What Keeps Us Up At Night: Avoiding Common PCB Design Nightmares

When you rely on printed circuit boards to make your products function as intended, any little mistake could result in a colossal setback for your operations. That’s why it’s so important to get everything right the first time. Of course, that may not always be possible — but if you plan ahead and take care to side-step these mishaps, you’ll be more likely to be 100% satisfied with the final results.

Common PCB Mistakes to Avoid

  • Having an overly-complicated design: The PCB fabrication process is already a complex one. Ideally, your PCB assembly house will want to create and manufacture printed circuit boards in the most cost-effective way. An over-complicated design can make this process more complicated and could actually put the board functionality at risk. Work with your PCB assembler to ensure your boards can be constructed in a simple yet highly effective way to avoid unnecessary delays and keep costs low.
  • Sending incorrect or missing Gerbers: The Gerber files must be the industry standards RS274X. All current versions CAD programs can generate the -X format. The Gerber files are used for the paste layer.
  • Failing to catch errors quickly: Your PCB fab and assembly partners should be able to catch most errors before the boards are ever produced, provided they have a thorough design check process. They should also conduct a complete PCB inspection using cutting-edge technology to ensure your boards will work perfectly once they are delivered. Otherwise, your operations could suffer significantly due to delays or even product malfunction. Before selecting a PCB manufacturer, make sure they possess the capabilities to deliver on their promises of PCB inspection.
  • Incorrectly formatting the Bill of Materials (BOM): The assembly BOM should be in CSV format. PDF documents do not reliably convert to CSV format. Also, the BOM needs to include reference designators, value, package/decal, description and part number.
  • Not working with a reputable PCB assembly house: Some businesses think they can DIY their PCBs or want to work with the cheapest PCB manufacturer they can find. Unfortunately, this often results in delays and costly errors — so you won’t end up saving much in the long run! Keep in mind that a single automatic line can place and solder more components than 50 hand-solder operators, too. That means when time is a factor (and it almost always is), you’ll want to choose a company that produces PCBs with quick turnaround. Typically, this means you’ll want to work with a company with a great reputation and ample experience in this industry, rather than choosing based on price alone.
  • Missing files: Placement machines use XYRS coordinates for SMT parts. Nearly every CAD program can generate XYRS data. If you do not use a turnkey services, you mush also include a packing list or invoice with every kit for comparison with the BOM. Also, include a reference to the in-house job number on the box (i.e. B1001).

Some mistakes aren’t easily avoided, but these common missteps can be with a bit of extra care and planning. To find out how our assembly process can save you time and money while delivering a reliable product, please contact us today.

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