Can You Really Error Proof PCB Designs?
A designer’s nightmare is to create what they think is a perfect piece of work, only for it to be released for manufacture and the items are made faulty or not fit for purpose. This is not only costly but can cause a lot of reputational damage. At the end of the day, the designer is a human being who is going to on occasions make mistakes. How can these mistakes be mitigated and how has some of this been integrated into the design solutions?
A Design, Failure, Mode, Effect, Analysis (DFMEA) is a common manual way to look at potential design critical features and take pro-active corrective measure to do all that is possible to eliminate these at the source. If you look at, for example, a PCB, there are going to be specific critical features on this that if they are designed wrong, will not allow the product to operate or even potentially could be a safety issue. It is really important that these key features are identified and come out on this review. Completing a DFMEA for the first time actually can be quite confusing and there is lots of different online training course (or even face to face) on this. These can also seem to be quite long-winded to complete, however, putting this effort in upfront in the design stages could help prevent issues further downstream in terms of quality and safety.
Now, even the best software for PCB design has new innovative simulation runs that can be completed on parts. As Altium explain, they have this sort of technology contained within their recently updated versions of PCB design software and it already has the thumbs up from the end users who have been looking to have as much error proofing technology incorporated into the software as physically possible.
The really good thing about this is that designers are usually not only accountable for one small element of a design but would be accountable for potentially several elements. As a result of this, for the sub-assembly parts of the component, they could run some mini simulations to make sure it is effective but, for the overall assembly they could bring the different units together to see how this works as an overall assembly. There are some warning on this where the simulation runs are a great indicator but they are not 100% error proofed. They do not pick up every single error and only give you an indication that the design is working correctly from the design that has been inputted. It will not accommodate for things such as wear and tear which clearly over time can cause a problem for the overall component. Most modern PCB design software packages have the option to run these designs and when there is a potential error not only is it made obvious but some modern software will give the potential design solution to overcome this to the designer.
While you cannot exactly error proof PCB designs, you can try your best.