Designing printed circuit boards is your job. You understand what components need to be used, what materials are required, etc. On the other hand, your boss’s job is on the business side of things. They understand profits and losses and maintaining productivity levels, etc. But they often don’t really understand the ins and outs of PCB design. And since those technical aspects can have a significant impact on profits and losses and productivity levels, the lack of understanding lead to poor communication and cause you to clash on certain issues. So here are 5 PCB facts that your boss should know, to facilitate getting their help and support as you do your job.
1. PCBs Represent Approximately 31% of Overall Product Costs. PCB facts like this are a good rule of thumb to help your boss understand whether your project is coming in under budget or ballooning out of control, as well as some of the issues which can affect production costs. For example, sourcing components can have a long lead time and cause product delivery delays, which mean higher project costs.
2. They Use Traces, Not Wires. Whereas most electronic devices use wires to transmit data and power, PCBs use traces. These traces take up much less space, allowing the boards to be smaller and thinner. The tradeoff, though, is that traces are made of copper, which can be expensive. Only small amounts of copper are used, but depending on the weight of the copper, it’s still an expense that needs to be considered as part of the overall PCB budget.
3. Customization Is Expensive. PCBs can be designed to your exact specifications: every circuit, every component, every material, created from the ground up. A lot of companies think they want or need this, to make their device do exactly what they want. But designing PCBs this way is not only time-consuming, it’s very expensive. So most PCB designers use a set of pre-specified parameters for their designs. It makes things both easier and cheaper, and still allows them complete freedom in terms of defining what the finished product can do.
4. The Technology Is Constantly Evolving. There are standard procedures and components that designers can use to keep production costs down, but at the same time, the technology behind PCB design is constantly making advancements. New materials are being developed and old materials are becoming obsolete. Biodegradable PCBs are currently in the works, to make electronic devices more environmentally friendly. Graphene is also being experimented with as a new material consisting of bonded carbon atoms. The material is just one atom thick, which can lead to smaller, more efficient PCBs.
5. Improving PCB Design Means Lower Costs and Faster Time to Market. The new technologies described above may be fascinating to you, but will they matter to your boss? What effect will they have on your bottom line? In order to improve the overall quality of your products, it’s important to be willing to experiment with these new innovations when they present the opportunity to improve the product or design. By discovering and implementing these improvements, you can make the PCB design process faster and more efficient. This saves time and will in turn result in lower production costs and ultimately a faster time to market. Investing a little bit into the PCB design process can save time and money in the long run and ultimately lead to a better product.
Driving the Point Home
These are just a few PCB facts that can help your boss better understand how PCB design works, and how important it is to the overall project and finished product. You can use these facts to start a dialogue that can ultimately make things easier and clearer both for you and for them. But the conversation just gets started with your boss, and there’s a whole set of other stakeholders you’ll need to justify your design to throughout your project, including manufacturing. Learn how easy it can be to communicate design intent right the first time in Altium Designer 17 with Draftsman. Visit the What's New page to learn more.
About the Author
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.More Content by David Marrakchi