PCB layout design rules should form the basis of any approach to designing and developing a circuit board. Click to read more in our article.

A Complete Guide to PCB Layout Design Rules

Printed circuit board (PCB) design rules should form the basis of any approach to designing and developing a circuit board. These build the basic parameters of your design process, from suitability for use to manufacturability, allowing you to develop a PCB that perfectly fits your needs and design brief while minimising unnecessary revisions and changes at later stages, thereby saving time and money.

But what are PCB layout design rules, and how do you come up with them? Here’s a quick guide to help you get to grips with this necessary part of the PCB design process.

What are printed circuit board (PCB) design rules?

When working on a new PCB design project, the essential starting point is considering the design rules. Without fully fleshed out and understood PCB design rules, you can not expect a smooth design process, necessitating lots of component shifting and re-routing later.

Design rules help avoid this by laying out clear and straightforward design parameters, enabling you to focus on the actual design, safe in the knowledge that you are not going to have to tweak things too much later.

PCB design rules concern elements such as:

  • Manufacturing requirements – Consider the limitations of different manufacturing methods
  • Board limitations – Size and shape of the board, how many power levels, degree of complexity, etc.
  • Materials and components – Are the parts desired available?
  • Orientation – Simpler orientation of components will simplify assembly and avoid mistakes
  • Organisation – Better organised design means quicker and more efficient assembly
  • Component placement order – Consider the order in which components are placed on the board within your design.

In essence, design rules are the parameters within which you can build. Without a full understanding of these rules, you are inviting endless tweaking, changing, and modifying later in the process, which will inevitably cost time and money. Understanding design rules is a vital part of the design brief, enabling a more elegant, powerful, and easier design solution to emerge.

Quick quide to PCB design rules

So where exactly are you getting your design rules from? The first step is your PCB fabricator. A great fabricator will generally make capabilities and limitations known and supply this vital information directly. Making sure you fully understand this info is key. It is at this stage you should submit your stack up for review or look at their standardised stack up and see how it meshes with your ideas.

From here, it is important to compare their manufacturing capabilities and limitations to whatever industry reliability standard you are working to while ensuring reliability and manufacturability are at the core of your design approach. A more conservative approach allows for greater design freedoms in other areas, safe in the knowledge that your PCB design will get the job done while being suitable for manufacture. These elements need to be in your design rules.

Throughout the layout process, the design rules will assist you in avoiding design errors that can cause issues later, namely in the form of assembly and fabrication problems. Then you can move on to the placement design.

Effectively, developing your understanding of design limitations through these rules at an early stage will help guide you through a much smoother development process, avoiding many annoying, unnecessary stages of tweaking and refinement later. It is worth prioritising your PCB layout design rules and ensuring you have a comprehensive understanding from the get-go.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about PCB design layout rules and how we can support you with your project.