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How Many Tools Are Needed to Design a PCB?

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Aeroengineer
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Some thoughts
Aeroengineer   1/2/2014 6:54:33 PM
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Max,

 

In some ways there are packages that are converging to offer an integrated solution for the hobbiest level, and hence they may not realize that each is its own package.  For this you can get away without having some of the fancier things listed that are involved with microwave signal frequencies and high power dissapation.  Though the further you go, then many more tools will come into play.

 

 

Duane Benson
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Re: Some thoughts
Duane Benson   1/2/2014 7:08:57 PM
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If you're including FPGA design in your list, I think you also need to include software IDE and programming language, as well as the programming and debugging hardware.

Sanjib.A
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Basic minimum toolset- affordability
Sanjib.A   1/2/2014 9:10:14 PM
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@Max: I agree with your list and yes we would need all of those for a fairly complex boards to more & more complex boards. That is why electronics design has been known as a costly investment (software tools as you mentioned + the lab instruments + certification cost) and those tools  don't come for free (for commercial use). Hence depending on the complexity of the design involved, we could sacrifice some of those as appropriate...compromising somewhere else - more bench testing, debugging and possible reiterations. :)

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Some thoughts
Max The Magnificent   1/3/2014 11:15:03 AM
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@Aeroengineer: For this you can get away without having some of the fancier things listed that are involved with microwave signal frequencies...

I must admit that the RF side of circuit board design is a bit of a black art to me

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Some thoughts
Max The Magnificent   1/3/2014 11:15:37 AM
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@Duane: I think you also need to include software IDE and programming language, as well as the programming and debugging hardware.

Good point

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Basic minimum toolset- affordability
Max The Magnificent   1/3/2014 11:18:17 AM
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@Sanjib: That is why electronics design has been known as a costly investment...

I must admit that the ever-increasing complexity is starting to worry me -- how do younger engineers learn all of this stuff? There wa smuch less to learn when I was at university -- the other stuff evolved over the last 35 years (LOL)

Garcia-Lasheras
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Re: Some thoughts
Garcia-Lasheras   1/3/2014 11:20:31 AM
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@Duane: "if you're including FPGA design in your list, I think you also need to include software IDE and programming language, as well as the programming and debugging hardware."

Well, I don't know why but you make me think in Altium Designer. FPGA and Software tools are pretty well integrated in the IDE, including libraries and debugging tools ;-)

elizabethsimon
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Depends on the complexity
elizabethsimon   1/3/2014 11:55:10 AM
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I've actually designed very simple PCBs using just the layout tool and instructions from the mechanical engineer (who presumabley had  some sort of 3D model) Of cours I'm talking about small boards with a couple sensors and pads to hook up the wires. For anything more complex I'll at least use the schematic capture. For most hobbiest stuff you probably don't need much more although I always seem to have to create at least one new part in the library. As Aeroengineer said, these capibilities are merging at the hobiest level so they see it as one package.

On the other hand if you want a complex design to work when it's produced by the thousands then you need to start using the analysis tools.

In my day job, I need to do power and thermal analysis and usually digital/ analog simulation, signal integrety and EMC/EMI on every design. I haven't gotten into the mechanical aspects or FPGA design so I don't personally use those tools but I use the results that are generated.

One of these days, I'll actually have time to do one of the "hobbiest" projects I've been contemplating. Probably something with LEDs...

 

antedeluvian
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PCB realization
antedeluvian   1/3/2014 12:13:28 PM
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Max

Most people seem to live without tthe ability to make the PCB in house, but there are those router/milling machines for milling PCBs, and not too far in the future (I hope), 3D layout printers.

MWagner_MA
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getting it right the first time...
MWagner_MA   1/3/2014 12:41:48 PM
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If you really understand PCB engineering, you will eventually locate tools to help clear various "hurdles" of typical problems that will arise.  A good set of tools and the understanding to apply them will allow you to produce a 100% functional board in ONE revision (assuming less than 500 parts).  Since the lead time to produce a board at reasonable cost is usually a few weeks - it is better approach to spend an extra few days looking at crosstalk, paracitic capacitance, trace impedance, loop area ect.  The physics of how a physical version of a circuit is well known and thus tools have been developed to help us engineers "see these problems".  Until you get to frequencies above 100Mhz, a prototype is useful primarily in optomizing component values, rather than determining a need to revise traces on the board.

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