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From Schematic Capture to Delivery: PCB Design Process Flowchart

Key Takeaways

  • Creating a detailed schematic using a capable capture tool is crucial. It allows for the electrical design of the board and enables circuit simulations to ensure the circuit's functions.

  • PCB layout design and verification stage includes setting up CAD tools, defining PCB size, designing stackup for impedance considerations, placing components according to design rules, routing traces, and conducting design verifications

  • Finalizing the design involves generating manufacturing files, sourcing components, conducting quality checks, and ultimately packaging and delivering the board.

PCB Design Process Flowchart

PCB Design Process Flowchart

Navigating the intricacies of PCB design can often feel like a complex and detailed expedition. To simplify this journey, we've distilled the essence into this PCB design process flowchart, providing a clear and concise roadmap from conception to completion. This guide aims to explain each of the steps involved, making the process more accessible and manageable.

Initial Planning and Schematic

Initial planning and schematic section of the PCB design process flowchart

Design Process Step


Board Requirements 

Understand system electrical parameters, including 

Develop Library CAD Parts

Often done in conjunction with the schematic step, this includes ensuring symbols, simulation models, footprints and step models are either created or located in a library.

Create the Schematic

Design at the electrical level of the board’s function. At this point, it’s not yet a mechanical representation. It is important to use a capable schematic capture tool to create your schematic.

Schematic Simulation

Employ circuit simulations at the schematic level to verify that the circuit works the intended way. These tools allow PCB engineers to test the circuits they are designing before building the actual hardware.

PCB Layout, Routing and Design Verification

Design Process Step

Design Process Step Description

CAD Tool Setup

Set up design rules and constraints that prevent nets from overlapping and maintain the correct distances to different objects.

PCB Size Considerations

Consider PCB shape, dimensions, and thickness (determined by the stackup). Set them if already determined, or they can be changed later. 

Design your PCB stackup

Important to consider early on due to impedance. The stackup plays a role in how the mechanical engineer can design and fit the PCB into the device.

Define Design Rules and Relevant DFM Requirements

Often dictated by standards from the IPC. These standards tell you everything you need to know regarding PCB manufacturing. Rules can include clearances between objects, copper or solder mask feature size limits, and routing rules like trace width and length limitations.

Place your components

With design and layout guidelines in mind, place down your components. Some standards may indicate certain components cannot be placed near others due to electrical noise.

Route the traces

Connecting path segments after placing components, keep good routing practices in mind.

Power and Ground Nets

Active components need to be connected to power and ground nets. Designing power and ground planes is critical for ensuring a clear PCB return current path.

Insert drill holes

Used for mounting your PCB or affixing it to an enclosure.

Add labels and identifiers

Add any required labels, identifiers, markings, reference designators or modifications to the silkscreen and soldermask. Reference designators are helpful in showing where specific components will go on the board.

Verification in Simulations

Advanced products may require additional verification using electromagnetic simulation applications to identify SI, PI, and EMI problems that could cause performance failure.

Final Rules Check

Run a final rules check on the PCB design to ensure all manufacturing, high-yield assembly, and reliability standards are met.

Manufacturing, Preparation and Delivery

Manufacturing, preparation, and delivery parts of the PCB design process flowchart

Manufacturing, preparation, and delivery parts of the PCB design process flowchart

Design Process Step


PCB Manufacturing File Creation

Generate PCB manufacturing files in formats like:

  • Gerber, ODB++, or IPC-2581
  • IPC-D-356A Netlist (if relevant)
  • NC drill data (if relevant)
  • pick and place files (if relevant)
  • fabrication and assembly drawings
  • and a complete BOM with component sourcing information

Send Board For Fabrication

Send the output data files to a facility for fabrication. This includes etching all the traces and planes onto the different metal layers and compressing them together.

Sourcing Components

If the BOM was cleaned during the schematic capture stage, then any obsolete, end-of-life, or out-of-stock components would have been identified early. Critical components could be ordered before the design begins.

Quality Check and Visual Inspection

The board is inspected and tested to ensure it meets the required quality standards. This is a critical step before the final product is ready to be shipped.

Packaging and Delivery

Once the board has passed all inspections and tests, it is packaged and delivered to the customer or next stage of the process. This marks the completion of the PCB design process.

Tackle Your PCB Design Flow with OrCAD X

 Ready to elevate your PCB design process? Explore OrCAD X  with a free trial, designed to streamline every step outlined in our PCB design process flowchart. With OrCAD X, you'll unlock advanced schematic capture, simulation capabilities, and manufacturing preparation tools, all tailored to make your design journey smoother and more efficient. Start your journey with OrCAD X today and transform your PCB design experience.

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