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Over the years, I have seen a lot of different circuit board designs. In the service bureaus, I saw many different design technologies, while in companies with captive design departments I saw a lot of different design methodologies. Finally, as a CAD application engineer, I saw both different technologies and different methodologies.
I think that it is safe to say that I have had a pretty good sampling of our industry and I am grateful for the variety that I have been exposed to. The truly interesting thing for me, however, has been in seeing all the different methods that the hundreds of designers that I’ve worked with have used in the creation of their PCB designs. We are all unique and that, combined with all the different types of designs out there, adds up to a lot of different ways to successfully complete a PCB design.
In the service bureau, we had multiple customers with different specifications to follow and different libraries to use. Some designers would just plow into a new design and worry about fixing the details later, while others would invest lots of time in research up front to avoid the corrections later in the design cycle. I have seen it happen over and over again; those who plowed into a design would spend a lot of time correcting mistakes later, while those who were overly cautious would take too long in their work.
At the captive shops that I’ve worked with, where the designers were more involved in the entire design cycle and had better access to the corporate libraries, staff engineers, etc., the story was often the same. Some designers would jump into the deep end of the pool of design without any thought to drowning while others would be so busy lacing up their life preservers of preparation that they would take too long getting out of the shallows and into the depth of their design.
So, what’s the best approach here? How can we combine the best of both worlds in order to get the greatest design in the shortest time possible? What does it take to create the most efficient design process? Here are some of my thoughts on the matter:
First of all, be prepared. I know that this approach can be a buzz-kill; after all, we designers really like to get into the fun part of the design as quickly as possible. But I believe that being prepared is something that helps everyone in life, not just the Boy Scouts. When I was flying, we were careful to go through our pre-flight checklists so there weren’t any unexpected surprises later. When getting ready for a trip, we make sure that we are completely packed so that five days into a two-week trip we aren’t unexpectedly running out of underwear.
To read this entire column, which appeared in the September 2017 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.