How to Address Design Issues Before It’s Too Late

June 20, 2016 David Marrakchi

 

How to Address Design Issues Before It’s Too Late
What measures do you take to see past the quality testing of your PCB to ensure you never have to worry about PDN issues post-production? The key lies in PDN analysis automation. Read on to learn more.

I ran PDN Analyzer on a board currently in fabrication and already caught a mistake I made. I had a footprint peppered with vias and forgot to make them blinds and they were eating up my power plane. PDN Analyzer is proving to be a very useful tool to identify these issues before I ever get to fabrication.

RF Engineer - Government Contractor

PCB delamination and fusing from pinch points, an increase in copper resistance from heat, leading to a drop in PDN voltages, increasingly complex power management challenges due to contribution from PDN heat

Every designer has the same nightmare, waking up on the wrong side of the news to learn that your newly released product has to be mitigated in the field due to a costly error. Or even worse, that product you spent hours designing now has to be recalled.

These situations can have a negative ripple effect across your entire company. And in an age where the consumer speaks up, it might even land you a hate-filled hashtag for the rest of the world to see. Thinking about this scenario makes you wonder, is there anything that can be done to reduce the impact of in-field errors, or is that just the nature of engineering when luck isn’t on your side?

The Traditional Path to In-Field Disasters

You just received the final results for your board’s accelerated life testing, and everything looks good and ready for production. The premise behind this life testing process is pretty straightforward - if your production-equivalent prototypes passes the quality testing phase, then you’re bound to have a reliable PCB, right? Wrong.

The truth is, it’s impossible to test the prolonged stress that your PCB will endure out in the field under a variety of conditions and use cases. The products that we design today have an increased IC power dissipation driven mainly by density and speed. And when you couple this need for increased density and speed with reduced power demand, your Power Distribution Network (PDN) becomes a complex maze of voltage rails supplying lower voltages with increasing current speeds.

When you throw this high-current density mixture together, you just might find yourself with:

  • PCB delamination and fusing from pinch points.

  • An increase in copper resistance from heat, leading to a drop in PDN voltages.

  • Increasingly complex power management challenges due to contribution from PDN heat.

Navigating this complex maze of increased board density and speed with lower power consumption is no easy task. So what do you need to do to ensure that you’ve provided enough metal on your board without relying on conservative rules of thumb and limited prototype simulations?

Understanding Changes Before Production, Not After

The key to solving in-field failures starts at the design process itself, not after. If you could just see how your PDN looks at design time while also making necessary changes in the same moment, then production becomes a final benchmark, not a constantly moving finish line.

With PDN Analyzer, this process is quite possible. Within Altium Designer, you can resolve PDN issues as they arise in your board layout process, not after. And with the familiarity of your existing design workspace, getting started with PDN analysis takes a matter of minutes, not hours or days.

Want to try it yourself? Register now for a 30-day free trial for PDN Analyzer.

Image by Paul Charmbury from his blog post on www.how-to-repair.com

About the Author

David Marrakchi

David currently serves as a Sr. Technical Marketing Engineer at Altium and is responsible for managing the development of technical marketing materials for all Altium products. He also works closely with our marketing, sales, and customer support teams to define product strategies including branding, positioning, and messaging. David brings over 15 years of experience in the EDA industry to our team, and he holds an MBA from Colorado State University and a B.S. in Electronics Engineering from Devry Technical Institute.

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