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PCB Design Tips for DIY Enthusiasts in 2020

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Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and similar platforms have certainly changed the DIY landscape forever. There are now more advanced projects based on existing boards like Arduino. The IDEs and flexibility of these base platforms also make them suitable for engineers looking to develop hardware-based solutions.

Ready-made boards and starter kits, however, aren’t the only way you can develop hardware in DIY projects. In fact, many DIY enthusiasts are now making their own PCBs and creating custom hardware for their projects. If you are interested in designing and making your own boards, these next several tips and tricks are certainly handy.

Use Design Suites

There are a lot of tools you can use to develop everything from schematics to real 3D models of the board. You can, for instance, use an online PCB stackup calculator to measure impedance when designing high-speed, high-frequency boards.

However, the best tools are the ones that offer all the features you need in one software. Altium Designer is a leader in this space, offering features that will help you design, model, simulate, and test circuit boards without using multiple tools to do so.

PCB design suites help shorten the time needed to develop a custom board. Since you can test component clearance and simulate whether the routes work properly inside the same environment, less trial and error is needed.

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Traces and Routes

PCB Design Tips

Routing is perhaps the most challenging part of developing a custom board. You cannot just make a random route to connect components; there is a bit of planning to be done in order to create an efficient and effective PCB.

Remember that traces have resistance and that you need to manage that resistance when designing the board. Keep loops small and make sure you organize the layout of the board for maximum efficiency.

As mentioned before, you can test these things when working with design tools like Altium. Virtual testing lets you anticipate bottlenecks and potential issues with the board even before you print your first one. Even complex boards can be created quickly.

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Manage Noise


One thing that many DIY enthusiasts often forget when creating custom boards is the importance of managing noise. You have to make sure that the board has sufficient grounding, and that routes are made to be as efficient as possible.

At the same time, consider using heatsinks and thermal vias to effectively transfer heat. Components operating in higher temperatures will produce more noise and aren’t always operating at their optimum capacity.

As an added step, be mindful of how components are organized and spaced. You want heat-generating components to be on different sides of the board so that you don’t end up with a PCB that gets really hot really quickly. Heat-sensitive components must also be placed far away from those that generate a lot of heat.

These are simple tips that can be implemented right away when you are designing a custom board for your DIY project. Whether you are creating an add-on for Raspberry Pi, building a custom module for Arduino, or creating something new entirely, these tips are equally applicable.