Last Updated on October 22, 2023 by Kevin Chen
Image source Freepik
When developing an electronic system or application, PCB power modules may end up being one of the most expensive components in the system. Given the critical role that they play, we can easily understand why these modules come at a high cost.
They perform all the roles that are responsible for the power management in the system. Whether it is power input, output, or distribution, you will need PCB power modules to execute these tasks.
Is it possible to lower the cost of PCB power modules? Yes, and one way of doing this is by optimizing the designs of the PCB modules. An elaborate PCB design process will eventually determine the outlook of the final product. In this article, we are going to discuss some of the ways in which we can optimize PCB power module designs in order to get cost-effective solutions.
Reduce the size of the PCB power modules
This is the most common PCB cost-saving design technique. By reducing the size of the power module, you will have contributed a significant percentage in trimming the cost of the PCB module.
A direct impact of the smaller-size PCB module in relation to the cost is a smaller footprint, or smaller surface area. This means that your final product will also be smaller implying that less material will be used in the manufacturing of the final product.
But, doesn’t it mean that opting for a smaller size means that I will have to reduce the number of components that will be mounted on the PCB? For years, this has been a major issue. However, you can still achieve the same component density on your smaller circuit board by using SMD versions which entail mounting components on the surface of the PCB layer.
When using SMD, you can pack numerous components on a small surface area of the PCB. For example, you can put two resistors on top of each other but on two different layers.
Choosing small-size electronic components can also help to achieve PCB power modules that come in smaller sizes.
Reduce the number of layers
Layering is among the key areas of focus during the PCB power module design process. Electronic components are usually placed on these layers. You can lower the cost of PCB designs by cutting down on the number of layers that make up the PCB power modules.
First, it is important to know that not all the layers are important. Some layers add unnecessary size and weight to the printed circuit board, a factor that will lead to the high cost of the design.
You can reduce the layer count from 7 to 5 and watch the amount of money that you would have saved by implementing this simple move.
However, take note that layer reduction is not a solution to all the PCB power modules. There are some PCB power modules that need a high layer count in order to function efficiently. This is quite common in applications where PCBs are designed for complex tasks. In such cases, it is better to incur higher costs and still get better results than to lower the cost and get inefficient systems.
Still, on the issue of layers, you should pay attention to the thickness dimensions of the layers for your PCB power module design. Choosing the right specifications will help you cut the cost by a significant amount.
Choose the right PCB power module components
The PCB components that you choose will help you to optimize the cost of PCB power module design. The right components are the ones that have desirable electric, thermal, and physical properties.
Start by analyzing the voltage and current properties of the electronic components. Power specifications will help you come up with a low-cost design.
The next thing that you should focus on is the thermal properties of the electronic components. Here, you need to look at elements such as thermal resistance and thermal dissipation of each component that will be on the PCB power module. For instance, you are likely to choose SMD components because of their impressive heat dissipation.
You should also consider the physical properties of the components. The size and design of the components will eventually affect the cost of implementing PCB power component designs.
Optimize the design for power distribution
Since our focus is on the PCB power modules, one way of optimizing the cost is by focusing on the distribution of the power in the module. Choose a power distribution network (PDN) that will cut down the cost and still guarantee the efficiency and reliability of the system.
Elements of power distribution networks include connectors, vias, plane traces, and decoupling capacitors. Focus on each of these elements and their positioning on the power module. For example, you may focus on optimizing the length and width of the traces A trace calculator may come in handy in optimizing such measurements so that at the end of the process you will have optimized the cost of the design.
Using a continuous plane enhances the capacitance of the power distribution network while at the same time reducing its impedance. This is a cost-effective method of optimizing the cost of PDN. Additionally, you may opt to use small vias which in a way reduce the resistance of the power distribution network.
Consider thermal management in the design
While trying to optimize power module design cost, you should also consider the thermal management aspect of the module. Thermal management is all about controlling heat and temperature in the power module.
The design should focus on minimizing overheating in the PCB power module. This way, you will be able to achieve thermal efficiency without installing expensive heating solutions. Various thermal solutions are considered in the PCB design process. They include heat sinks, thermal vias, and airflow.
By taking all these factors into consideration, you will be able to achieve designs of the PCB power modules in the most cost-effective ways. In case you want to buy electronic components that will be used in the modules, it is advisable to buy from the best PCB component suppliers.
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