Designers often determine printed circuit board (PCB) performance (and any relevant thermal issues) during detailed design as they balance power, performance and area (PPA). Component selection and layout phases often define any thermal issues with the PCB design. After this point, if components run too hot, only remedial actions are possible.
Mechanical engineers are typically responsible for the thermal integrity of the product. They should provide as much feedback as possible to the electronic engineers to guide the design about the thermal impact of their choices as early in the design process as possible.
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Getting the most PCB performance during the thermal design phase
Designers can optimize PCB performance during the thermal design phase by starting early collaboration. Mechanical engineers can help with package selection and the best positioning of components to utilize system airflow for cooling. While cost is typically the primary driver of package selection and positioning, temperature and cooling also impact performance and overall cost.
Key considerations in printed circuit board PCB thermal design
PCB thermal design uses component temperature as the key measure to indicate whether the design is acceptable from a thermal perspective. Some integrated circuits (ICs) are available in more than one package style, and not all package styles perform equally well from a thermal point of view. By working closely with the design team and providing this input, it's more likely thermal performance becomes a consideration for the package selection criteria. Engineers can also share the most relevant thermal metrics to compare the thermal performance of candidate components.
Move printed circuit board PCB thermal design up the design flow
Move PCB thermal design considerations up the design flow by leveraging collaborative design. Teams can parallel the thermal design from a mechanical perspective with the thermal design from an electrical perspective. This approach can lead to faster design closure, better reliability and a better outcome than a single flow.
Giving thermal simulation feedback results to the PCB design team
Providing thermal simulation feedback results to the PCB design team earlier in the process gives them a better picture of the thermal design. While principle simulation results are coarse earlier on stage, the airflow distribution over the board and the resulting board temperature are powerful tools you can use. They show what you have to work with for available cooling air and its effect on component temperature.