The Art of Using Symmetry—and Asymmetry—in PCB Design


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An empty board outline is a PCB designer’s empty canvas. Components are the designer’s paint palette, and the traces are the brush strokes used to blend and mesh the components together on the canvas. The subject matter is defined by the schematic entry and the tone is often set according to the purpose of the design. The subject matter’s form emerges during placement and takes shape when routed. The aesthetic nature of a PCB or PCBA is typically judged by the designer’s use of symmetry, focal points, and centers of interest.

The enjoyment experienced by observing a bee (a bilaterally symmetric insect) symbiotically interact with a flower (a radially symmetric plant) is derived from the realization of two well-proportioned beings striking a mutually equitable existence, a classic win-win scenario. I surmise that our use of symmetry in our own creations is our sincerest form of flattery to these well-balanced relationships. Hence, we have embedded symmetry in nearly all aspects of our lives—from our homes, roads, and bridges, right down to the printed circuit board designs present in our modern-day electronics. 

We are hard wired to identify symmetry, we tend to find it appealing, and the subject of PCB design is no exception. Symmetry in PCB design is aesthetically pleasing to look at, and the physical balance of components, traces, and layers convey deeper meanings to the observer.

Further observation will reveal that this board design is the physical representation of two identical circuits running vertically and each circuit is composed of two sub-sections distinctly spaced apart horizontally.

These PCBs and circuit boards that exhibit symmetry are typically easier to troubleshoot and repair because defects that disrupt the symmetrical nature of the design are easy to identify.

To read this entire article, which appeared in December 2021 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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