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Utilizing Multi-board System 3D Modeling Increases Design Accuracy and Performance

Key Takeaways

  • Learn about the 3D Modeling process.

  • Gain a greater understanding of how Multi-board System 3D Modeling increases design accuracy, performance, and cost-effectiveness.

  • Learn about the advantages that 3D Modeling has on the manufacturing process.

Engineer/ Technician utilizing a 3D Modeling Program.

Engineer Designing a New Component in a CAD Program.

Simulation and modeling in the field of PCBA are the cornerstones of accurate and efficient design practices. The ability to formulate and replicate prototypes before full-scale manufacturing allows for design testing, accuracy, design improvements, proof of concept, and increased cost-effectiveness within the manufacturing process.

3D Modeling

3D Modeling is a process of development that utilizes a mathematical representation of an object or surface. These objects can be either living or inanimate, but in each case, a specialized software produces a three-dimensional representation of these objects. Furthermore, we call these three-dimensional representations 3D models.

Also, it is possible to display these 3D models as two-dimensional images via a process called 3D rendering. We can use these representations in computer simulations of physical phenomena and even create physical representations by utilizing 3D printers.

3D Models can be created manually or automatically. The manual creation process involves the preparation of geometric data for 3D computer graphics, whereas the automatic process utilizes 3D modeling software. In summary, a 3D Model represents a physical body using a collection of points in 3D space. These points connect via a myriad of geometric entities like lines, curved surfaces, and triangles.

Industry and 3D Models

Today’s level of advancement in the area of technology lends itself to the widespread use of 3D modeling in virtually every industry. Whether it is the medical industry using modeling for scans or the science industry utilizing 3D models of chemical compounds, 3D models are a vital tool with near-limitless potential.

However, in the field of engineering, 3D modeling is an invaluable design tool for electronic devices, vehicles, as well as PCBA. Even the Earth Science industry now utilizes 3D geological models as a general practice.

Multi-board Systems and 3D Modeling

As engineers and PCB designers, simulation is critical to the overall design process, as is the utilization of 3D Modeling software. In today’s technological landscape, we see numerous devices that share a common thread, i.e., complexity and miniaturization. These two factors warrant the increasing need for software in design-related tasks like 3D modeling. With heightening demands for increased functionality, performance, and extended lifecycles, the verifications afforded by 3D modeling are immensely helpful.

The ability to verify functionality for PCB design packages, which ensures they meet mechanical requirements, is an essential benefit of 3D modeling. The included electronic computer-aided design (ECAD) functions in 3D modeling software also allow for the adherence to form factors as well.

Multi-board System Design

Previously, mechanical design and electrical design were devoid of commonality in design software. This, of course, meant that these two design teams clashed, which led to inefficiency, increased time to market, and reduced cost-effectiveness. However, with the onset of 3D modeling software and its improved capabilities in PCB design, you can design mechanical and electrical features as well as verify them simultaneously.

3D modeling removes the added difficulty associated with the incompatibility between mechanical design and electrical design software. As you might imagine, this alleviates time-consuming changes for electrical designers attempting to ensure proper functionality. More so, since these changes require implementation in the mechanical models.

Examples of these changes include heat sinks, capacitors, power planes, transformers, and ground planes, to name a few. As you might imagine, these components and their complex shapes require design accuracy, especially since they can be attached to the interior board layers. The centralization of MCAD and ECAD features affords expeditious layout changes if the need arises.

Multi-board System Design and 3D Modeling

As a designer, you understand how to arrange multi-board systems with multiple board placements utilizing cables and connectors. We typically see these odd-angled arrangements in TVs and motherboards (PCs/laptops). In general, these types of multi-board connections are via short cables or direct connections. If so, using 3D Modeling will permit mechanical clearance verification for your design. Furthermore, this verification process is the same as it is for rigid-flex and flex boards.

Also, the organization of multi-board systems benefits significantly from the ability to create tiered plans. These hierarchical schematics allow you to separate functions for the various PCBs, thus enabling the creation of individual PCB schematics as well.

Overall, utilizing 3D mechanical design tools prohibits the occurrence of issues you may not discover until the fabrication stage. As I am sure you are aware, no manufacturer desires to be mid-fabrication and find problems that halt production. In summary, utilizing ECAD software with MCAD tools embedded in the software will facilitate the early identification of issues and fix them before they reach the critical manufacturing stage.

Overview of Design Steps for Multi-board Systems

  • Information

Knowledge is power, and what is information, if not knowledge? The design process for even a single PCB requires a significant amount of information. Therefore, as the number of boards in your system increases, so do the informational requirements. This includes addressing questions such as, will the PCBs be manufactured together? If that is the case, you will need to plan accordingly for their layer stackups. As you may know, multi-board design aims to reduce overall development time.

  • Schematic Capture in Multi-Board Design

Like hierarchical schematics, which use upper-level blocks to represent various areas of circuitry, system schematic design uses them to represent the multiple PCBs. The goal is to link the individual schematics collectively in your system schematic. Although you still simulate and design your schematics at the individual level, you can also perform simulations at the system level.

  • Organize and Set Up Your Design Rules

This is where you set up design parameters, rules, and constraints of your design. Remember, with multi-board system designs; you must do this with each layout.

  • Multi-Board PCB Layout

You will have a similar since we still design each board separately. However, in this case, you can view the various boards and mechanical design elements to verify part placement during the layout. This, of course, aids significantly in reducing clearance issues between enclosures, parts, and other components.

  • Full System Design in Review

Here, and throughout the design process, you will have an opportunity to check the boards against the system and each other. This is where 3D Modeling provides you with the ability to virtually prototype your multi-board system prior to committing to the final build.

The use of 3D Modeling for multi-board PCB systems is becoming more critical in many areas. 3D modeling reduces unnecessary interactions among PCB design teams, thus increasing design accuracy, cost-effectiveness, lifecycle, and reduces time to market. 

Multi-board system designed using 3D Modeling.

Multi-purpose flying probe system for a wide range of test requirements.

Your designers need the right PCB design and analysis software with a full suite of layout and simulation tools that integrate with MCAD features. The OrCAD PCB Designer includes ECAD MCAD co-design tools that engineers need to collaborate across design teams on multi-board systems, rigid-flex boards, and other boards with odd form-factors. To learn more about accurately designing multi-board systems with 3D modeling, visit the Cadence PCB Design and Analysis overview page. 

And if you're looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts.