Last Updated on October 22, 2023 by Kevin Chen
Image source Freepik
Would you like to build a PCB power module? The first step is to get a printed circuit board. This is a non-conductive material that is printed or etched with various conductors such as copper. After that, you will then consider adding power modules to it. Once you have the PCB, you will need to design a perfect layout that will make it possible to build a complete and functional PCB power module. It should allow all the components that make up the power module to be etched on the PCB. In this article, we are going to discuss the steps and factors that you should consider when designing PCB layouts for power modules.
Linear vs. switch-mode PCB power modules
The first step in designing PCB layouts is knowing the power module that you will use. Would you like to use a linear power module or a switch-mode power module? The fact that these two types of power modules have different structures and designs implies that they will directly affect the design of the module.
Linear power modules tend to have few electronic components and also have simple or minimal design characteristics. This implies that you will have an easy time when designing the PCB layout for such a power module. However, you should pay attention to the power loss factor when it comes to these modules. Most of it is lost in the form of heat. Is your application power-sensitive? Coming up with a perfect PCB layout for linear PCB will also be quite hectic.
On the other hand, switching PCB power modules come in complex designs. You will need some level of expertise to come up with a perfect design for the linear module. The main advantage of these modules is you will not have to worry about thermal problems when designing the layout. However, you will have to think about the electrical energy that is likely to be generated by the module. The design should strive to minimize any possibility of electrical noise through EMI. The design should also eliminate the generation of ripple voltage.
At this point, you are sure about the specific type of power module that you are going to use; it can be a linear power module or a switch-mode power module. The next step is to create a schematic design of the PCB power module.
There are various software applications that you can use to develop a schematic design of the PCB module. They include KiCad, and Altium, among others. The schematic design will help you make the right decision about the placement of the components, size, and even routing of the module. Most of the activities that will follow will be based on the design that you developed using the software.
Using the schematic design, you will be able to define the parameters of the PCB board. These include the length, width, thickness, and the number of layers that should make up the PCB module.
Component selection and placement
When designing a PCB layout, you should consider the electronic components that are going to be etched on the PCB. Each component is designed to perform a particular function in the circuit. The selection of the components will depend on the type of power module that you have chosen.
Take into account all the technical parameters of the components that you are going to use on the PCB. These include the voltage rating, current, charge capacity, and resistance among others. You should also consider the physical attributes of the components such as size and weight as they have a direct impact on the PCB layout.
The design should cater to the distance between the components, their positions, and alignment on the PCB.
In your component selection, you should not ignore the quality and reliability. Ensure that all the components that are factored in the design process meet the quality and reliability standards. It is advisable to buy electronic components for PCB power modules from reputable suppliers and distributors.
PCB trace design
The process of designing PCB layouts for power modules should also include the trace design. Signals of the power modules flow through the traces. It will be vital for the designer to consider all the key elements and characteristics if the traces. The length and width of the PCB traces will vary depending on the features and applications of the PCB power module.
When creating a trace design, you should also factor in the impact of electric interference to the flow of the signals. This is important because signals flow through these traces. This is more important when designing switch-mode power modules. Since heat has a direct impact on the signal flow, the trace design should also consider thermal effects, especially when you are building a linear PCB module.
Closely connected to the trace design is the trace routing. This aspect of the PCB layout design for power module ensures that highly sensitive signals in the printed circuit boards are directed away from the power sources.
Ensure that the signal traces in the module are never in parallel position with the power traces. This is to prevent cases of noise-coupling that could emanate from the layout. Additionally, signal traces should not cross the power traces at 90 degrees.
Thermal aspect of the design
The PCB layout design should also take care of the thermal properties. This should be done regardless of the type of power module that you are using. You should try separate heat-sensitive components from those that are likely to generate significant heat when running. Also, the design should shield power and signal traces from the impact of heat.
Review and test the design
After taking all the steps that we have discussed, you can proceed to review every aspect of the PCB layout design to ensure that everything is perfectly done. Running a design check rue (DCR) will be necessary. You will carry out all the tests on the design and document the results.
The steps and measures above will help you design the best PCB layouts for power modules. In case you are not 100% sure of what to do, it will be prudent to consult PCB experts.
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