John McMillan

Evolving Design Reuse Considerations

May 20, 2022

For many electronics companies, their new products are actually variations of existing products. Products often have design circuits that can be leveraged from product to product. The ability to reuse board-to-board printed circuit board (PCB) circuits enables design teams to build new products quickly, accelerating time to market. These reusable “golden circuits” can vary from …

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Evolving Design Reuse Considerations

For many electronics companies, their new products are actually variations of existing products. Products often have design circuits that can be leveraged from product to product. The ability to reuse board-to-board printed circuit board (PCB) circuits enables design teams to build new products quickly, accelerating time to market. These reusable “golden circuits” can vary from complex CPU or GPU configurations to optimally placed memory layouts of a design. Simpler circuits like physical interfaces that are commonly reused throughout an entire product line don’t just support performance. They also guarantee alignment during mating with the PCB’s mechanical counterparts.

Can Supply Chain Issues Impact Design Reuse? 

Reusable board-to-board circuits include both components and circuitry. Component supply chain resilience is a pressing concern. For example, companies in the automotive and consumer electronics industries that employ design reuse must be able to ensure that the components included in these “golden circuits” are still available—and still meet product performance and cost goals. Component shortages are driving costs up, creating manufacturing delays, and opening the door to increased production of counterfeit parts.

How Important is Component Intelligence? 

Today’s supply chain issues are not just exposing gaps in component availability and cost concerns. They are also driving the need for new component intelligence that helps design teams identify and qualify reliable alternate sources of supplies. In addition, companies must develop procedures to protect themselves from the growing counterfeit component trade.

As PCB workflows evolve and integrate into many of the stages of the electronics systems design flow, reuse blocks accelerate design and provide known performance confidence. This paradigm further considers the manufacturability of electronic products—putting it on the design teams’ radar from the earliest stages of design specification through to the product’s end-of-life. 

Should Your Design Flow Support Reuse Circuit Management?

Design reuse circuits are often saved with a  library management flow that is similar to those of component libraries. Enterprise-level companies frequently use robust, feature-rich PLM systems flows to manage reuse. In these flows, the circuits can be managed, improved and version-controlled. To continue to add value, these flows must evolve to consider future component availability for both new and legacy reuse circuits. For example, what steps must be taken when a reuse circuit includes components that are no longer available? Perhaps the company has closed, the component has been discontinued, or a price increase has impacted profit margins such that a redesign is the most economical approach. 

Does it make sense for design reuse circuits to be “supply chain” connected? Design reuse blocks are generally static entities that reside in libraries until they are needed for incorporation into a design. Companies must determine that components within a reuse circuit are no longer suitable or available at the new PCB design level. Once that decision has been made, the circuit must be updated to reflect the changes, or scratched and recreated. The original version can be archived if needed for legacy reference, but likely will never be reused. 

Can Design Reuse Circuits be Future-Proofed?

PCB design flows, access to real-time sourcing information, component traceability, and collaboration are growing areas of product development for businesses ranging from enterprise to small and mid-sized companies. Imagine a design reuse flow that not only accesses real-time component availability and pricing information but also provides traceability and flags problematic components.

Some questions to consider:

Do companies need to put processes in place that help future-proof the benefits of design reuse circuits? 

Will design tools evolve with new strategies that minimize the impact of today’s disrupted supply chain? 

Can product lifecycle management (PLM) software help manage design reuse circuits efficiently?

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