Current printed circuit board (PCB) trends are leaning toward open hardware formats and control systems with PCB designs commonly accommodating existing development boards. These often employ daughter boards used to either move hydraulics or servo motors, or react to light, movement, and/or sound.
Despite these trends, PCB design hasn’t changed much since its invention. Innovation has focused on making the boards cheaper and faster, but the resulting layout has remained largely the same. What constantly changes is the components and their capabilities, the root cause of most design complexity.
In a tough competitive climate, finding ways to reduce design cycle time is a priority for engineers. A chief concern for many companies is that as PCB design grows in complexity, engineers must have access to tools that reduce time to market while being cost effective. Design cycle time plays a big part in determining a product’s launch schedule and the PCB layout part of this process is often called upon to make up for early design phase schedule slips. Add to this the fact that design teams are dispersed globally and it’s easy to see how balancing the best tools available, multiple design teams, and the shrinking product launch window can be daunting.
To address all of these challenges, companies need tools that can utilize existing resources, both human and computer; allow interoperability; have a gentle learning curve; and be able to offer extensions that link other time-intensive parts of the design cycle.
Engineers tell us regularly that PCB design tools must provide them with the ability to:
- Offer a gentle learning curve
- Allow multiple designers to layout on one project without sacrificing productivity
- Ideally have a plug-and-play model for tasks that are intensive to increase productivity
- Collaborate with each other in real-time from anywhere in the world
- Utilize multi-disciplinary technology experts at any time in the design cycle without sacrificing productivity.
High-end programs have the ability to understand what a designer is actually designing and how a chip works internally and how it’s going to react to its peripherals. The question that engineers continually look to answer is, "how do I get there with the least amount of effort and the lowest number of errors, and without spending a small fortune?” It’s a balance that often keeps engineers searching.