The PCB design is not a single process but multiple stages of complexity. To get to a fully functional PCB ready to power a device, it will pass through many hands. So, which of these stages is the most important in its production? Let’s take a look and try to decide.
The CAD Design
The first stage of a PCB’s life is often with a PCB designer and some electronic CAD software. There are many on the market but they ultimately allow a designer to sit down and fully plan how they want the PCB to behave. From how it will fit together and look physically to the functions it will perform, they are all planned here.
As you can imagine, electronic CAD software represents a very important stage of PCB design as this is where the design first takes shape. By the time the schematic is ready for manufacture, it should be complete and ready to function.
After design comes manufacturing. The files with the technical aspects of PCB design will be sent to a company or person who specializes in manufacturing and they will create the board. One of the most common techniques used here is chemical etching, where the design of the PCB is etched into the copper plate.
Once the board has been correctly etched, you will then have to drill the holes through it and attach all of the components and this in itself can be a lengthy and delicate process. However, when you have completed it, you will have the circuit board in front of you. Thus, it could be argued that this is the most important stage as it is the one that brings the circuit board to life.
Once you have the circuit board, you are going to need to run it through multiple tests to ensure that it is working the way it is supposed to. Some of these tests can be run by the manufacturer while others will be run by the designer. If any flaws are revealed, the designer may have to return to the schematic and make some adjustments to fix the problem.
This is an incredibly important stage as it proves whether or not the PCB is viable for use. There is no point developing and making a PCB if there are going to be no tests run to see if it is actually going to work.
So, Which is the Most Important?
Instead of placing one stage over another in terms of importance, it is instead important to think of each one as being equal. They are all needed for a working PCB to come out the other side of the process and if one stage does not work there is a knock-on effect to the others. Only one conclusion is possible; when it comes to PCB design, the CAD software stage, manufacture, and testing are all equally important in determining whether or not a functioning PCB is made.