IoT is the hottest topic in the marketplace right now. It’s coming into virtually every person’s life in terms of equipment and devices being used. In effect, IoT is automation coming to your doorstep, your home, car and coming into every workplace.
Printed circuit board (PCB) design software, more commonly known as “tools,” is the basis for creating today’s advanced IoT devices. Considerable credit goes to PCB design tool suppliers who’ve led the industry with state-of-the-art software to properly design and layout IoT PCBs. The field has a number of suppliers, but only a few leaders. One example is personal automated design solutions, or PADS, from Mentor Graphics which, over time, has become the most popular for regular PCBs and now, IoT PCB designs.
The IoT PCB designer faces a number of design challenges and relies on PADS features and characteristics to accurately deal with those challenges and overcome them. For starters, the IoT PCB designer largely depends on the GUI on the workstation screen to visually and intuitively lead him through each stage of a design, especially those that are most challenging.
PADS helps the designer effectively work with such troublesome areas as high-speed designs, trace length matching, board stack up and impedance control. Later on in the design cycle, the software plays a major role by incorporating all the manufacturing information from doing the drilled hole charts to fabrication notes to assembly drawings. Entering fabrication and assembly notes is an easy process when it comes to doing the PCB layout design using PADS.
Aside from design software, the savvy designer must have knowledge of the hardware design and PCB layout and work together with the software since the design tool isn’t equipped to handle certain issues that only an experienced designer can resolve. In many cases, an IoT device is based on a combination of small rigid-flex circuit boards. For example, when making the transfer from rigid to flex, the designer needs to know the kind of bond adhesion between the rigid and flex boards when current flows from one to the other material.
He must also recognize how changing the medium – i.e., from flex to rigid — can trigger changes in the coefficient of thermal expansion between the rigid and flex boards. Plus, the designer has to be extra careful when doing the layout to minimize the flex circuit’s bending effect. Bends in the flex circuit must be carefully routed. If there are 45-degree or 90-degree bends, it’s highly probable that acid entrapment can result from PCB cleaning solvents during the fabrication process. This is difficult to eliminate and the IoT PCB product being designed won’t operate efficiently.
The design software itself is also of paramount importance when it comes to IoT PCB rework, which is common practice in the industry. The software makes it easy for the designer to make necessary changes to an IoT PCB design originally designed using PADS. It preserves signal routing earlier performed in PADS for an IoT PCB product and then changes can be made. Those changes might include adding or deleting some components. This is an important feature because component placement during PCB layout incurs considerable time. This software avoids duplicating all that extra design work. Other changes include altering design speeds, heat dissipation factors, signal transmission and reception, signal-to-noise ratios and signal routing, among others.
The design software also comes in handy post-processing. When the IoT PCB design is complete, power planes sandwiched in the rigid and flex circuit boards need to be split into different power planes. These power planes may have three of four different voltages. That’s done easily when the designer uses a tool like PADS for IoT PCB design.
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