The modern market for electronics can make it quite easy to find the parts you need and put them together into one complete solution to the problem(s) you’re trying to solve. However, sometimes you may need something a little more unique, such as a custom-designed PCB. Coming up with the design yourself can be a challenge if you’ve never done it before, but it’s not an impossible task. If you have a knack for technology, this can actually be a very fun and engaging project that will teach you a lot about electronics!
Start with the Schematic
The first step to your design is the core schematic. This is done digitally on your computer with the help of specialized software, and it’s where you plan for the placement of different components and the connections between them. Keep in mind that the schematic design does not necessarily have to represent what the final printed circuit paths are going to look like. More often than not, you’re going to be optimizing that design to make it simpler to navigate in the editor. The actual conversion to a printable design will happen later. A good component search engine can make the process significantly simpler, even if you have a database already included in your design tool. With the wealth of resources available online, it only takes a few clicks to find the components you need and neatly integrate them into whatever you’re creating.
Physical Layout and Size Considerations
Next, you must take the design you’ve created and set it up for actual physical printing. This is where you have to get a bit creative with path layouts if you want to keep things simple and smooth. Many modern design tools can help you streamline that part of the process by suggesting optimal paths, though you may sometimes be able to come up with your own, better solutions. In some cases, drawing up the paths manually will be unavoidable – for example, when you need to use the PCB in very specific circumstances, like avoiding signal interference.
Last but not least, once you’re done with the basic design of the circuit, you should look into some automated optimization tools to see if you can’t make it simpler or cheaper in certain aspects. There’s often a lot that can be modified to that end, and sometimes the best options are not immediately obvious to the naked eye. That’s why using the right tools for the job is so important.
You may need to redo the design once or twice after testing it in practice, as you might discover certain unwanted side effects that you could not have foreseen during the early design stages. It can be very useful to scout out the market for good printing companies in advance, and know which ones can serve your needs over multiple reprints, because this might take a while. See if you can’t get a bulk discount either, especially if you anticipate that you’ll be doing a lot of reiterating on this design.