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Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design represents the backbone of modern electronics, integrating components into a functional unit.

When we design a PCB, we break it into its critical components, ensuring a board is designed quickly and efficiently with the minimum number of iterations.

This is how we get it right.


Navigating the Complexities of PCB Design: A Holistic Approach

Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design represents the backbone of modern electronics, integrating components into a functional unit. This intricate process demands a holistic approach, considering not just the electrical but also the mechanical, thermal, and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) aspects while keeping an eye on cost efficiency. When we design a PCB, we break it into its critical components, ensuring a board is designed quickly and efficiently with the minimum number of iterations.


Cost Considerations

Cost is pivotal in PCB design, influencing decisions from material selection to layer count and even the manufacturing process. Effective cost management begins with a design optimised for manufacturing (DFM) principles, ensuring that the PCB design is easily producible without sacrificing quality or performance. Utilising standard materials and minimising the number of unique parts can also help keep costs down.


Layer Stack

The layer stack is the foundation of PCB design, determining how the layers of the board are organised to meet electrical and mechanical requirements. A well-considered layer stack enhances signal integrity, reduces EMC issues, and supports efficient thermal management. While adding layers can improve performance, it also increases costs, making it crucial to balance these aspects carefully.


PCB Layout Materials

Choosing the right materials is essential for achieving the desired performance. FR-4 is the standard for most applications, balancing cost and electrical properties well. However, high-speed or high-frequency applications might require specialised materials like Rogers or Arlon to minimise signal loss and dispersion.


Track Geometries

The dimensions and layout of tracks (or traces) are critical for signal integrity. Key considerations include track width, thickness, and spacing, with decisions impacting resistance, current carrying capacity, and susceptibility to crosstalk and EMC issues. Optimising track geometries is a balancing act between electrical requirements and PCB real estate.


Component Placement

Strategic component placement is crucial for functionality, manufacturability, and EMC performance. The goal is to minimise track lengths for critical signals, ensure adequate spacing for thermal management, and avoid configurations that could lead to EMC problems. This phase requires a deep understanding of the components’ electrical and thermal characteristics.


PCB Design


Tracking and Vias

Tracks and vias form the electrical connections between components and layers. The design must consider the type of vias used (through-hole, blind, or buried) and their impact on signal integrity and EMC. Proper via design can significantly reduce layer transitions’ impedance and minimise signal degradation.


Thermal Management

Effective thermal management is critical for reliability and longevity. Techniques include strategic component placement, thermal vias, heat sinks, and selecting materials with appropriate thermal conductivity. Simulation tools can help predict hot spots and guide the design process.


Test and Programming Access

Designing with testing and programming in mind ensures that the final product can be easily verified and updated. Including features like test points, programming headers, and designing for in-circuit testing can streamline these processes, contributing to cost savings and product reliability.



Silkscreens provide essential information for assembly and maintenance, including component identifiers and polarity marks. While they don’t directly affect the PCB’s electrical performance, clear and accurate silkscreens can significantly ease assembly and troubleshooting.


Design Rule Checking (DRC)

DRC is an automated process that checks the PCB design against a set of predefined rules, identifying potential issues like insufficient spacing or incorrect via sizes. This crucial step helps avoid costly corrections later in the manufacturing process.


Design for EMC

Designing for EMC involves strategies to minimise electromagnetic interference, ensuring that the PCB operates reliably in its intended environment. This includes managing signal routing, grounding practices, and shielding techniques. Early consideration of EMC can prevent redesigns and ensure compliance with regulatory standards.


Peer Review

Peer review is the final, critical step in the PCB design process. A fresh set of eyes can catch issues overlooked by the original designer, providing valuable feedback that improves the design’s quality and robustness. Encouraging a culture of open feedback and collaboration can significantly enhance the design outcome.

Successful PCB design is a complex, multidisciplinary endeavour that requires careful consideration of numerous factors. Balancing performance requirements with cost constraints while ensuring reliability and compliance with EMC standards demands a comprehensive approach and attention to detail. By acknowledging the importance of each step in the process and fostering a collaborative environment, designers can navigate the complexities of PCB design to create effective, efficient, and robust electronic products.


Would you like to find out more?

If you’d like to chat to us about PCB design (or any other electronic design issues you’re currently facing), we’re always happy to chat shop. You can reach us by clicking on this link – we’re never salesy, always interested and a call puts you under no obligation.

You never know, we might be able to point you in the right direction at no cost at all.

Reach out today – you’ll be glad you did.