Technical insights into the design of PCB design in the 3D world

writer: G March 29, 2019

Traditionally, board designers have relied on design prototypes to ensure the shape, fit, and functionality of the design before manufacturing. Although feasible, this approach has a number of disadvantages.

First, the designer cannot determine if the board is suitable before making the actual prototype. Second, this approach generally results in multiple prototypes being created during the design process.

Again, multiple prototypes are very time consuming and the average cost for a moderately complex design prototype is $8,929. Any extra time or cost increase in the design process will not only affect the competitiveness of a company, but also hinder our march into new business. It is not difficult to understand why this method is not welcome.

Another drawback is that PCB design has traditionally been a two-dimensional design. Basically, the design is created in 2D, hand-labeled and passed to the mechanical design engineer. Mechanical engineers use mechanical CAD software to redraw the design in 3D. This method is very time consuming and error prone because it is completely manual. Therefore, it cannot provide competitive differentiation for designing next-generation electronic products. Now the problem is clear, board designers need to find better ways to view and analyze their increasingly complex designs.

The ultimate goal of PCB designers is to create products for the real world (with three dimensions), so the best solution is to use a design tool with advanced 3D capabilities. It allows designers to view realistic 3D images before production, eliminating the need to make prototypes, saving time and money. Accurate 3D models can be easily generated and then used for board layout in real 3D. In addition, the 3D model of the target housing can be imported into the PCB design to ensure that the designed board is placed perfectly into the housing. Finally, designers can submit their design files with confidence in production.

The 3D export capability provides designers with the ability to perform further analysis in other analysis tools, such as thermal analysis and electromagnetic simulation analysis. For today's compact, battery-powered devices that use wireless connectivity, the cooling effect is completely dependent on the board shape, which is critical. Because of these features, 3D capabilities in PCB design tools are absolutely essential for designing next-generation electronics quickly, accurately, and at low cost.

The value of adding 3D functionality to PCB design is undeniable, so many companies are currently offering this feature as a promotional point. However, the 3D capabilities provided by these design tools are quite different. In order to take full advantage of 3D, it is not enough to just view the real 3D image, but also extend to full 3D features, including:

1. The ability to create 3D animations/videos for your design. With this feature, designers can easily share and display their product designs, and even use them as marketing materials. It also facilitates better collaboration with other design teams or manufacturers. For example, through a 3D video, the designer can show the manufacturer what the finished product looks like. The video can also be used to illustrate the soldering sequence of the components on the board.

2. The ability to import 3D models (including components) into board designs. Please note that some design tools lack this feature and only allow designers to perform basic visualization and component gap checking in 2D. However, if the shell and other mechanical objects can be imported, the components can be placed in the proper position for the first time.

3. Ability to support 3D inspection in design rules. Since rules are a real-time guide in the design process, this is a very important feature. The 3D design rule verifier tells the designer whether there is interference in the 3D space (on all axes) between the two components, between the components and the case, or between the components and the heat sink.

4. The ability to model the copper layer in the inner structure of the PCB. Despite the use of ECAD packages with 3D capabilities, problems can still occur during the manufacturing process. The problem is discovered at this stage of the design later, which will greatly increase the cost. The ability to model the copper layer in the PCB's inner structure allows the designer to easily view and verify the connection or thermal connection of the pin to the inner layer.

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