  • Delayed time to market
  • Compromised PCB quality
  • Decreased product design confidence
  • Inability to produce your design in higher volume
  • Increase in required resources due to component waste from repeated design changes
  • Increased expenditure

Common PCB Component Placement Issues

In general, the majority of component placement issues occur due to more complex routing and other issues. However, this is only one of the multiple issues requiring consideration:

  • The component spacing: When placing components too close, it creates problems with automated pick-and-place, and it adversely affects testing (fixtures).
  • May complicate depanelization: When components are too close to the board edge it may be hard to use routing to separate panels into individual boards.
  • Makes rework harder: If rework is required, it is more difficult if components are not spaced well.
  • A component’s location as well as orientation for wave soldering: If the component is discrete, both pins enter the solder simultaneously when the PCB goes through the wave. However, for larger components, they should not precede smaller components to avoid shadowing.

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Effective Component Placement Considerations

Although design software provides an automatic component grouping feature, it is ill-advised for designers to rely on it solely. However, the following guidelines may help:

  • Follow your CM’s clearance and spacing rules and guidelines. 
  • Place board-to-wire connectors near the edge.
  • Standardize the orientation of components.
  • Make space for copper traces.

The Importance of Working With Your Contract Manufacturer

Incorrect component placement and failure to optimize your designs during the design phase can skyrocket costs and demand extensive engineering time from your contract manufacturer (CM). In some cases, it may not be possible to resolve possible manufacturing issues, and you will have to restart the entire process from scratch. These hurdles can be avoided by regularly communicating design decisions with your CM and following the proper component placement guidelines during the design phase. By leveraging your CM’s extensive knowledge and understanding their capabilities, you can optimize component placement and maximize PCB manufacturability and functionality.

Component placement affects every aspect of PCB design, and failure to use proper component placement can have catastrophic effects on your design as a whole.

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 work with you from day 1 of design to ensure that component placement is placed at the forefront of your design process.

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 component placement or other important design decisions, contact us.

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