PCB Design Management

Having provide PCB design consultancy for over 20 years we are vastly experienced in all aspects of PCB design.

A core part of our PCB consultancy is defining the management process and defining design life-cycles. The design process is complex enough, creative designers have enough on your plate with actually designing the products. However true efficiency assisting bringing a design to completion quicker is through administration and management.  The definition of the life cycle, setting up libraries, managing drawing templates and managing company scripts is NOT your core business – developing new products for the market is !

TBS have become specialist in this management and through the implementation of Altium Vault technology, now known as Concorde Pro™, TBS can add real value to your design function.

With the aim of shortening the time to implement the technology, TBS are able well positioned to work with new customers to install and configure Concorde Pro; from categorising component types to defining design life-cycles, TBS have the experience to accelerate the adoption process.

Managing the design process from initial concept through to realising the completed and working PCB has always been complex; the speed at which today’s electronic market moves means there is a constant push for shorter design cycles. The technology push of IoT (Internet of Things) has challenged companies to develop ever-more sophisticated products that are inter-connected such as kettles that can be controlled using an APP on your smart phone ensuring that as you walk through the door a pot of boiling water awaits you ready to make that much needed cup of tea or coffee (other hot beverages are also available).

The rush to get a design to market has been aided by the general improvement in CAE/CAD software as well as the development of virtual prototyping using simulation tools. Functional circuit simulation such as SPICE or Modelsim, signal integrity tools such as Hyperlynx have been available for many years aiding designers to de-risk their design decisions during the complete design process; however, if the under-pinning, traditional CAD data, is not correct the design will not be successful.

The starting point for a solid design process are the libraries, mundane as it may seem, a well-managed library is crucial to the design process. Many a PCB has failed due to an incorrect footprint or schematic symbol to footprint mismatch.

The detailed design contains many stages, component research, library creation, schematic development, initial analysis, through to layout, post route analysis and mechanical integration. Each step of this process has to be carefully managed.

The final stage, once checking is complete, is to actually send the data-pack with the correct manufacturing files to the fabricator and assembler. Sending the wrong data will undo all the good design work – the right data at the right time is crucial! To ensure that the data-pack is correct another facet to the process is knowing the exact status of each of the design elements at time of release! To shorten the design-cycle many design teams work concurrently, sharing data across multiple disciplines, who’s doing what and when and is the task finished has to be managed.

In this short series of articles we will take a look at the design process from a data management perspective, considering the complexities of controlling data from initial concept through development and finally to the production stage. During this process the design team have to manage the library data including symbols, footprints and associated parameters, the supply chain data as well as the status of the physical design data itself; its readiness for releasing to be manufactured.

The life cycle of each of these elements plays a crucial role in the success of a new product introduction. The story does not end there, although the design team control the lifecycle of the final product itself there are other elements such as components that can change status during the production state of the product requiring a swap-out. But what designs are affected – how widespread is the change? Have these components been used previously?

The series starts with looking at the role of libraries within the process and then moves onto the main design activities, followed by the release of the data to manufacturing and finally a round-up of the topics covered.

Order of articles

PCB Libraries

Managing PCB work processes and design updates

Releasing data for PCB production

Round up of managing PCB design