It’s the old adage of the tortoise and the hare. In the race to complete a working development project that includes a printed-circuit board (PCB), the temptation often is to concentrate on the design exclusively until finished. Like the hare, it’s blast ahead full-speed into the creation of a design file that works like you want it to in the circuit simulator. The tortoise, on the other hand, handles the project by doing some additional research even before starting the physical layout.
The approach to solving the problem of designing a PCB-based product can vary greatly. But which method is fastest? Which is most effective? Which consumes the least project resources? All are good questions that have a strong influence on the success of your project, but they don’t necessarily provide a clear path to success from the beginning. One can hear the head designer planning out the project approach: “Do we do what we think we need to do with the design, then hope somebody can build it without busting our budget, or do we pick a fabricator first, even if it means potentially limiting our freedom of design?”
For PCB designers, there are two choices. First, you can design in a vacuum, and then hunt for a manufacturing chain that can build the design. Second, learn about your manufacturing chain and optimize your design to the fabricator’s strengths while maintaining desired functionality.