Free Trials

Download a free trial to find out which Altium software best suits your needs

How to Buy

Contact your local sales office to get started on improving your design environment

Downloads

Download the latest in PCB design and EDA software

  • PCB DESIGN SOFTWARE
  • Altium Designer

    Complete Environment for Schematic + Layout

  • CircuitStudio

    Entry Level, Professional PCB Design Tool

  • CircuitMaker

    Community Based PCB Design Tool

  • NEXUS

    Agile PCB Design For Teams

  • CLOUD PLATFORM
  • Altium 365

    Connecting PCB Design to the Manufacturing Floor

  • COMPONENT MANAGEMENT
  • Altium Concord Pro

    Complete Solution for Library Management

  • Octopart

    Extensive, Easy-to-Use Component Database

  • PRODUCT EXTENSIONS
  • PDN Analyzer

    Natural and Effortless Power Distribution Network Analysis

  • See All Extensions
  • EMBEDDED
  • TASKING

    World-Renowned Technology for Embedded Systems Development

  • TRAININGS
  • Live Courses

    Learn best practices with instructional training available worldwide

  • On-Demand Courses

    Gain comprehensive knowledge without leaving your home or office

  • ONLINE VIEWER
  • Altium 365 Viewer

    View & Share electronic designs in your browser

  • Altium Designer 20

    The most powerful, modern and easy-to-use PCB design tool for professional use

    ALTIUMLIVE

    Annual PCB Design Summit

    • Forum

      Where Altium users and enthusiasts can interact with each other

    • Blog

      Our blog about things that interest us and hopefully you too

    • Ideas

      Submit ideas and vote for new features you want in Altium tools

    • Bug Crunch

      Help make the software better by submitting bugs and voting on what's important

    • Wall

      A stream of events on AltiumLive you follow by participating in or subscribing to

    • Beta Program

      Information about participating in our Beta program and getting early access to Altium tools

    All Resources

    Explore the latest content from blog posts to social media and technical white papers gathered together for your convenience

    Downloads

    Take a look at what download options are available to best suit your needs

    How to Buy

    Contact your local sales office to get started improving your design environment

    • Documentation

      The documentation area is where you can find extensive, versioned information about our software online, for free.

    • Training & Events

      View the schedule and register for training events all around the world and online

    • Design Content

      Browse our vast library of free design content including components, templates and reference designs

    • Webinars

      Attend a live webinar online or get instant access to our on demand series of webinars

    • Support

      Get your questions answered with our variety of direct support and self-service options

    • Technical Papers

      Stay up to date with the latest technology and industry trends with our complete collection of technical white papers.

    • Video Library

      Quick and to-the-point video tutorials to get you started with Altium Designer

    How to Optimize Your Design for Product Serviceability

    September 5, 2017

    Woman rubbing her temples at computer

    Have you ever gone into a situation thinking that you’re totally prepared, only to come out of it feeling like you are totally clueless? Unfortunately, I have experienced this more times than I would like to recount. This was especially the case when I started designing products for serviceability or design for repair. There are many factors to consider before you decide whether your product should be designed for serviceability, and you should take the time to consider their feasibility. If the design for product serviceability and repair is your final decision then the bottom line is, you need to include features that make your product easy to service and troubleshoot. Since my initial design errors, I’ve learned how to optimize by design for product serviceability. Here are some helpful tips.

    1. Add Visual Indicators

    The servicing process for electronics on-site can be overwhelming for a support team, especially the malfunction is causing a delay in critical operations. Having a few well-placed visual indicators, like LEDs or LCDs, can help the support team quickly hone in on the problem. You can use LEDs to indicate that the board is being powered, that the microcontroller is alive, or that the board is properly transmitting and receiving data.

    2. Label your PCB

    Your tech support team can be armed with the latest schematics, but if you are not labeling onboard components properly then they will spend a lot of time hunting for the right part. Use a system to designate high-quality components according to their module and make sure that silkscreen labels are placed next to the right components. You’ll also want to add meaningful labels beside designators for wire to board connections. Labels like “PC” easily tell technicians that a particular connector is connected to a PC. You’ll also want to add polarity signs like “+” and “-” when incoming wire connections are polarity sensitive.

    3. Implement Error Logging Capability

    You can’t neglect error logging when you are designing complicated embedded systems. In most cases, problems and bugs that escaped lab testing are difficult to track on site. Those problems are often triggered by a combination of variables and cannot be reproduced easily. To make matters worse, the system may have been reset by the time the support team attends to the problem. At the very least, a basic error logging mechanism that involves nonvolatile memories like electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM) or Flash should be incorporated into the design. An error code is definitely better than making a wild guess when troubleshooting a problem.

    Bug on a binary background
    Instead of hunting for a hardware or software bug, log the error when it occurs.

    4. Ease Of Firmware Update

    While this is really the responsibility of the firmware engineer, it helps to know that leaving the debugging pins after the prototyping phase can help the design team to sometimes run diagnostic test code on site when that appears the best way to locate bugs or perform on the field firmware update. In a more elegant method, adding a microSD card circuitry can allow firmware upgrade by merely inserting a card with the latest version of the firmware.

    5. Use Pluggable Connectors

    Often the best way to identify a problem is to isolate and rule out other possibilities. When you have tens of digital inputs connected to a PCB and you’re not sure which are the problematic ones, you need to systematically test them. Pluggable connectors allow the support technician to quickly remove a connection, instead of wasting time in screwing and unscrewing every single wire.

    6. Mount components on IC Socket

    There is a reason why certain components like optocouplers and serial communications chips are still available in the plastic dual inline (PDIP) packages. For applications where your PCB is connected to wires that are exposed to lightning strikes, the first components that come into contact with those wires often suffer the brunt of the strike. This is why opting for PDIP packages and placing components on IC sockets could save you the time of dismantling components, desoldering and resoldering to replace the damaged components.

    Round Hole Pin IC Sockets
    Use IC sockets for surge-prone components.

    7. Ensure that your components are arranged properly

    The proper component arrangement might seem intuitive to someone with experience, but it is good advice for less experienced engineers who are designing their first PCBs. This will help your technical support easily identify single components. Also, it is often a bad design practice to have your components strewn across your board. Remember to group connectors that belong to the same module together. For example, you’ll want to have all the connectors for optocoupler inputs together in a sequence followed by relay outputs. The same applies to place all the components for the power module in a section and not having one or two in the analog sections.

    Before you start to route your PCB, check if it is designed for serviceability. Professional PCB software, like Altium’s CircuitStudio®, can help get you started designing your products for serviceability.

    Have a question about design concepts for repair? Contact an expert at Altium.

    Reading this but don't use Altium yet? Be sure to check out your own free trial to find out for yourself why Altium is the best professional PCB Design software.

    Share your feedback in the comments below and remember to share.

    most recent articles

    Back to Home