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  • EEVblog #127 – PCB Design For Manufacture Tutorial

    Posted on November 15th, 2010 EEVblog 62 comments

    A how-to guide to taking your electronics project from prototype through to high volume PCB manufacture.
    Covers component selection and purchasing, SMD, DFM, PCB panelisation, gerber generation, drill files, pick and place files, and more.

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    • Jason

      Very helpful video Dave, I will definitely recommend to anyone looking for an easy to PCB design for mass production tutorial.

    • Addidis

      Nice ty , learning some about the options on digikey,

    • Darren

      Hi Dave,
      Been watching your blog for sometime. Excellent stuff! One question though – I noticed in this video you were using Altium Designer. I use this at work, and LOVE all the cool 3D features, along with all of the great manual routing tools. My question is, did you purchase your own license, or do you use a license through an employer? I would like to use Altium legitimately for my personal use, but it looks to be cost prohibitive. I’ve used Kicad, Eagle, and GEDA, but it is hard to when you’ve been spoiled at work. Just wondering. Keep up the great work!!

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        In the interests of disclosure, it is no secret that my employer IS Altium.

        • Darren

          Oh! Sorry, I missed that. I guess what I was wondering is, what is your take on licensing of software packages like Altium. Pricing seems quite extravagant for the casual user, kind of like how you mentioned how crazy prices are for scopes, etc.

          • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

            It is well known Altium abandoned the low end PCB/schematic design market a long long time ago. A real shame, because the product is so darn good and deserves to be available to all levels of the electronics design community, including the new emerging hacker/maker communities, not just those with 4 figure deep pockets. It pains me to see the rise of Eagle now in the hacker/maker community, because I see it as a mediocre tool.
            I have always had to use my employers copy as well, because yes, the cost of the PCB solution can be prohibitive to the individual. I wish that wasn’t the case, I would personally like to see a more affordable low end PCB solution. That’s my independent take as a user of the software for 20 years now.

            • Brian

              I really don’t care much for Eagle. I think gEDA is really too complex for anyone who isn’t an open source nerd. (I saw your interview with the gEDA guy).

              This leaves KiCAD as the main option. It currently does an okay job, it isn’t too hard to learn and I like how it works a lot more than Eagle (plus free). If the community got behind it in place of Eagle it could really become something great.

              Unrelated, I saw a post from you David in 2007 looking for an assembly house. If you or anyone else know of a good place to do 100-200 boards do let me know.

              • Larry R.

                Ditto all that. Kicad has some quirks, but so does Eagle. I haven’t found anything that it can’t do with if you’re willing to screw around with it. The weakness is the documentation, but I managed to figure it out.

            • James

              I miss Protel 99. It was I guess the last affordable PCB CAD and of course Protel turned into altium. I loved it, it was simple and great to use. Eagle is a piece of crap, might as well use one of the open source like kicad. It would be great if opensourced versions improved to such a point that they challenged the likes of Altium and pulsonix. Would serve them right for ignoring the smaller customers, that will never need all their autorouters and other addons. Opensource circuit simulation tools are already biting into that part of the business.

    • Jay K

      Very enlightening, and many thanks Dave! I especially liked the shots of the pic-n-place machines at work. Maybe for a future blog you could visit a manufacturer and film more of the production.

    • Jay

      Fantastic, Dave, and thanks very much! My favorite so far. Very informative, and I need more like this. I encourage you to go into more details on the various aspects, starting from “square one”, for people who are getting started.

    • Brizzy Mike

      Thanks for a very informative and enjoyable coverage of these aspects in EE.

    • http://www.youritronics.com Florin

      Dave, this is one of the greatest blog so far. You do know that now we’re all wondering what are those PCB’s for :-)

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        That’s half the fun!

    • http://www.protostack.com Daniel

      Great stuff as usual. Thanks again.

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        Thanks. And I’m sure I’ll get around to mentioning your protostack on the blog some time! but at my current rate it might be an obsolete model by then!

        • http://www.protostack.com Daniel

          That’s fine. If I update the design, I’ll be sure to let you know.

    • Alex

      This was long due. Thanks for it.
      You might want to consider making other blogs pointing out other manufacturing issues, like cases and materials, 3D case design, heat sink, environmental (protection against the elements) etc. Those are very important for makers (not only electronic design engineers) wanting to put their idea out on the market.

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        Yes, I could do dozens of blogs on all different aspects of getting an electronic product to market!

        • Mio Taalas

          I know how much you put work and effort to these blogs. They are great, very informative and coherent. Keep ‘em up! You have helped me a lot in my studies and my secret project. Thank you from all they way around the globe (Finland):)

    • Jasper

      Great blog! Very useful information for starting engineers. Thanks :D

    • http://giatsi.deetc.isel.pt Joao Assuncao

      A very insightful video (as usual). This is the kind of stuff they don’t teach in universities

    • peet

      thank you so much for this introduction into manufacturing techniques!

    • Raff.

      Thanks Dave, another excellent tutorial and look into the world of PCB design and manufacture. I have always wondered just how this process worked!

    • mike b

      Is there a website that’s good for finding electronic assembly services?

      I know of big assembly houses, but I’m hoping to find someone locally who can do it part time for some extra cash… no bga of course, just tqftp, 0402, 0603 etc

      I did a search on craigslist and ebay for smt electronic assembly, solder service, but can’t find anything (at least within the orange county california area)

      Any suggestions where to find or post this job? I’d feel embarrassed posting on indeed or monster since this is such a small job, but I can’t do it myself!

    • kodon

      Tubes – Pain in the ass!

      If you can get your IC’s on a reel, go for it! Tubes means you have to fill ‘em up all the time and they are really jumpy fellas. In a they can be placed upside down and the machine wont even notice it. So I recommend NOT to use tube packed components!

    • Tim

      Dave,

      Been watching your videos for a few months. I loved your video on dBs. It was a great feeling in class when the everyone was stumped but me when the professor asked for a back-of-the-napkin calculation.

      Though this video focused on the actual fabrication process, I’d love to see another video on simple two layer construction. I threw a schematic together the other night after watching this video, and realized when I’d finished that I’d placed a through hole component on the wrong layer, and it’d cover the solder pads when I placed it down.

      Of course there’s other things, such as how do I lay down a XO such that it can drive my IC properly, what’s a ground plane, etc. I’m sure you’re stacked on knowledge!

      Thanks for the videos!

      – Tim (CE Undergrad)

    • Neil

      Re your comments on numbers of board spins. As much as it pains me to admit it I was involved in a product that had 14 spins of one of the board. Most of them to do with passing EMC regulations but there were a couple of silly mistakes.

      If you are going to cover other aspects of product design please put in something about safety and creepage / clearance. I did meet a recent graduate who had only been trained in low voltage electronics and had never heard the terms. (I had to explain he couldn’t use a single 0603 resistor to connect to the mains)

      Neil

    • SkyFx

      Thanks for this great video. It

    • Jorge Garcia

      Hi Dave,

      Excellent Blog, one of the best I’ve seen. Definitely looking forward to more blogs on the subject.

      I’d like to ask what makes you feel that EAGLE is mediocre? I can fully understand that after using Altium Designer for 20 years, why would you want to use anything else? You can probably cite pages from the manual off the top of your head especially if you ever did support for the program.

      In the interest of disclosure, Cadsoft Computer IS my employer. And I feel the same way you do about my tool of choice. I can cite chapters and pages from the EAGLE manual of the top of my head, and I do support for the program on a daily basis.

      My point is that EAGLE, KiCAD, Altium, PADS, Proteaus,etc. are just tools. Some people like EAGLE, others prefer OrCAD, etc. All of the tools get the job done, as long as the user is skilled enough to make the best use of the tool.

      At this level, quality can’t be judged by price alone. Example, last time I checked Altium Designer cost 5,000 a seat plus 2,500 a year in maintenance. Worth every penny, lots of features, integrated package, 3D renderings, Verilog so on and so forth. Now let’s say I’m in the market to design PCBs that’s all I want to do. Do I wan’t to pay money for features I may not use? For example I’ve seen demos of people programming FPGA’s with A. Designer. That’s excellent if you need it, but I just want to make a board. That’s where EAGLE, GEDA, and KiCAD come in. The features you get are the ones necessary to make a board, nothing more, nothing less.

      I know I’ll be accused of bias, and what else, but when it comes down to it if you need to make a board any of the tools will do. EAGLE is used by companies such as Microchip, Analog Devices, TI, BMW, and others. I think that at least warrants some recognition.

      I’m sorry if I’ve rubbed anyone the wrong way it was not my intention.

      Best Regards,
      Jorge Garcia

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        I stand by my comment, Eagle simply is a more mediocre PCB tool compared to Altium, that is almost a fact, and I’m sure even you would admit that if you looked at it objectively, price, familiarity and fanboy/employee-ism aside.
        And that’s understandable because the tools are NOT in the same class or price range. It is actually a completely pointless comparison because you are not comparing packages at the same price or target customer level.

        What you say is correct, if you really want to or have to then you can create the same board using any package, even free ones. You’ll get no argument from me.

        But if Altium was the same price as Eagle, would you be so confident in defending it? I doubt it, CADsoft/Element14 and DesignSpark et.al would be shaking in their boots.

        You have read far more into my comment about Eagle than I intended. It was simply meant to imply that it was a shame Altium does not have a low cost and/or free version to compete with Eagle in the emerging hacker/maker space. If they were the same price I recon Altium would be #1 in the hacker/maker community instead of Eagle, because IMO it is the better and more powerful tool. All I ever hear is people bitch about the usability of Eagle, but they still like it and use it because it is the right price point for them.

        Yes, that’s biased opinion too, because I’ve been using Protel/Altium for 20 years. But I also like to think that I can look at things objectively as well.

        I am not dissing Eagle, it is a usable tool at a certain price point. I’d say one of the best free tool choices for the hacker/maker.

        Dave.

        • Jorge Garcia

          Hi Dave,

          If Altium was the same price as EAGLE, EAGLE wouldn’t exist.EAGLE was created to fill in the need for an easy to use low-cost PCB tool. EAGLE was never intended to enter the business space of programs like Altium and OrCAD.Frankly, it wouldn’t survive if it was priced like Altium.

          You’ll get no argument from me that Altium has more features, and is a more powerful tool. That’s also the reason it has the price tag it does.

          I think it’s important to remember that many hackers/makers don’t have an electronics background, so they are looking for a package that’s easy to use and will support them. Even if KiCAD and GEDA are(were) easy to use, formal support is nonexistent. The high-end commercial packages provide support but are high cost. I’d like to think EAGLE is in between(low cost and good support) and that’s why it’s rising in the hacker/makerspace.

          So I think the conclusion is, if Altium and EAGLE had the same cost, I would agree Altium would win. However I don’t see how it could ever drop in price to the hobbyist level, maintaining all the extra features cost real money.

          It would be naive of me to think that someone with an Altium license would drop it to use EAGLE. However, I will argue that EAGLE fills a need and fills it well.

          It’s been nice to discuss this with you. For your info we have the PCB design tutorial you wrote on our website, many of our users have enjoyed it, including myself.

          Keep up the good work.

          Jorge Garcia

          • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

            The only reason Eagle has gained the market space is has in the hacker/maker community is because there is a usable but limited free version available. And it was indeed a smart move.
            That is why most open source hardware designs are designed around the limitations of the free version of Eagle.

            Eagle is actually not that low cost IMO, it’s $1000 for the full version of schematic+PCB

            And the $500 version is limited to 160x100mm which can be quite crippling for many designs. That forces many to get the $1000 package just to do a simple single sided LED board for example that is longer than 160mm.

            There is actually no reason why Altium could not offer a similar unsupported limited free or low cost version as well. Because if it’s unsupported then it costs the company nothing nothing in that respect, and the people who would use it would likely not be able to afford the full package anyway, so it can be argued that there would be little or no loss of market share by releasing such versions.
            But so far they have chosen not to do this.

            As for formal support, that is not needed. Community forums will always spring up and can arguably offer the same or better support at no cost to the company. That would allow the company to keep their prices low. In that respect releasing a free version of a product can essentially cost a company nothing, but (as show with Eagle) can have a large upside in terms of exposure and community acceptance.

            gEDA and KiCAD have not risen up into general popularity because IMO they are just not mature enough of a product yet. If they were mature enough and easier to use then they would rise up and community support would naturally follow, and Eagle wuld probably cease to exists. That’s just how the world works.

            Dave.

    • walter delbono

      eevblog gets better day by day…

      :)

    • Anthony

      Heres an interesting pcb technique my cousin put me on to.

      http://www.schmartboard.com/

      would be great for using pcb to prototype, it is suppose to make surface mount easier to do by hand.

      The Free sample is kind of lame though its just a small board that cant be used for anything, I think its just to try testing soldier surface mount. But it comes with a 10 pin chip, > symbol and marked ADTL 84 #0621

      Most the PCB products look like surface mount to through hole conversion boards.

    • Seb_the_frog

      I am using Eagle or Cadstar at work, because
      they are affordable for small company.
      Paying 2500/year for bug fixe is no way
      for me.
      So I don’t have 3D and panel.

      Do you know some affordable tool for
      panel from gerbers?

      Seb.

      • Jorge Garcia

        Hi Seb,

        You can panelize within EAGLE, it’s a little messy but nothing out of this world.

        First open the board you want to panelize.Turn all of your layers on. Run the panelize.ulp that is included with EAGLE. This ULP will take all of the reference designators and writes them on a text layer, that way your designators won’t change when you make copies of the board.

        After running the ULP, Group your entire board with the GROUP command.Now click on the cut icon(Scissors) then right-click near the group, a small context menu will pop-up select Cut:Group.

        Now open a Clean board, click on paste you’ll see your board on the mouse cursor ready to be placed. You can place it manually or type in coordinates. From here on you just paste as many copies as you need.Clean up the board, include features such as the ones mentioned by Dave and Export the gerbers.

        I assume here that, you are using the professional version of EAGLE. If you need to panelize from gerbers GC-Prevue and Viewmate will allow you to do that but I think you’ll need paid versions of their software. I tried seeing if I could perform the panelization through gerbv of the GEDA suite but it currently only works as a viewer.

        If you have any other questions you can e-mail me. Support@cadsoftusa.com, that way we don’t take up any of the EEVblog forum bandwidth.

        Best Regards,
        Jorge Garcia

    • Newton Domineghetti

      Beautiful Job !!!
      That

    • yehdev_cc

      hi Dave, thanks for the great videos …
      is there any direct download link for this video ? I just can’t watch it on one time due to some traffic and speed limits(it’s > 900 MB video !) or may be you can upload it as two parts :/… anyway, thanks a lot for these helpful videos.

      • yehdev_cc

        I’ve found the download link, I didn’t noticed it before …. this is very helpful. thank you very much.

        • http://tabalabs.com.br Alexandre ‘Tabajara’ Souza

          …Which is not working anymore, tried to download #112 and #117 and a “file not found” message appears. Can you correct, Dave? :oD Congratulations for such a nice video blog, I hope someday to do something this way :D

    • http://www.karlvonmoller.com Karl von Moller

      Really enjoyed this one Dave! Best guided tour of the process I’ve yet seen. well done!

    • Big Al

      Dave,
      I cant seem to download all this video from your download link. It keeps truncating the .M4V file at around 82MB instead of the full 156MB. Have tried 2 computers now.
      Is it corrupt at your end at all ?
      Like to watch them from DVD on telly you see !

      Thanks.

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        No problem at my end. The file has been downloaded (presumably successfully) over 3000 times. So must be a glitch in the matrix.
        Works for me when I hit download and SaveAs.
        This truncated file has been seen occasionally on the server, but have never tracked down the cause.
        Dave.

    • spark

      Great blog Dave,
      even meal i was eating tasted better :)
      Keep it up :)
      ( Greetings from Slovakia :) )

    • Magicmushroom666

      Brilliant blog as always!

      Love the collection of panels you have there, each one full of stories of their production no doubt.

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        Love the collection of panels you have there, each one full of stories of their production no doubt.

        Indeed!

    • Edward

      One of the best ones yet, Dave. Two thumbs up from Seattle. In your own words: “A winner”. Much appreciated!

    • http://www.armtronics.com/ J.P.

      Excellent video! I’m a computer engineering student working on senior design. The things I’ve learned in this video will come in handy.

      I’ve reposted your video on my site! http://www.armtronics.com/

      Great job

    • Eric V.

      Outstanding video Dave, Do you have any resources or links to tutorials regarding potting or encapsulation of a board? I have a design that I would like to make as a SMT that is potted and soldered to a motherboard via thru-hole. What’s your take on encapsulation?

      Thanks for your time.

      Best Regards,
      Eric

    • Taras

      Dave, thank you for the useful post! I red all comments and i didn’t find any question about some extra sources of information on this topic.
      So would you recommend some textbooks about design for mass production?

    • http://www.siliconvalleygarage.com vincent himpe

      On the Altium vs other tool discussion. Let me add a few words too …
      There is a KEY difference between a tool like Altium Designer and Eagle / Kicad /gEDA and many others.

      Altium is a DESIGN tool. Eagle / KiCad gEDA and others are DRAWING tools.

      I can take a full design in Altium ( Make a Schematic, write the VHDL and verilog code for the FPGA , simulate my analog and digital blocks, write and debug the processor code , Do my PCB layout and much more. IF i change a pin assignment in the FPGA this will propagate to my PCB and to my C code !

      Later on i can debug the system through JTAG. I can trace and debug my CPU code, my FPGA code AND i can see on the PCB layout and schematic in real time when a line toggles on the PCB. If i press a button on the board it will show the state of the pins ON the PCB layout.

      Try doing that with the ‘pen and pencil’ replacements like eagle.

      Altium is in a league of its own. There is no other tools out there that even comes close, and certainly not at that price point. I have been a user since it was version 1.41 under dos (Autotrax). I regularly plag with all these other tools , only to drop them after half an hour. Too weak ,too much to do the hard way, no integration.

      If you are a student you can get a 100$ licence full blown , no restrictions.( valid for 4 years i believe)
      Service subscription is not mandatory.
      You can also buy a nanoboard 3000 for 395 and get the entire system minus the PCB …

      Or you can save some money like i did, wait until they have a promo and buy a perpetual licence for 2500$. Best money ever spent. I use this thing daily (both at work and at home).
      Instead of buying that new tv to replace your 2 year old one ,invest in some really good stuff that will help you in the long run.

      just my 2 pennies …

    • voidptr

      really good vid for noob like me :o)
      thanks !

    • Ivan

      What about tray packaging? Are PCB manufacturers OK with that? I mean, do they have to transfer them and, even worst, charge you?

    • Peter

      Very nice training video. I’ve been involved in lots of designs, but only lately in PC Board production issues and your video was really helpful. Thanks.

    • Dan

      Very informative – I have been looking for a blogger or website where I can hire someone to help me modify/design a simple pcb that runs a 5 led light array. I am in southwest Florida and there is not even a Devry school in the area – any suggestions? Thanks in advance – Dan

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        Try asking in the EEVblog forum.

    • http://avanticircuits.com/ Ryne Allen

      This website has a PCB Glossary (http://avanticircuits.com/pcb_glossary), which might be helpful to some of us newbies. There is also a page which shows the various departments (http://avanticircuits.com/capabilities/departments/) of a real PCB production facility.

    • John

      Great !
      More of this stuff please !

    • http://www.rushpcb.co.uk pcb design

      Nice project!I’ll start mine very soon..Thanks for inspiration..