Your Electronic Design Guide

Circuit board prototyping

As we head into the holiday season, there will be many electronics purchased. Parents will gift their children with the latest mobile phone and tablet devices. Spouses will gift their significant other with musical players. Even grandparents will purchase new desktop computers to keep in touch with their growing grandchildren. Do you know how any of these electronic devices work? Do you know the process that it takes to create an electronic product from the initial idea to the final electronic item? This prototype PCB guide will allow you to learn about the design of your favorite electronic items.

The importance of a good design
The first step in the prototype PCB process is the PCB design. Initial designs might include very basic of designs that are not yet ready to manufacture. However, as the design gets closer to the PCB manufacturing process, a more intricate and detailed design is needed. The design will tell the printer exactly where each electronic component goes. There are currently three methods to print the legend, which contains the component designators, switch settings, test points and other indications helpful in assembling, testing, and servicing the circuit board, silk screen printing, liquid photo imaging, and ink jet printing.

Initial printing process
Many prototype PCBs take numerous prints to get the final product correct. An initial product might be printed and then any problems identified and noted. The next print will then improve upon these electronic problems. Prototype PCB failure can be linked to one of two factors, performance problems from environmental stresses or problems caused by the manufacturer during the production process. It is also possible that the PCB prototype will go back to the PCB design and layout process to correct problems with the design.

Different materials might be tested
It might also be necessary to test out different material types to get the final product right. The most common is FR4 glass epoxy. FR4 glass epoxy is the primary insulating substrate upon which the vast majority of rigid PCBs are produced. A thin layer of copper foil is laminated to one or both sides of an FR4 panel. Circuitry interconnections are etched into copper layers to produce printed circuit boards, and eventually, the final electronic product. Complex circuits, however, are produced in multiple layers. These complex boards are usually your holiday electronics, including desktops, tablets, and mobile phones.

The length of manufacturing time
The exact amount of time that it takes to produce an electronic item from initial design to the final product significantly varies. It can depend on many factors including the type of design if any problems occurred during the printing process, and how fast the PCB manufacturer is. Different PCB printing methods have different print times. Usually, larger companies that put out a lot of product have the fasted of methods. However, businesses or designers that are just starting out might have slower times. They might even be required to wait until they have a higher volume to schedule a circuit board prototyping and printing process. This is often why some electronic products are released quickly, while others seem to take forever to get released.

Most people do not think much about the electronics they purchase. Although they become an extremely important part of your everyday life, you probably are not aware of how they work internally. You also probably never consider the long process of how it was initially designed and how that led to the layout and eventually, the print. Understanding this process can give you a deeper appreciation of the many electronic products currently in your house.

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