PCB Design - Fun, Frustration and Misconception

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: December 6, 2021
PCB Design - Fun, Frustration and Misconception

What do the top minds in the PCB Design social media space think about the modern landscape? We sat down with Hacksmith Industries, DD ElectroTech, and Electgpl to chat about how they got started, what frustrates them, what they think about A.I., and much more.

Q1. Most Exciting PCB Design Ever & Its Biggest Challenge?

Chris Thiele - Hacksmith Entertainment Ltd.

So I think the most challenging design I've ever made was a Daft Punk helmet, Guy-Manuel. I designed several boards for that project, and they all had to do different things, and I wanted to do the full-face LED shroud. I ended up designing a rigid board to be flexible, so I went down to the thinnest I could make the board assemble it into essentially some sort of mold and flex them to mirror the curvature of the facial shield itself.

Debashis Das - DD ElectroTech

Around a year ago, I made a PCB, and the circuit was highly congested. My first plan was to build the PCB in two-layer, and in the end, it was tough for me to add more track on the PCB. Then I thought I had to switch into multiplayer mode, but I challenged myself to manage the PCB in two-layer somehow. So, in the end, I managed the PCB in two-layer, and when it was done, I was extremely happy that I completed extremely congested PCB in two layers. So it was a very delightful experience for me.

Sebastian Caccavallo - Electgpl

In my opinion, the most successful design was a PCB with FPCA and radiofrequency. The challenge was to design it in only six-layer, with differences in traits. Working with different traits and different types of lines is complicated because, in the PCB layer stack-up line, high-speed line, and the radiofrequency line must be handled.

Exciting PCB design

Q2: What Inspired You to Pursue Electronics?

DD ElectroTech

Since my childhood, I have been fascinated by electronics. At that time, I started tinkering with some household electronics items, like a radio tape recorder, and after that, I joined electronics engineering. I started designing many electronics projects, and after getting some experience, I thought, why shouldn't I share my project on YouTube or social media? So then I started uploading videos on YouTube, and right now, more than a million people love what I'm doing.

Hacksmith 

I always knew I wanted to be an engineer, but I think in high school in grade 10, I think it was, I took a computer engineering course, and I just fell in love with electronics at that point. I loved circuits. We made some 555 timer circuits as a project, and it was just super fun to put it together. And I ended up getting into hobby electronics at that point and started working on my projects on the side, and, of course, took computer engineering courses throughout high school. And then when I went to university, I selected electrical engineering, cause it's like, I love electronics and electrical design and all that stuff. So I want to go into that, discipline.

Q3: How Do You Feel about Rules of Thumb in PCB Design?

DD ElectroTech

Rules of thumb are everywhere, not only in physics but also in PCB designing. But honestly speaking, I didn't care much. I only follow what PCB benefactor a company accepts, and I only follow those rules to make my PCB, and it works every time.

Hacksmith

Rules of thumb, I think, are important for any designer because you're going to get to a point where you can't really proceed forward. You don't really know what to do, so you look up some good guides online on designing or using principles for spacing, for example. Especially if you're doing that from the ground up, those rules of thumb can save your life and make it so that you can get to a prototype and realize what you did wrong.

Q4: Loved and Hated PCB Design Rules

Hacksmith 

When pouring planes, islands are the worst thing, especially when it's like a false plane created. Islands are significant because getting rid of things that aren't connected to anything else helps you find out quickly that you're doing something wrong and that you need to float your ground plane into a certain area to get the proper current distribution throughout that plane itself.

DD ElectroTech
So I love everything that reduces our effort. If I talk about hate, there is nothing to hate because I love PCB design rules.

love and hate for design rules

Electgpl

I think the possibility of creating the rule and adding blocks of coal, such as queries, are very useful, though sometimes they can be a problem if they are misused. Great power comes with great responsibility.

Q5: Are there any designs you scrapped or wished you'd done better? What happened?

DD ElectroTech

A few years ago, I designed a PCB for one of my videos. It was very simple, but I was in a hurry. The main power supply was 220-volt, and the D.C. source was 5-volt, and by mistake, I shot this 5-volt with 220-volt. And after getting the PCB, I was extreme to complete the project as soon as possible. So, I immediately assembled the components, and I directly plugged the circuit board into the main source, and then boom, my whole circuit was destroyed. That was a big mistake. I learned a lot from that experience.

Hacksmith 

Oh boy, design I screwed up. Where do I start? The biggest problem I had was designing my regulator circuits, basically going off of the engineering notes in whatever regulator I was looking for. When I designed one, that was easy enough to follow the design guides, but when I was putting like eight on the same board because I needed regulators for eight different things, things got terrible quickly. So that was a very frustrating day. I think I tried to pair down the board from the original size to just the control circuitry with some power circuitry and then to just the control circuitry, and nothing was working, and it was like, was it the design? Was it something else? Am I just stressed out of my mind and making dumb mistakes? And that was an experience.

Q6: Would You Trust A.I. to Design a PCB?

DD ElectroTech

Well, if you can trust a car with A.I. autopilot, then why do you not trust PCB designing? But I think the main problem will be if we completely trust A.I., then A.I. always tries to shorten the path, and the component placement will be as expected.

Hacksmith 

Sure, why not? Easy question there. I would still want to go and look things over after, but I don't see why not, especially if it's A.I. and not just algorithmic, because more of the layout and design is difficult. And I think having something else to come in and assist you in how you put a board together might get you to your goal faster cause in this industry; you need to iterate and prototype really quickly.

Would you trust AI to design a PCB

Q7: Biggest PCB Design Misconception?

Hacksmith 

I think what I've seen is people not treating PCB as artwork. We call it artwork for a reason: because it should look nice. And if it looks nice, it's likely to work better as well if all of your traces are paired nicely, and your spacings are all correct, and ground planes are flowing properly across the board. A good-looking board should typically just work off the bat. And if it doesn't, it's a lot easier to actually go and trace things back because everything is laid out very clearly. Instead of things jumping from the top layer to the bottom layer, to the top layer, to the bottom layer, that's impossible to try and debug something like that. And you're just going to waste a lot of time.

DD ElectroTech

Many people think that PCB design is very simple when you have the circuit diagram, but that is not always true because sometimes we have to face some challenges, and to complete the challenges, we have to be patient because if we make one mistake, we can't fix it later, so we have to be cool.

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About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 1000+ technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA), and he currently serves on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee.

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