Yes PCB layout design is one of the most important component in electronics. I remember when we were respinning the CPCI boards for RoHS compliance we spent many weeks in PCB layout design review. Its worth spending few weeks before releasing the gerbers to manufacturing house than disucc later when you have the boards in hand and you see the real problem.
I recognize all of the items mentioned in this article: The PCB design is alter important. It is true art, often done by people who have the most global view in the R&D Department. If not, quit your job and find another, because your company certainly will get into trouble... ;-)
Silicon desigh has gone a long route, with enormous performance improvements. Unfortunately, CAD designers are drawing their circuits with the same ugly symbols delivered by those lazy-easy-money-making CAD companies: I think the bottleneck for future developments lays here: There is no innovation in CAD, except for adding useless 'manager time scheduling and planning tools' etc.
PCB's are the same as long as I am in the industry (25 years or so) except for the fact that ordering boards has become offordable. For the rest it is the same technology, hence, very hard to get the performance right with such a limited toolchain: The world is flat on PCB planet. Of course there are material improvements and new finishing options, but in comparison to SoC designs with 4 billion transistors on board you have to admit that it is not a big improvement.
But fortunately it still can be done, with a good analog / RF guts feeling, and limited (yes, limited) partial simulation. The nicest part I find the final stage: Playing with nice measurement goodies (old HP and Tek stuff will do as well! ) to do board verification with TDR and a good Network Analyzer. Then you realize that the whole world is analog, even the 'digital' SoC design you planted on your board...
"These steps of figuring out possible sources of error pay huge dividends. You can eliminate extra board spins and lengthy time sinks at this point. Of course, experience is the best teacher."
I completely agree with you. I try to maintain a PCB design checklist which has different sections for EMC, Signal Integrity (SI), Power Integrity, Thermal, Safety and check points specific to those requirements. Some could be redundant and interrelated (e.g. SI & EMC) but I just let it remain like that. Every time I learn from a failure of my design (last 14 years) or somebody else's design, I just update the checklist. Before releasing the Gerber I make sure I have gone through that atleast to ensure I have not missed anything. This is what I do apart from various reviews. Do you suggest any other best practices?
@kwasi_v: Sure! I would be happy to share it with you. Kindly allow some time for me, as I have to put it together in a soft form so that I could share the same....currently it is all scattered between my notebook, an excel file, a MS word document and a MS Power point. By the way, what kinds of designs you have started doing? What is the signal frequency etc.?