What is Circuit Design

Circuit Designers try to make connections.

1. What do PCB Designers Do?

Printed circuit board design is, at a very basic level, an activity that makes electrical connections between parts, pads, and pins.  But making connections is the easy part of the job.  If all that needed to be done was to connect pads and pins, there wouldn't really be a need to do anything more than create a schematic and let a computer program do the rest.

Bob Pease Book on Solderless Breadboard

The cover of Bob Pease's book "Troubleshooting Analog Circuits"

Designers have to worry about how components behave in actual circuits. Do they get too hot?  Are there electromagnetic field interactions between two signals?  How do you balance cost and quality?  How do you reduce the footprint by 3mm²?  How do you route 40 A without the board melting?  Will my 120VAC circuit arc and destroy something?

Printed Circuit Design is a decidedly creative activity that requires engineers to understand applied physics and problem solve.  There are competing priorities that must be constantly balanced, and one change can create a cascade of other changes.  For now, an experienced engineer is superior to a computer, but that might not always be the case.

While this course doesn't dig into the deeper layers of Signal Integrity and Power Integrity, the topics will be mentioned from time to time.  The following pages provide a bit of background on the circuit design process.