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PCB design software for Electronic Device Design

Printed circuit boards are ubiquitous in modern electronics, providing the foundation for everything from children's toys to motor vehicles and heavy machinery.

Once designed correctly, PCBs can be produced at a mass scale – including right here with us!

Find more about our bespoke PCB design service at the bottom of the page. But first, we'll examine how PCBs have changed the face of modern electronics – and how they might benefit you if you're looking to manufacture electronic goods in the future.

What are PCBs in electronic devices?

Simply put, a printed circuit board houses the components that make an electronic device work.

The board itself is made of non-conductive materials such as fibreglass with a thin copper layer allowing current to flow through each component. Flexible materials can also be used to construct the board if it is to be used in tight spaces.

Components are soldered to the board using two methods – surface mounting and through-hole. Surface mounting is, as you may expect, attaching components directly onto the board using solder, while through-hole involves fixing copper tracks to points on the board using holes that are drilled into it.

Common components that are attached to PCBs to make devices function include resistors, sensors, capacitors, transistors and diodes.

Basic PCBs will generally be made up of a single-layer board, although there is no limit to the number of boards that can be attached together if a more complex device requires several layers of processing.

For example, the computer, tablet or smartphone you may well be reading this article on right now will feature multi-layered PCBs to make the various functions of the device work in harmony.

The rise of PCBs in electronics

Austrian engineer Paul Eisler is widely credited with developing the technology that led us to modern-day PCBs.

While his breakthrough came while creating a radio in the 1930s, PCBs did not become commonplace in electronics for another few decades. The development of integrated circuits and electronic design automation helped to make PCBs the go-to choice for products produced at mass scale.

Consumer electronics that boomed in the late 20th century, such as the Sony Walkman and Nintendo Gameboy, proved that these products could go global. Mass-produced PCBs were churned out to meet that ravenous demand.

Nowadays, amid growing climate concerns, many industries are adapting, and electronics is no different. Future PCBs may be made of biodegradable materials to combat e-waste and boards that are made on paper have been pushed as a potential solution.

The advantages of using PCBs in electronic devices

So, what is it about PCBs that makes them the leading technology underpinning electronics?

  • Compact size: As standard wires do not feature in PCBs, they can be made to incredibly small specifications. The beauty of PCBs is that they can also be scaled up to suit a device's needs.So, whether you're producing something that is designed to be pocket-sized or a powerhouse, a PCB can be designed to fit the job.
  • Mass production: Once designed, PCBs can be mass-produced incredibly quickly and efficiently by machines. This process also makes them far cheaper than alternatives. PCB mounting can also be done mechanically, making the entire process incredibly fast. For example, it's estimated that Apple creates around 350 iPhones a minute in its factories.
  • Greater reliability: Using PCBs makes products much more reliable. The lack of loose connections greatly reduces the chances of short-circuiting, while noise and vibrations are also cut down to improve products' ability to withstand damage.

Does my business need PCBs?

If you are manufacturing any electronic devices, especially at a large scale, it is almost certain that your products will require PCBs to function.

Alternative circuitry to PCBs, such as wire wrap boards, is now considered outdated and cannot be produced in the same amounts at the same speed as PCBs.

Wire wraps can be useful for prototyping on an individual basis, but the learnings you take from these tests will likely be put towards creating PCBs for the finished products.

Why choose DesignSpark's bespoke PCB service?

If you're creating a new electronic device to bring to market, we can help you create the crucial components that will underpin it at scale. Our PCB designs can be adapted wholly to suit your needs.

  • Ease of use: You don't need to be a CAD expert to use our simple system and we aim to make it as easy as possible to create the PCBs you need. If you encounter any issues, our comprehensive library of tutorial videos can help, or reach out to our experts for assistance.
  • Detailed BOM: Your Bill of Materials will list all parts, items and assemblies that your PCB requires. You can then complete your purchase with DesignSpark or source your components how you wish.
  • Extensive library: If you know how to get started from scratch, you can dive right in or start working from our ready-to-use libraries of designs, symbols and footprints.
  • Flexible subscriptions: Depending on the scale of your project, select from our three tiers of subscriptions. Our Explorer plan is completely free of charge and provides an unlimited number of schematic sheets and PCB layers.

    If you need a little more capability, we also offer two paid plans. Creator includes an extra installed copy as well as an integrated SnapEDA CAD library and advanced DRC checks. Our premium Engineer plan adds advanced features such as hierarchical schematic designs, blind and buried vias, and IPC-2581 output.

    Check out our subscriptions page for a full rundown of what each one includes.

  • No size limits: Even if you only subscribe to our free-of-charge Explorer account, you can create a PCB to whatever specifications you need. No matter what size, shape or number of schematic sheets you need, we'll make it for you.

Login or register today to get started creating PCBs with DesignSpark.

I'm a Mechanical Engineer by qualification though I worked for a long time specialising in Motion Control systems and integration with various PLC systems. I've wide experience of many types of applications from packaging machines to military and some applications that I can't mention. At home, I like to tinker and make things with wood, metal, plastics, electronics and mechanical system. I'm never happier than with a hammer and a screwdriver in my hands....