design Best practices


Analysis on the Move

Shifting critical processes “left” is a more proactive approach to testing and validation.

Printed circuit board (PCB) design is a critical aspect of electronics product development, influencing the overall functionality, reliability and performance of electronic devices. Understanding the significance of analysis in PCB design and emphasizing its role in ensuring the integrity of electronic systems is key to success. The rapid evolution of electronic devices demands increasingly sophisticated PCB designs. As electronic components become more compact and complex, the need for thorough analysis in the design phase becomes paramount.

Analysis in PCB design involves evaluating various factors such as signal integrity, thermal performance, power distribution, and electromagnetic interference to guarantee the functionality and reliability of electronic systems. Implementing analysis early in the design cycle contributes to the optimization of PCB layouts, signal integrity and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), thermal management, power distribution and overall functionality.

Surprisingly, many teams still choose to skip the analysis step entirely in an attempt to reduce project schedules and cost. This often causes costly project delays and increased cost downstream due to issues that could have been addressed if an analysis had simply not been skipped.

The ever-evolving landscape of electronics systems design demands a true paradigm shift in the approach to analysis, and that is “shifting left.” We’ll explore the principles, methodologies and advantages of shifting left analysis in PCB design, aiming to accelerate innovation and enhance the reliability of electronic systems.

Traditionally, the PCB design process followed a sequential approach, with testing and validation occurring towards the later stages of the flow. Shifting left analysis proposes a proactive strategy by moving testing and validation processes earlier in the design cycle, enabling rapid identification and resolution of potential issues before it’s too late.

Principles of shifting left analysis:

  • Early integration of analysis tools. Integration of simulation tools at the early stages of design enables engineers to assess the performance and reliability of the PCB. Analyzing signal integrity, power distribution and thermal considerations early on helps in making informed design decisions and preventing respins.
  • Collaborative design environment. Collaboration between different design disciplines (electrical, mechanical and software) is crucial for a successful shifting left strategy. Early engagement of cross-disciplinary teams facilitates quick identification and resolution of design conflicts.
  • Automated design verification. Leveraging automated design verification tools ensures that design rules and constraints are checked continuously throughout the design process. This reduces the likelihood of errors and accelerates the identification of potential issues.

Methodologies in shifting left analysis:

  • Design for reliability (DfR). Incorporating DfR principles early in the design process ensures that reliability is built into the product from the outset. Analysis of failure modes and stress factors aids in the development of robust and reliable PCBs.
  • Virtual prototyping. Utilizing virtual prototypes (the digital twin) enables designers to assess the behavior of the PCB in a simulated environment. This allows early detection of design flaws and optimization for performance and reliability.
  • Continuous testing and validation. Implementing continuous testing and validation processes ensures that the design is rigorously evaluated at every stage. Early identification of issues minimizes the likelihood of costly design changes later in the development cycle.

Advantages of shifting left analysis:

  • Faster time to market. By addressing potential issues early in the design process, the overall time to market is significantly reduced.
  • Cost reduction. Minimizes need for costly redesigns and reiterations, leading to cost savings in the product development cycle.
  • Enhanced product reliability. Early identification and resolution of design issues contribute to the development of more reliable and robust PCBs.
  • Improved collaboration. Cross-disciplinary collaboration is enhanced, fostering a more integrated approach to product development.

The importance of analysis in PCB design cannot be overstated. Thorough analysis is a proactive approach to identifying and addressing potential issues before they manifest in the final product. Signal integrity analysis, schematic analysis, thermal analysis, power distribution analysis, EMC analysis and manufacturability analysis collectively contribute to the optimization of PCB layouts, ensuring reliable and high-performance electronic systems. Shifting left analysis is a transformative approach to PCB design that offers substantial benefits in terms of speed, cost and reliability. Embracing this methodology enables designers to proactively address potential issues early in the development cycle, ultimately leading to more innovative and reliable electronic products.

As technology continues to advance, the role of analysis in PCB design will only become more critical in meeting the growing demands for smaller, faster and more reliable electronic devices. The adoption of shifting left analysis in PCB design is poised to become a cornerstone of success in the electronics industry. Article ending bug

Stephen Chavez is a senior printed circuit engineer with three decades’ experience. In his current role as a senior product marketing manager with Siemens EDA, his focus is on developing methodologies that assist customers in adopting a strategy for resilience and integrating the design-to-source Intelligence insights from Supplyframe into design for resilience. He is an IPC Certified Master Instructor Trainer (MIT) for PCB design, IPC CID+, and a Certified Printed Circuit Designer (CPCD). He is chairman of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA);