Beyond Design: The Key to Product Reliability


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With today’s rapid product development cycles and time-to-market pressures, PCB designers are pushed to their limit. This situation leaves many developers with the question of how to ensure that their high-speed digital design performs to expectations, is stable given all possible diverse environments, and is reliable over the products projected life cycle. As developers avoid the expense and delays of re-engineering the product, they look to employ design integrity methodologies during the design phase.

For a sufficiently large number of electronics products, failures are distributed in time as shown in Figure 1. This curve is called “the bathtub curve” and displays the typical reliability of diverse products regardless of their functionality. One would expect a product to fail after some years of service but preferably long after the product becomes obsolete. Premature failures are of particular concern and are typically the result of poor design practice or substandard manufacture. This column will focus on the design aspects.

The cost of development is dramatically reduced if the simulation is employed early in the design cycle. If changes are made late in the design process, then it takes more time, people, materials, and money to complete the project. The advantage of simulation is that it identifies issues early in the design process and rectifies them before they become a major problem.

Design changes that occur:

  • In the conceptual stage cost nothing
  • During the design stage requires just a little extra time
  • During the test stage means that you have to regress one stage
  • During production—or worse yet, in the field—can cost millions to fix and possibly damage the company’s reputation

Having the project completed on time and within budget means that costs are cut by reducing the design cycle and generating higher profits due to shorter time-to-market and an extended product life cycle.

To read this entire column, which appeared in the June 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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