It is common knowledge that prototypes are meant for proof of concept and to iron out some bugs, because you need to be certain that what you are creating will work before committing to mass production. Prototyping your new PCB design is similar to trying out a new recipe before putting it on the table or viewing a mock-up before printing 500 flyers. It allows you to catch faults that may be costly or make changes that will improve the device you are creating.
Generally, a proof-of-concept build is aimed at eventually scaling into full production, so the PCB should be designed with manufacturing in mind. Manufacturing and testing of your circuit board must be automated for a large production run without any issues. As you design your prototype PCB, you need to keep several factors in mind. As a designer, you need to understand how to build a PCB prototype according to these requirements.
Recommended PCB Design for Prototypes
It depends on your production goals what PCB requirements you need for prototype builds. The design requirements for PCBAs that aren’t going to be mass produced will be less exacting, so hand-built PCBs can be made easily.
As soon as a circuit board prototype is approved and tested, however, it will be converted into a high-volume production run.
This is just a small sample of the DFM and DFT requirements that determine the ultimate success of a PCB production run. The contract manufacturer can provide a more comprehensive DFM and DFT report. Furthermore, you should take into account any circuitry in your prototype that is still uncertain.
It’s important to plan ahead for your PCBA’s production process and to be accurate in your design. A design must comply with all the design constraints that apply to it in order for it to be put into production, and every step must be well documented.
The documentation required to build PCB prototypes
You should also plan ahead before preparing PCB manufacturing documents for your prototype. This will ensure that your PCBA is ready for mass production. Hastily drafted documents may not be readable or even correct, making the design impossible to pass onto a manufacturer. It will save you time and effort to focus only on changes resulting from prototype testing, even if your documentation is good from the beginning.
You should also make sure that your prototype documentation is as thorough as possible in order to simplify the process of adapting changes as necessary.
During the testing and development of your prototype builds, you will need to document any hardware modifications you make. Documentation which is incomplete or messy at this point can be frustrating to work on.
Prototyping Your PCB Can Benefit from Your CM’s Engineering Support
When it comes to designing your PCB for a prototype build, your CM is one of the most important tools. A prototype build can easily be derailed by a variety of pitfalls, and your CM’s experience is an asset in helping you to steer around them.
The CM, for example, should always have the latest information about a component at hand. When you use components in your prototype that have a history of being problematic because of availability, cost, or mechanical issues, they should be able to resolve those issues with you.