PCB Chassis Might Keep Your PCB Design From Exhausting Itself

Altium Designer
|  Created: February 16, 2018  |  Updated: December 2, 2020

Smart car interface with security and maintenance

The world of racing is something that both fascinates and eludes me. On one hand, it’s thrilling to watch cars that have been fine-tuned to the most minute weight and aerodynamic requirements go flying down a road or around a track. On the other hand, from my experience, the majority of thrill from the sport largely comes from the accumulation of narratives and knowledge beforehand.

I don’t care so much about actually watching the cars run smooth laps and slowly pass each other, I care about risks, rewards, and crashes. I couldn’t tell you much about how engines get fine-tuned, or exactly how these mechanics manage to choose the right replacement tires and get them onto the car within a dozen seconds. But I’m sure a racing mechanic couldn’t tell you much about electrical circuitry and board design.

To them, you might even seem like a magician. But a PCB is so much more: they need to be aware of so many different features, tools, and components which may be too niche for general use, but can be particularly helpful and cost-saving within their respective domains. PCB chassis are within this unique realm, and knowing their advantages for a well-designed board can be beneficial for any.

Breaking Barriers Without Breaking Your PCB Chassis

One thing I know about cars is that they can run with some very basic structures like an engine and wheels; however, you’re not going to get very far without the full build. Building a PCB without a chassis is like entering a go-kart in an IndyCar race. Sure, it might be a functioning PCB on the market, but without something to hold and operate the thing, you’ll end up with a participation trophy.

Not only do chassis surrounding your PCBs allow you to safely hold and operate your product, but it will act as a protector of the sensitive components on the board from the regular pounding that it may or may not endure over the life of the product. Environmental hazards, radiation, and interference can all build-up and ravage your PCBs over-time, and a chassis can be the solution you’re looking for.

Chassis of a car
A PCB without a chassis might be more successful than a car without a body, but why take the chances?

A Chassis can Help with EMI Emissions Protection

Not only will a chassis surrounding your PCB protect the circuit from physical harm, but it can also act as a shield from EMI emissions. Depending on your particular PCB design application, grounding may or may not help, but in most cases grounding will be beneficial.

Grounding your PCB to the chassis typically occur at a single point or a ground-collection point. Connecting multiple grounding points to your chassis is usually not best practice due to potentials for ground loops; where with slightly different voltage potentials in each separate point the current will flow through the chassis itself and cause dreaded ground loops.

Keeping your chassis ground on one point will not allow any current to flow as there physically can’t be any voltage difference when flowing into a single point. Great care should be taken when dealing with the grounding architecture of your system, especially when dealing with non-isolated power supplies.

Don’t Let Voltage Affect Your PCB with Shock Protection

Similarly, when acting as a shield from RF/EMI emissions, your chassis can also protect against high voltage shock to operators. This is true mainly when dealing with non-isolated power supplies that require specific grounding requirements.

Following similar grounding techniques to the above EMI emissions grounding protection, connecting your ground to a singular point will keep ground loops at bay, and further assist in protection from shock to external users or operators.

Electrical shock warning sign
Chassis can also assist in preventing electrical shock to operators.

Whether you are in search of physical protection, signal protection, and/or operators’ protection of your PCB, chassis can serve to benefit your design and should always be a consideration. If you are looking to design with a safe and strong unified design environment, it will be important to keep your PCB design software in mind. With a power distribution network , smart design rule checking, and auto-interactive routing, Altium Designer® is the software for you.

If you are curious about the features that Altium can bring you in terms of your chassis design, talk to an Altium expert today.

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PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.

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