What is PCB prototyping, and how can it help the PCB engineering and design process?

pcb prototyping

A PCB prototype is an early sample or model of a product and is developed to assess a new design. At MJS Designs, prototyping ensures the circuit board works properly and catches flaws early on. If minor issues are not caught quickly, they can lead to costlier problems later in the process.

PCB Prototypes Prevent Hurdles

Some companies still use in-house teams of electrical engineers and electronic technicians who build circuit boards in a lab. These are usually hand-wired or bread-boarded, which can cause issues and lead to potential redesign. It may also hinder the development time from prototype to production.

In addition, hand-soldering and hand-wiring circuit boards creates issues for complex boards requiring the smaller passive components and advanced integrated circuit technology.

PCB Assembly: Prototyping Is Standard on Every Project

It is important to identify issues during the design for manufacturing (DFM) analysis. Because the software tools and manufacturing equipment are so advanced, the cycle-time to build a circuit board is quicker, making it faster to build a prototype and get closer to the final product in the initial phases. The practice of prototyping shortens the traditional process from a few months to just a few weeks. During this step, it is not uncommon to have a few minor wire edits.

Our company uses Siemens’ Valor™ NPI software, which identifies issues during the DFM process, and has been proven to reduce the amount of re-spins. The technology provides an interface between the PCB design stage and the electronics manufacturing stage to ensure a smooth transition to production. This catches the issues quickly—such as footprint errors, silkscreen clearances, solder mask slivers, and signal spacing, to name a few—so the focus can be on optimizing the designs for manufacturing as efficiently as possible.

For example, if the footprint for the prototype is designed incorrectly, the part will not fit properly on the circuit board. The component will either need to be modified to fit or the prototype will require a complete redesign, which can incur extremely high costs. Once the issues are resolved and final design files are created, the final version will be ready for production manufacturing.

Finding these errors in the analysis step is key to saving thousands or millions of dollars. If the issues are not identified early on in the development stage and the product build continues, the errors are generated throughout the life cycle of the product, especially impacting test results, sourcing components and the supply chain.

At MJS Designs, we work with advanced software and manufacturing technology to ensure our clients receive a seamless process in prototyping circuit boards and transitioning to production builds.

Begin the process of prototyping your PCB by connecting with our engineering team today, click here to connect.