How innumerable are the forms around us, from the shoes that protect our feet to the landscapes that capture our attention. Each electronic device used daily contains diverse dimensions and geometries, perhaps little is noticed in observing these small details, but they are there allowing the perfect amalgam between design and technology.
If you live within the traditionalist perspective, all these words will seem like a cheesy senseless story for a job as qualified and technical as PCB design, but if curiosity and irruption are part of your personality you can get a new vision about how to design electronic prototypes differently.
A PCB is a mechanical solution for an electrical problem, this is a simple and powerful definition to show that it is a printed circuit board. Implicitly the mechanics and electronics are intertwined, this relationship may cost a bit to be perceived, but in a PCB it is quickly seen when the mechanical specifications for the project to be developed are received. Those who design footprints from scratch should devote minutes and hours to the analysis of the Package Outline Drawings that datasheet presents, the reading of plans or understanding of spatial figures perspectives had been a torture in my time of studies, but to design and create parts For libraries of electronic components, it made me change my position and understand how important it is to develop the capacity for spatial reasoning.
Figure. 3D view of a PCB made by Solidworks.
In my beginnings as a PCB designer I used to underestimate the final form of the product, I simply did not care, but over the years I understood that it is a vital aspect for the success of the electrical hardware of a device. I learned that I should not start the route of the layout tracks if the final established form is not available, if this premise is not fulfilled, excess time is wasted performing re-works in the design. Some clients when a design is practically finished decide to apply changes to the dimensions of the board since they did not take their precautions in advance and this is where the drama arises: if the changes significantly affect the work done, everything must be eliminated and practically start from scratch . Both the designer and the client should avoid this at all costs.
Some electronic devices require that certain components have a very specific location such as input and output connectors, visual indicators, etc. In large-scale projects these requirements come from the mechanics department and in minor cases the PCB designer should review these considerations with the client.
When we do not want to put the brain to 100% we go for typical shapes such as squares, rectangles or even circles, there are two classic reasons for this: do not break our heads thinking about complicated board shapes and avoid increasing the manufacturing cost. The second reason has force majeure because we must always avoid incurring excessive manufacturing costs, but they can be mitigated by applying panelization or v-score techniques.
If the trees, mountains and flowers were completely square, rectangular and with the same color they would not cause as much fascination in our senses as Mount Everest, an orchid or the pines that give life to countless forests of the world. The same applies to electronic boards, if all have the beaten geometries and the typical green color few will be interested in this delicate and complicated art. It is worth demanding more and devoting more time to the design of new forms that favor the appeal of the prototype or product that we are developing.
Figure. Somewhere in Patagonia
To specify a perfect binomial between functionality and attractiveness we must apply: mathematical formulas, fundamentals of mechanics and electrical theory, but without neglecting the style, beauty and elegance that industrial design can provide. Would you like your car to be like a shoe box? If your answer is no, it’s time to consider the shape of the PCB as a key piece of your next masterpiece.
Note: The series: PCB for curious, seeks to promote and strengthen the union between science and design, art and technology, life and engineering. An alternative way to enjoy the art of designing PCBs without having to hate it.
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