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circuit board on design of electronic board

Today, as is happening throughout the field of design engineering, circuit board design is undergoing many changes as the Internet of Things (IoT) grows. Some are describing this technological revolution as equal to the Industrial Revolution in breadth and impact on our daily lifestyle. There is the exciting potential to make your mark on this new world in unique and unexpected ways.

Staying up to date on the issues that are arising in circuit board design for the IoT will give you a competitive edge. The IoT market is moving so quickly that being unaware of a key aspect or trend could mean the difference between delivering a design that shines or one that flops. Here we’ve collected the main challenges you’ll need to overcome to design a circuit board for an IoT device, with tips included.

Power Consumption

The types of IoT products being designed today are not likely to have a dedicated source of plug-in power. Most IoT devices rely on batteries or energy harvesting tech so efficient power consumption is essential.

Rather than focusing on power consumption for the device as a whole, consider dividing up the power budget by assigning a portion to each functional circuit block on the circuit board. It is also incredibly helpful to consult with a component supplier, who may have suggestions for alternate parts that can keep your power budget to a minimum.

Design Reuse

With the advent of the IoT, we are witnessing a shift in electronics design toward standardization. Reusing blocks of circuitry that have been shown to work reliably and efficiently in daily use is the way forward. This way, you won’t have to endlessly re-design the same block of a schematic, like Sisyphus endlessly rolling his boulder up the hill. With the IoT, the traditional schematic design process is now module design. It is prudent to begin reusing part lists, modular schematics, and parts of layouts that have been confirmed successful in past projects.

Product Design in Tandem with Circuit Board Design

Circuit board designers must increase their knowledge of overall product design to meet the needs of today’s world. Gone are the days of working in silos and handing off a circuit board design to a mechanical designer for a fit check. With the IoT, given the smaller form factors, each and every stakeholder must be on the same page throughout the design process, from concept development to final testing. Virtual prototyping is becoming paramount. It is being used to evaluate the dimensions of the circuit board, the overall device weight, and whether the board fits within an enclosure efficiently.

Limited Layout Space

With devices for the IoT, there is hardly enough space to include all of your tracks, components, and vias. Devices must often be compact enough to be wearable or even ingestible. IoT devices will need to accommodate features such as displays, cameras, microphones, sensors, and more. To include all of these compact functions, tech such as Rigid-Flex circuit boards and High-Density Interconnect (HDI) circuit boards are often used. HDIs are very useful when dealing with limited space because they allow for denser component placement and the use of blind, buried, and micro vias. The bending and twisting capability of Rigid-Flex circuit boards is used to fit multiple circuit boards into a tiny enclosure.

Reliability Is More Significant Than Ever

Changing out a fried through-hole component on a traditional circuit board is tedious but straightforward. For a miniaturized IoT device, the process is much more complicated. Tolerance of the need for regular repairs is ultra-low within the IoT device market. From smart fridges to wearable devices, consumers are not willing to accept a lapse in functionality.

Poor consumer ratings during a product’s initial release can tank a device right from the start, so it needs to just work, and work well. Simulations programs are becoming indispensable in designing circuit boards for IoT devices. These programs allow you to painstakingly optimize all aspects of your prototype for top performance. Thermal management is very important for IoT devices; with multiple boards located in the same space, not to mention sensitive components, locating the cooling correctly is essential.

Coordinating With Mechanical Design

As a circuit board designer in the IoT world, liaising with the mechanical design department goes beyond the stages of virtual prototyping and product planning. During every stage of the design process, ongoing two-way communication regarding changes to the mechanical assembly or the circuit board is key. Unfortunately, there is currently no streamlined process or standardized software for this communication between teams, since every tool uses its own proprietary file format and data structure.

Wearable Tech

In a word, the human body is very ‘lossy’. This is a challenge for maintaining a strong signal when transmitting data to and from wearable tech. The need for keeping electromagnetic fields as far from the body as possible presents many logistical problems. Radiation is of deep concern to the public. Much research is being done in this field, and the use of components such as low-noise amplifiers is becoming more prevalent.

Humidity is given off by the human body, which presents additional problems. Humidity and circuitry are not the best of friends, so careful planning is key when designing high-impedance circuits into a wearable device. One solution, from a mechanical design perspective, is to engineer a package that is fully sealed off from humidity. Another solution is to include a conformal coating to the circuit board, which helps prevent moisture from accessing the sensitive components.

Wireless Modules and Protocols

Wireless connectivity is essential for any IoT product, giving a device the ability to collect, send, and receive data. Finding space to fit components for wireless connectivity can be a great challenge. Today, standardized modules and RF components designed for IoT products are available. These parts are designed to have small footprints and still provide the functions needed. Protocols typically used for IoT products include communication and transport, identification, infrastructure, data, device management, and discovery.

For more information, please call Circuits Central at 1 (888) 602-7264 or contact us here.

Multimeter with laptop background

For electrical maintenance managers and employees, electrical safety is the main goal. DC hipot testing is a key step in quality control to be certain that only safe, functional cables are being used, whether in a commercial electronics setting or for the consumer. When it comes time to install new cables, the hipot test is a very important task to be carried out.

What is DC Hipot Testing?

The term “DC hipot test” is shorthand for the high potential (high voltage) test, also known as the dielectric withstand test (or dielectric strength test). A hipot test checks to ensure that no current will flow from one point to another point. Hipot testing is applied to check whether any degradation has occurred. This test typically follows a sequence of other tests such as humidity, fault condition, and vibration.

The hipot test is the opposite of a continuity test. A continuity test determines whether a current can flow undeterred from one point to another point, whereas a hipot test checks to ensure that a current cannot flow from one point to another point.

Key Uses of DC Hipot Testing

One of the main uses of DC hipot testing is to confirm the safety of new cable installations and proper handiwork of cable accessory installation. Electrical stress is applied to the cable with the intent of finding any major problems due to mechanical damage, manufacturer defects, or accessories that are improperly installed.

A functional, properly installed cable is designed to withstand three times its rated voltage, to be able to tolerate fluctuations in generator voltages or voltage transients during a heavy storm.

If the hipot testing step is skipped, there is no way to be sure that the cable will actually tolerate voltages according to its specified rating.

DC Hipot Testing: Why It’s Important

The hipot test is important because it tests for the adequacy of electrical insulation during times of too high a voltage. Hipot tests are the best way to discover inadequate creepage and clearance distances introduced during manufacturing, braided shielding, terminal spacing problems, tears, rips and other damages in insulation, stray wire strands, conductive or corrosive contaminants around the conductors, and tolerance errors in cables.

Production-line hipot testing occurs during the manufacturing process, to check whether the construction of a production unit matches the construction of the unit that was subjected to type testing. A production-line hipot test may catch process failures such as a transformer with reduced creepage. Process failures could also include a pinhole defect in insulation or an enlarged solder footprint.

The DC Hipot Test Method

The standard duration for DC hipot testing is one minute. The standard test voltage for hipot testing is two times the operating voltage plus 1000V. The reason that 1000V is added is that research has shown that overvoltages can reach this high. The basic method is to connect one side of the supply to a grounded conductor. The other side of the supply is connected to the conductor being tested. With the supply connected in this way, there are two places that a conductor can be connected, to ground or to high voltage.

If you are hipot testing more than two contacts, one contact must be connected to high-voltage and all other contacts are connected to a grounded conductor. Testing in this way verifies that a contact is isolated from all other contacts. If the two contacts have sufficient insulation between them, then the application of a large voltage difference between the two will result in the flow of a gentle current.

While most hipot testing devices today allow the user to set the current limit, if the exact leakage current of the product is known then the hipot test current can be calculated. To discover the trip level, test a number of product samples and establish an average hipot current. After an average hipot current is determined, the leakage current trip level should be set to a number that is just above the average hipot current.

A Step-by-step Guide for DC Hipot Testing

  1. Open the switches or circuit breakers to isolate the cable or circuit to be hipot tested.

  2. Verify that all equipment or cables not being tested are isolated from the circuit under testing

  3. Insert barriers around the terminations of cables and equipment under testing to keep persons without electrical training from entering your work zone. The boundary around your work zone should be at least 1.6 metres.

  4. Ensure that a suitable building ground or grounding electrode conductor is accessible, and connect the ground lead of the hipot tester to it. Connect the high voltage lead to one of the isolated circuit phase conductors.

  5. Turn on the hipot tester and set the meter to your predetermined voltage, typically 1000V.

  6. On the meter, find and engage the button marked “test”. For one minute, note the resistance reading and keep a record of the reading. Note if there is any indication of breakdown.

  7. Switch the tester from the high potential test mode to the voltage measuring mode in order to verify that the circuit phase conductor and voltage of the tester are now reading 0V.

  8. Repeat the testing procedure for all circuit phase conductors. It is important to test each phase to ground and each phase to each phase.

  9. Once testing is finished, disconnect the tester from the circuits and ensure that the circuits are clear to be re-connected and re-energized.

For safety during hipot testing, never touch the cable with bare hands and always wear insulating gloves. Remember to correctly handle the equipment during calibration. Wait for the hipot testing to be fully complete before removing the cable. Never allow persons without electrical training to access the equipment, being especially vigilant of children’s access. If you have any electronic implants, do not use the testing equipment.

For more information, please call Circuits Central at 1 (888) 602-7264 or contact us here.

Ways Intelligent Solutions Benefit Every Manufacturer

IoT manufacturing solutions are transforming the ways in which products are made. These smart devices are taking over production floors across the country. They’re increasing efficiency, saving energy, and reducing wasteful downtime. Ultimately, the factories of the future are enabling companies to take control of their assembly lines and discover new revenue streams.

To understand how intelligent solutions are changing the manufacturing landscape, it’s important to define the characteristics of a smart factory:

  • Able to make optimization decisions on its own without the need for human intervention
  • Allows managers to make better shop floor decisions by providing insights into the broader supply chain
  • Able to self-adapt and tweak processes by examining workflow conditions in real time

We are seeing more interconnected products today than ever before. They allow people to take control of the environment around them. It only makes sense that traditional manufacturing would eventually catch up with digital technology. As the industry undergoes a major upheaval, here are five ways that intelligent solutions can benefit every manufacturer.

  1. Enhanced asset tracking capabilities

    Whether it’s robotic assembly devices or innovative injection moulds, all manufacturing plants contain assets that are crucial to conducting their business. IoT devices have asset tracking capabilities that are far superior to traditional methods.

    In the past, employees were responsible for maintaining records on an asset’s whereabouts. But today, Real Time Location Systems (RTLS) are improving asset visibility and providing accurate location information too. Smart technologies like this eliminate the need for a worker to manually track each valuable. RTLS allows you to locate assets across multiple facilities, whether they’re indoors or out.

    Meanwhile, smart factories are constantly generating reams of data. Through ongoing analysis, they’ll eventually reveal asset performance issues. These issues may be costing your business tens of thousands of dollars or even slowing down the entire production process. Today’s technology allows for self-correction – something that traditional manufacturers cannot rely on. This improves asset efficiency and reduces the downtime of your most valuable equipment.

  2. Significant cost reductions

    Smart factories allow managers to reduce waste and identify supply chain issues. When all components are interconnected and ‘speaking’ to each other, the system can pinpoint breaks in communication and poor workflow. IoT devices can alert staff of low inventory levels or changes in demand cycles. Smart equipment can also predict trends and patterns, allowing managers to make informed decisions ahead of time.

    When you have predictable inventory requirements and less operational anomalies, cost reductions will certainly follow. Businesses can gain a competitive edge by putting these savings back into product innovation or investing in even smarter technology.

  3. Reduced workflow challenges

    Automation helps manufacturing plants complete more projects with fewer workers. When you’re receiving insightful data across multiple stages of the assembly process, employees can focus on more high-minded tasks. This not only improves efficiency but also fosters innovation in the long term. Here are some other key advantages of an automated workflow:

    • Less potential for human error, which can reduce industrial accidents that cause injury
    • Eliminate menial jobs involving repetitive tasks so employees can be re-assigned to more meaningful work
    • Human workers in a smart factory may take on more meaningful responsibilities, resulting in higher rates of employee satisfaction

    If your business has been focused on creating a leaner and more intelligent workforce, a push towards automation may be right for you.

  4. Improved building security

    Manufacturers that deploy intelligent solutions often have better security frameworks in place. Use IoT devices to protect your warehouse with cloud-based access control. Lock building doors and manage surveillance networks through the internet. An Internet-enabled system allows you to oversee multiple plants at a time, which is ideal for manufacturing facilities that are part of a larger complex.

    Cloud-based access control is also helpful for compliance. Should you encounter a security breach that requires police involvement, your team can hand over access logs with detailed accounts of all entry/exit times. There is no need for on-site servers that take up valuable storage space. Simply log into the web portal and access your business’ security data from there.

  5. Improved flexibility

    Smart factories are able to shift gears and adapt to industrial changes with minimal human intervention. Traditional manufacturing processes are not as agile: All aspects of the production process must come to a halt so they can be assessed by supervisors. They must then be tweaked to adjust to new schedules or product changes.

    With IoT technology, the system is collecting data about the production process 24/7 in real-time. This means the assembly line is constantly self-adjusting based on the patterns or trends it has picked up, without managers having to approve every workflow change. When manufacturers are able to react quickly to industrial shifts, the broader benefits for the business cannot be ignored:

    • Increased speed of products-to-market
    • Improved ability to capture market share
    • Better profitability resulting from workforce stability

For more information about smart manufacturing, please call Circuits Central at 1-888-602-7264 or contact us here.

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