Beyond Design: The Need for Speed—Strategies for Design Efficiency


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Years of experience with one EDA tool obviously develops efficiency, whether the tool be high-end feature-packed or basic entry-level. And one becomes accustomed to the intricacies of all the good and bad features of their PCB design tool. However, there comes a time, with the fast development pace of technology, that one should really consider a change for the better to incorporate the latest methodologies. This month, I will look at productivity issues that impede the PCB design process.

The choice of PCB design tools, until now, has been limited to either high-end, enterprise-level solutions that are expensive and have the added cost of an extended learning curve and setup time, or entry-level desktop solutions that are fast to pick up but limited in capability and error-prone. Mentor Graphics’ new PADS Professional has addressed this by providing the best of both solutions. Based on proven Xpedition technology, PADS Professional focuses on ease of adoption, ease of use and affordability but is still packed with all the features today’s designers need for the most complex designs.

Typically, a high-speed computer-based design takes two or three iterations to develop a working product. However, these days the product life cycle is very short and therefore time-to-market is of the essence. One board iteration can be expensive, depending on your overheads. We should not only consider the engineering time but also the cost of delaying the products market launch. This missed opportunity could cost your company hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not the total loss of market share.

In a previous column, Introduction to Board-Level Simulation and the PCB Design Process, I mentioned that the cost of development is dramatically reduced if simulation is employed during the design cycle. The design changes that occur early in the design process are less expensive compared to those that take place after it is introduced into full-scale production. The cost of the change increases with development time.

Fundamentally, the design changes can be classified into pre-production and post-production modifications. The pre-production changes can happen in the conceptual, design, prototype, or the testing stage. The post-production stage change will happen almost immediately when the product is introduced into production or worse still, be recognized only when the product reaches the market. The later the stage, the more expensive the issue is to fix. The advantage of virtual prototyping is that it identifies issues early in the design process so they can be rectified before they become a major problem.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the March issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.

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