Congratulations, you have just completed your PCB design! While you may think that this is the end of the road, you still have a couple of steps to take before you can send the design off to the manufacturer. Here are some of the most important things you need to do before your PCB can be put into production.
Double Check Your Schematics
Learning how to design a product for manufacturing can be an arduous process which can leave you feeling tired in the final stages. Walk away from the design for a little while and then come back to the schematics with fresh eyes. Is everything connected correctly? Move each part on the board to check that each of its nets are actually connected to it.
It may seem super basic, but do you have all the parts that you need? For example; if you are including a microcontroller, you should maybe think about including a reset switch.
If you think you might have missed something out, Altium have written this design for manufacturing guide which outlines all the materials you’ll need and how to put it all together.
Check the Board
When you are satisfied that the schematics are fine, you should also think about double-checking the board data. One of the easiest checks to do is to order the parts for the board before you put it into production. Another of the major checks you should make is whether the integrated circuits you need are available in the shape you need them for the board. If not, you might again have to alter your design.
Sometimes you cannot always find the precise pieces you need and it is better to try to alter the board when it is still in its drawing phase as opposed to when it has actually been manufactured. Only greenlight the production if you are satisfied that all of your components are going to fit onto the board you have designed. It is a waste of time and money if a board is manufactured which then requires further alterations.
Run the DRC
The DRC, or Design Rule Checking, is one of the best tools your PCB design software will have. It is a small automated feature which checks your design various design rules to make sure that it is ok. You can configure it to whatever needs you have to ensure that it is working to best compliment your design. While it is very good at catching errors, some will slip through and some may register as a false positive so it is extremely important that you know how to read your report!
Generate Your Data Files
The final step you need to undertake is to run the CAM processor. This will convert your design in the PCB software into the data files your manufacturer needs to produce your board. You may also want to take a look at your gerber files in a compatible reader at this point. Then, all that is left to do is package up your files and send them off to the manufacturer! With a little luck, it won’t be long until you get your brand-new board ready for you to install parts on!