PCB Design and the Need to Evolve
For a many years PCB design was simply that, the designing of the PCB. Historically products competed primarily on their electronic capabilities elevating the PCB in importance within the product development process. Ironically, the PCB designer typically:
- Worked in a silo
- Focused on optimizing placement and routing
- Avoided using cutting-edge technology
- Managed one PCB at a time
- Worked to a schedule that allowed for multiple passes to address issues with form, fit, or function
But times have changed…
Introducing product-centric design
Today, consumers of electronic products have more choice than ever, requiring the companies that create products to compete on increasingly diverse and changing factors. Building products with the highest level of competitiveness requires a collaborative, multi-disciplinary design approach. The PCB is no longer the central focus, but rather, it is the product. The term product-centric design is now used to describe this multi-disciplinary way of working, with the focus on product requirements from the very start of the design process.
In today’s competitive market the PCB board area is now driven by the enclosure, with little room if any for unused space. And did I mention that there is usually more than one PCB required to support the product? Interdependencies between interlocking boards and their enclosure are becoming more problematic. It is estimated that 50% of complex products require at least one additional PCB fabrication to address electro-mechanical issues. Many corporations cite ECAD/MCAD design synchronization as a significant product design challenge. This evolution to a multi-board product-centric process requires that PCB designers are knowledgeable in and have access to tools that allow:
- Virtual prototyping to validate product requirements versus architecture
- Starting a new design with the previous product version
- Ability to work in both a single and multi-board design process
- Simultaneous 2D and 3D PCB layout
- 3D multi-board ECAD/MCAD co-design
This new multi-disciplinary collaborative methodology is not possible using current-generation, single PCB 2D design tools. Their limitations include the lack of product-level architectural validation and 3D design visualization, lack of multi-board support, and limited or no ECAD/MCAD co-design capabilities. Collaborative design in itself is nothing new, but today’s successful companies are those that place more focus on working in this manner. The pressure to build more competitive products is driving companies to adopt more collaborative design processes that span disciplines and geographies.
So the question becomes, as a PCB designer, have you and your team evolved to designing products or are you still just designing boards?