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Portable, wearable and adaptable technologies are now the norm. As a result, the PCB’s required need to be smaller yet still capable of performing ever-more-complex functionality with smaller components.

As PCB designers we are continuously challenged to meet these requirements by using the most effective placement of components possible without affecting its electronic capabilities.

As a result, PCB Layout becomes a critical part of any design.

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Begin with the end in mind

Prioritising the most important requirements can help streamline the design process by determining the constraints on the design. Sizing and placement of critical elements, including minimum and maximum tolerances, required components, electrical demands including impedance factors and power needs all combine to generate an initial set of constraints for the PCB design.

PPPPP (proper planning prevents poor performance)

It’s also a good practice to create and save sets of like constraints and templates for subsequent designs or projects. Having time-proven templates available can streamline the design of new boards or upgrades to existing PCBs. Once constraints are set and understood, it makes the details much less error-prone, saving time and money.

Board layout techniques can include such strategies as devices embedded on inner layers of PCBs to reduce board size. This must be evaluated with manufacturers to verify that these capabilities can be met in actual fabrication.

Errors or lack of planning in the layout specification of PCB design can cause multiple problems:

•             Manufactured products that don’t perform as specified or designed

•             Quality or functional issues may surface due to components and circuit paths that conflict with other board elements from factors such as electromagnetic interference, current flow, track width, component size, and physical board limitations.

•             Boards may not be able to be manufactured exactly as specified, resulting in back-and-forth decisions between the designer and manufacturer. This extends lead time and increases cost.

•             Worst case – the engineer goes back to the “drawing board” to rework the design for manufacturability.

Design for Manufacture

Obviously, the main aim is to create a board that can be efficiently and cost-effectively manufactured. Understanding the manufacturing process is a real benefit as it enables the engineer to comprehend how fabrication methodology will react to their designs. Multi-layer boards and double-sided laminates or double-sided component placement designs can make the layout all the more critical in designing for manufacturing (DFM). IPC CID Training can also help guide some of these layout decisions.

An effective tool available to PCB designers prior to prototype creation is DFM software . Such tools analyze the designer’s files and evaluate them for any issues or omissions related to fabrication. Combining the use of PCB design tools and DFM applications is the best solution to designing PCBs of the highest quality that will be functional and cost-effective to manufacture.

It’s also important to work with a fabricator who provides extensive support of all technical aspects of PCB orders, including a detailed review of submitted designs with CAM tools.

For more information about our IPC CID Trained PCB Design Team and our PCB training and supporting software please contact us.

design@quadrasol.co.uk

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When people talk about outsourcing any element of any business, people often think of the negative associated connotations, lack of control, job losses, a reduction in quality. etc.etc

But the benefits of outsourcing are often forgotten about. We thought we’d have a look at the top three reasons people and businesses benefit from outsourcing.

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Cost

By outsourcing your PCB design, you are freeing up resources needed to help grow your business. Instead of spending time hiring staff for PCB design, or employing someone for that purpose, you can focus your financial resources on other areas that need them. Moreover, it can often be hard to find a fully qualified and experienced PCB designer that doesn’t require training/retraining.

Professional

You may have some experience in PCB creation, but when you outsource your design, you know you are getting professional service delivered by someone who regularly undertakes PCB design, making him more efficient and effective at the job at hand. These professional designers are usually highly skilled, highly experienced and carrying the right accreditations (IPC Certified Interconnect Designer) to complete the job correctly.

Plus, you don’t have to worry about purchasing the right software for PCB design or being a good artist.

Time

Keeping a project on the go and keeping to a timescale probably takes up every moment of your day. PCB design is probably just one small part of the overall project you are working on right now. And, even though it is an important part of creating your product it is a task that if not completed within the appropriate timescale, can cause delays for all other areas of the project. When you spend your day designing your PCB, or looking over the shoulder of your PCB designer as they work, you are basically wasting valuable hours that could be spent on other things.

Outsourcing your PCB design gives you the opportunity to focus on other aspects of your business. In addition, by outsourcing your design you also save time on future product development. You don’t have to concern yourself with PCB design of future products because you ’ll already have worked with a firm in the past. Then, you can focus on more important day-to-day activities to help your project/ business run smoothly.

For more information about PCB design Services from Quadra Solutions contact us

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Blog was originally posted on Zuken.com

PCB design tools were built on 2D software methods in the 1980s.  Many of today’s design tools still use that 2D code base.  Mechanical tools have moved on to native 3D design. PCB has been stuck more or less in the 2D world.  Extensions to the 2D code base made 2.5D and 3D visualization possible.  But designing in 3D requires the tool to be built on a 3D kernel.

3D visualization of a PCB is essentially available in every PCB design tool on the market.  However, 3D visualization is not a 3D design. Placing components on a PCB in a 3D view using accurate shape 3D models is 3D design.  Another aspect of a 3D design is design rule checks for both collision and clearance utilizing 3D models of the components and the PC board enclosure.  3D design requires a 3D kernel that replaces the 2D modeling code base.  Let’s get back to the purpose of this blog – native 3D routing.

Have you tried it? The ability to fan-out micro vias under extremely small BGA footprints is difficult enough in a 2D topside view.   The overlay of graphics primitives of filled lines and circles can be quite frustrating.

Typical 2D view of an 8 layer PCB with colors assigned by net rather than be a layer.

There are those tools that allow designers to quickly toggle from 2D routing to 3D views for a quick visualization only to have toggle back and forth to make the small adjustments to get the via placement just right.

What if you could route in 3D?    Since the introduction of Zuken’s CR-8000 Design Force, users have been able to realize native 3D placement and routing.  In fact, when we asked Design Force users how much time they spend actually routing in 3D versus 2D, the average response came back at approximately 45%.   2D design is very different from 3D and involves change.  Not every PCB designer has decided to dive into 3D design mode.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of 3D routing that might change your mind.

  • Real-time Visualization with transparency
  • Less cycle picking to select the desired item.
  • Immediate DRC response.
  • Take actions in 3D like trimming pads on specific layers

With Powerful 64 bit graphics equaling those used in modern gaming technologies PCB Designers can grow and become more efficient in their day to day placement and routing challenges.

If you have not experienced true 3D placement and routing, you should.  You have to give it a try!

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Upcoming Webinars
 
DFMSTREAM/CAM350 WEBINAR Experience Release 2018’s cutting-edge new features
Haven’t seen CAM350/DFMStream in a while? Now is the perfect time to re-evaluate this software solution. With the revolutionary changes in Release 14.0 you’ll experience: 3D visualization and documentation of manufacturing data Completely new and streamlined user interface for CAM350/DFMStream Improved management and execution of all DFM analysis functions Seamlessly share data among all DownStream products with our common database Support for 64 bit, as well as other upgrades We created a truly integrated 2D/3D environment for improved PCB post processing. CAM350/DFMStream is designed to analyze, verify, and optimize a PCB design for successful fabrication.
Tuesday March 26 – 2PM GMT / 3PM CEST
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BLUEPRINT-PCB WEBINAR Release 2018 has cutting-edge new features
Now is the time to truly experience BluePrint-PCB. It’s a revolutionary solution to address all your PCB documentation needs. And now with Release 6.0 it is even more remarkable. 3D visualization and documentation of manufacturing data allowing users to minimize manufacturing defects and delays in production
A newly designed user interface common across all DownStream products
A common database between all DownStream products so data can be shared seamlessly
Technology and support for 64 bit
We created a truly integrated 2D/3D environment for improved PCB post processing. BluePrint-PCB 6.0 designed to automate, streamline and dramatically improve PCB Documentation.
Wednesday March 27 2PM GMT / 3PM CEST
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When ISPAS were developing their revolutionary new sea-surface oil detection system they chose to partner with Quadra to provide their PCB design needs. But in doing so, they were able to dramatically reduce product delivery timescales, enabling them to bring their product to market earlier than expected. Detecting and then quickly acting upon oil spillages in today’s maritime oilfields is a key requirement for any oil company. The cost of non-compliance is truly enormous, both financially and environmentally.

ISPAS has designed a phased array radar system with dual antenna arrays, dual polarisation, no moving parts and produces a swept beam across 100 degrees at a very low power. When mounted on an oil platform, it will provide a 360-degree coverage of any changes in the sea surface conditions, detecting oil, debris, changes in currents etc. Radar detection of oil on water is already in use, but X-band radar has some major limitations. Under certain conditions, oil is invisible as it is more or less transparent to horizontally polarised radar. If you combine the ability to operate in the Ku-band and also to sweep a dual polarised beam several hundred times a second, whilst simultaneously processing the enormous amount of data this produces, then the picture changes dramatically. Nine key engineers have worked on the development of this system, which is able to detect people who have fallen in the water up to a distance of up to three-miles.

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This was tested in the local fjord by ISPAS engineer Anders Rosnes, using his father’s old dry suit. As a result of this, rescue organisations have expressed interest in this capability. Static mounted versions of this same system have also been used to record glacial shifts on Svalbard to high accuracy. From an engineering perspective, local processing is provided by an Altera 1.5 Teraflop DSP processing device, which is a 1152 pin BGA using external DDR3 memory and complex multiple power supply requirements. Turning this demanding engineering idea into an economically manufacturable reality was a challenge and this is where Quadra Solutions was able to help.

Solution

ISPAS chose to partner with Quadra, after considering other local alternatives. The Quadra Design Bureau provided several advantages for ISPAS, best summed up as Capability, Capacity and Competence. All the PCB designers are CID/CID+ qualified and work within an accredited ISO9001 environment which allows total control of the process. There is always a back-up if someone unexpectedly cannot continue with a design and the experience of the team means that design pitfalls that the engineering team at ISPAS may never have even considered could be avoided from the outset. Action Quadra took the initial schematics and parts list of the design from ISPAS and after a series of online design reviews, chose a specific board technology, taking into account the time-frame, cost and technology constraints.

Early revisions of the layout were discussed and as soon as the parts list was frozen, parts procurement began in parallel with the remainder of the design process. Design iterations continued and then the bare boards were ordered. At this time, the assembly operation was scheduled so that the parts, boards and assembly line setup could all be ready at the same time. Detailed knowledge of PCB manufacturers’ capabilities and a process which always forces a “second pair of eyes” to approve all manufacturing data, ensured that the boards were ready on time and electronically and mechanically correct.

Results

Results from the first prototypes were very encouraging, allowing ISPAS to debug embedded code and to work on system software and make changes as required. There was a requirement to change the power management devices, forced by the manufacturer of the main DSP processor and these changes were made whilst ISPAS engineers concentrated on their system, software development and testing. With their proprietary radar technology, ISPAS is now conducting trials with four radar systems on the Lundin Edvard Grieg platform in the North Sea.

In addition, six further systems are being deployed by Statoil in the Johan Sverdrup oilfield. These sites provide some of the most arduous conditions, in which electronics systems are expected to withstand the elements and continue to function correctly. The analysis taken from these installations will allow ISPAS and Quadra to optimise production variants, to suit all of the envisaged uses of the system.

Board Design

Details – 16 layer with filled microvias between layers 1-2, 16-5 and buried vias between layers 2-15 – Two DDR3 RAM modules fully length matched and constrained – A bank of 4 DDR3 BGA devices fully length matched and constrained – Gigabit ethernet ports – Analog to Digital mezzanine card interfaced with multiple length matched differential pairs – Altera Arria 10 1152 pin BGA with complex, sequenced power supply requirements and extra peripheral ports for RF control – Double sided surface mount assembly – 1,952 components – 4,380 connections – Over 50% constrained by delay/ length, skew groups, differential pairs, specified impedance.

Looking for PCB design support for your next project?

Contact our experienced and knowledgeable PCB design Professionals for a quote. design@quadrasol.co.uk 01254 301 888

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PCB design is a minefield.

Each month in our “The Knowledge BOM” article we will look to cover areas of PCB design knowledge that may be of interest to you. This week DFM and DRC.

What is DFM and what does it mean for your PCB?

DFM stands for Design For Manufacturability ( DFM ). It’s the process of arranging a PCB layout to mitigate problems that could be encountered during the fabrication and assembly processes. Taking into account fabrication issues as early on as possible enables PCB designs to be built quicker and more effectively. Design for fabrication (DFF), and assembly issues (DFA) together they make up DFM.

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What is DFM and what does it mean for your PCB?

DFM stands for Design For Manufacturability ( DFM ). It’s the process of arranging a PCB layout to mitigate problems that could be encountered during the fabrication and assembly processes. Taking into account fabrication issues as early on as possible enables PCB designs to be built quicker and more effectively. Design for fabrication (DFF), and assembly issues (DFA) together they make up DFM.

What is DRC and how does it differ to DFM?

The term DRC, which stands for design rule checking, is also used interchangeably with DFM.

However, DRC serves as the distinction between a pass/fail of a PCB. DRC is used to ensure that PCB layout connectivity accurately reflects the schematic diagram. The rules are used largely to define the minimum spacing allowed between various PCB objects for the entire PCB or for individual layers, nets or areas on the PCB. Spacing is critical in the fabrication or assemble of a PCB. While DRC detects very specific discrepancies from the intended interconnect, DFM identifies issues in the PCB topology that have the potential to create manufacturing problems.

Why are they both so important?

There are several reasons: cost of finished PCBs, maintaining design intent, and the potential for future design failure. It can cost a PCB manufacturer as much as 20% of the cost of the PCBs for CAM engineering, the processing and tooling of design data to prepare it for manufacture. This additional cost is built into the end price that users pay to have physical PCBs fabricated.

The table below is just a few of the more regularly encountered DFM issues that can create issues later in the design and manufacture process. Following IPC CID and CID+ rules can help avoid some of these issues.

DFM Defect   Description  
Starved
Thermals
Plane connections that are tied
correctly to a plane layer in a CAD system but inadvertently isolated
from the rest of the plane.
Acid
Traps
Acute angles that allow acid to
build up in the fabrication process
and over-etch a trace, potentially
creating an open in the circuit.
Slivers Narrow wedges of copper or soldermask that can peel off and either
reconnect to other pieces of copper or expose copper that should be
covered with soldermask.
Insufficient Annular Ring A drill size is specified that exceedsthe size of the pad being drilled and can result in a disconnect of the
pin or short in a voltage plane.
Missing Clearance Pads on Planes Pins that are missing a clearance
pad will be connected to a plane
layer. If clearance pads are missingfrom all plane layers for the pin,
it will tie together all of the voltageplanes as well.
Copper too close to board edge When there is insufficient
clearance of plane layers from
board edges it’s very likely that the voltage planes will be connected
together when the PCB form factor is routed. The copper on each
voltage layer is inadvertently
“mashed” together.
Missing Soldermask Pads   End user failed to define a
soldermask pad for a pin or
component. This exposes more
copper and creates the potential
for bridging pins together during
assembly.

Looking for a Professional PCB design solution talk to Quadra Solutions. Click here

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It’s that time of year again. Yearly performance appraisals, staff planning and looking to the year ahead. But are you and your team ready for the new year? Do you have the in-house skills available? Are your team ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead in 2019?

Or is it time to look at investing in the right training?

The IPC regularly researches companies in the electronics industry and within one of these research surveys was found the reasons why people are using IPC courses and certification to enhance their knowledge and job prospects.

The research, which includes many Fortune 500 electronics companies, found that the were three main reasons people prised these courses above any other.

Reason 1. Outdated or Insufficient Knowledge

From 87 leading electronics organisations 57% of the respondents indicated that a lack of knowledge or outdated knowledge is the reason for staff to participate in a course or certification.

“This is no surprise to us” says Damian Holland, Quadra’s IPC CID Trainer.  “We often find that the people that attend our IPC courses are highly experienced PCB designers, with many years of service. However, over time their knowledge has become outdated or they have picked up bad habits. Many say that its a great way to refresh the knowledge they already had, but many say they plan to revisit old designs and adapt and amend their design processes.”

Reason 2. Buyer Expectation

The second reason for participation, given by 46% of the respondents, is that having an IPC certification is a requirement made by buyers of the products. IPC Certification ultimately means that the product the buyer is getting is more likely to experience fewer issues during manufacture.

Reason 3. High Quality, Fault-free Board Design

The final reason for participation, given by 40% of the respondents, is that IPC certification makes the difference between a faulty and a well-designed, fit for purpose printed circuit board.

We have a full calendar of IPC CID and CID+ dates available now. For more  information go to www.quadrasol.co.uk/ipc.

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PCB designers working with advanced and complex designs are constantly pushing the boundaries to satisfy the signal integrity of routed differential pairs and busses. Those who work with flexible and flex-rigid PCB designs are perhaps the most demanding of all.

A while ago, the introduction of the curved corner style for routing trunks in CADSTAR made a big difference to this group of users.

But with CADSTAR 2018.0.0.3, we can offer something even more powerful.

Curved Trunking offers the ability to generate trunk routing with true tangential arc corners.

Trunks are routed first in either 90 degree, 45 degree or free angle routing. The Curved Trunking functionality is then applied to the routed trunks. This function offers the ability to curve corners or segments of both newly routed or existing trunking – resulting in true tangential arc corners.

The tool can be used on individual or multiples of individual trunk corners or segments. If the whole trunk or multiple whole trunks are selected, only the corners in the selection set are curved. Box selecting the whole design will only curve trunk corners – and non-trunk items will remain unaffected.

Multiple trunk item selection in CADSTAR

It is possible to modify the curved trunk corners by dragging them with the mouse. This way, the user can increase or decrease the radius size.

Trunk corner modify function in CADSTAR

The user can also replace any selected trunk curves with a straight segment using an ‘uncurve’ tool.

Trunk corner uncurve function in CADSTAR

This functionality is available both inside P.R.Editor XR2000 and above, as well as in the Design Editor Embedded Routing mode in CADSTAR 2018.0.0.3.

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We often hear about reverse engineering within mechanical engineering, but how is reverse engineering deployed in electronics and why?

Firstly, what is Reverse Engineering?

When we hear the phrase ‘reverse engineering’ being applied in an electronic product environment, the default assumption is that the intention is to replicate a product. It’s commonplace for companies to use certain elements of the reverse engineering process to interrogate a competitor’s design. Occasionally the unscrupulous will even clone a competitor’s design using reverse engineering techniques, extracting a schematic from a PCB being the trickiest of all the reverse engineering tasks.  However, the reality is that there can be a genuine demand for reverse engineering on your products because some or all of the data package used to create the original product has gone missing/ no longer stored. An all too common problem.

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Why would companies want to reverse engineer a PCB?

Aside from replicating a lost schematic, once a company has started this process, they then have the option to deviate from the product you are replicating.  Reasons for this may be component obsolescence issues, new agency standards that need to be adhered to or a different form factor. Those are general product evolutions either by choice or necessity. But let us focus on the missing element, missing data that is causing us to have to reverse engineer.

Give us your data, let us fill in the blanks.

Where do you start; the scenarios are many; missing schematics, missing bill of materials, missing gerber or assembly data. Quadra have the ability to extract and replace virtually any piece of missing data working from a PCB assembly or any accompanying electronic data. Our IPC CID+ qualified design team and applications specialists have a wealth of knowledge and insight into data manipulation and extraction across a broad spectrum of EDA tools.

Talk to us about your reverse engineering needs. Our real-world experience and a comprehensive portfolio of EDA tools enable us to help support your Reverse Engineering project.

For more information about PCB Design Reverse Engineering please contact design@quadrasol.co.uk or call 01254 301 888.

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This month, Quadra have continued to strengthen their team of PCB design professionals and the expertise of Gary Mulqueen, an experienced Altium PCB designer, will help extend design capabilities within the company. CADSTAR and PCB Design Sales Manager, Michael Wray catches up with Gary and finds out more about his design experience and hear about some of the interesting projects he has been involved in.

So Gary, welcome to Quadra, what have you been doing for the past couple of years?

I have been working on mostly Altium designs for Calrec, who design and manufacture mixing desks and audio equipment. This role required a thorough understanding of the PCB design process, as designs often required knowledge of impedance control, high-speed design and length matching. It was a challenging but enjoyable role, especially as I enjoy taking conceptual information and turning it into a physical output and seeing the end product at the end of it.

Sounds like you were heavily involved in the product design process. Did you get involved with the manufacturing?

As it happens, my previous role actually involved working with Autodesk Inventor on the mechanical CAD side so I have a strong understanding of both electronic and mechanical design and manufacturing. I think that’s probably my biggest strength as a designer, I have a good understanding of the mechanical development as well an understanding of multiple connected PCB’s and dense, high-speed designs.

What would you say was the most interesting project you’ve worked on previously?

Well, that has to be working with RAF re-developing some of the radar screens for the AWACS (The Boeing E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircrafts). Our company won the tender to replace the CRT screens in the aeroplanes with LCD’s. It’s amazing to think that something I worked on is serving such an important role still to this day.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for PCB design?

The biggest challenge we now face as designers is that as components get smaller, signal speeds get quicker and the end-product is also getting smaller, the manufacturing process is still nearly that same as it was 10/20 years ago. This puts pressure on the board designer to maximise spacing options and be more creative with their designs.

What are looking forward to with your new role?

I am looking forward to getting my teeth into a variety of different designs and challenges. I am also keen to further expand my skills and qualifications, one these being to gain my IPC CID qualification.

Gary Joined Quadra on the 2nd of June as is available to take on Altium PCB design work. Contact us for more information about our PCB design services. design@quadrasol.co.uk 

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