How To Be A Circuit Board Designer - Page One

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You might be thinking, "If this tutorial is any good,
I should be learning stuff on Page One".


a "mil" is one-thousandth of an inch

Circuit board designers who aren't using the metric system tend to "speak in mils". At my first meeting at my first job as a circuit board designer, I asked, "What's a mil?" And everyone looked at me, as if hiring me was the biggest mistake the company had ever made.(Since then, I've also heard people use the term mil as a abbreviation for millimeter. If you happen to working at one of those places, be consistent!)

So the next time someone says something like, "An 8 mil external on one-ounce should handle 1.2A at 20 over ambient", at least you'll know what the "mil" part means! (and by the end of this you'll know what the rest means, too)

Don't worry, as a new designer you will be wanting to use the SI system and metric units, but since many legacy designs and drawings, some bare board fabricators and a few old pieces of equipment use inch thousandths (mils), you should know what this means.

Now that we've put that exciting bit of fun behind us,
let's get down to business.

The purpose of this tutorial is to provide an introduction to a very complex process, the development of electronic ideas into real products. The electronics industry is complicated and rapidly changing, and any attempt to document all aspects of it would be overwhelming. What you find here will be only a brief introduction to the most basic concepts of circuit board development from design through manufacturing.

Everything you find here can be found in hundreds if not thousands of other places on the internet. The guidelines presented here are are not unique, this material is everywhere. And that's part of the problem! New designers find it difficult to get started because it seems like there is TOO MUCH information out there. I've been designing circuit boards for over 20 years, and I'm often staggered by the depth of detail. It would be quite difficult if not impossible to learn it all. For each step of the process there are different players, different tools and sometimes even different terminology. And just when you get a handle on it, new innovations come along to increase our capability and efficiency, and the learning process continues....

Don't Panic!

We are going to casually skim the surface of the essentials, hopefully presented in a way that will give you a solid foundation to build upon, and then I'll point to other resources where you can expand your knowledge when you are ready, ok?


Before we get started, please allow me to make one comment about the structure here. The menu on the left contains links to help you navigate through this tutorial. Any link you select from the left menu will take you to a different section of this tutorial.

The links on the right, however, might take you AWAY from this site. They could be other sites, resources, articles, subscription forms, or reference material. There is no practical way for me to cover every topic in sufficient detail, and I wouldn't presume to try and duplicate the efforts of many others who have much to offer. Also, grey text in a white box (like the one shown below) may provide links that lead you somewhere else. (maybe you should bookmark this tutorial right now, so you can always find your way back!)

Boxes like these may contain links that navigate away from this page.
For example, I'm writing this on July 14th, 2009, and today, THIS ARTICLE is considered "leading edge".

I encourage you to explore, but please understand that while most of it is absolutely free, some goods and services cost money. This tutorial was not created to lead you towards any particular product or service, and the fact that I list a few places that I've discovered along the way should not imply that that I've made any attempt to be complete. There is always much more to explore.

One more thing before we dive in...
Although this tutorial only covers introductory material,
I have to say:

Use what you find here at your own risk,
I'm just trying to be helpful.

I hope this off-grid little corner of the world
is useful to you.

Now, let's start learnin'!

(Thanks to Laser Precision Analytical for giving me my first design job)
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