Role of IoT in PCB Industry


With the existence of the fourth industrial revolution, the Internet of Things has grown and evolved into a most significant movement from the birth of the dot-com. Internet of Things and its effects has been deeply woven into the framework of technology and daily life. Most consumers might not realize that Internet of Things Printed Circuit Boards are at the forefront of the internet of things infiltration into everyday tech and that the internet of things is playing an integral part in a shift in printed circuit board design and their manufacture. The demand for internet of things devices is rising each day. This makes the understanding of the interconnections between the IoT, flex, and HDI PCBs become increasingly crucial for printed circuit board designers.

This article will have a detailed look at the printed circuit boards and the internet of things. Everything that needs to be told we will have in this article.

What is the Internet of Things?

  • Internet of things is the crossover between the physical and the digital world which is brought forth by the creation of other than PCs that connect to IP networks. The best example of an IoT is the smartphone. It is the most prominent but recently, apps that are controlling home utilities and appliances have been developed. There has been also the introduction of wearable tech and vehicles with data accessibility that are proving the potential of IoT being limitless.

  • When it comes to IoT command for revolution, consumer electronics might be the first innovation that comes to one’s mind. However, the manufacturing, transportation, and health industries will top even personal cars and electronics for their command in the IoT revolution. As such, these large-scale industries need innovative printed circuit board design that gives flexibility and high-speed connectivity to streamline the processes on a global scale.

The Main Pillars for PCB Design in IoT Products

PCBs are currently found in a great percentage of IoT products, they are the core components. For one to have successful Internet of Things products they require well-designed printed circuit boards.

Therefore there are 4 main pillars for printed circuit board design that amount to successful Internet of Things products. The pillars are discussed below;

  1. Form factor

Currently being the prior days of the Internet of Things development, there is already a good number of various form factors found in markets. Check out the comparisons between Philips Hue lighting, Ecobee4 Thermostats, Fitbit smartwatches even Ring doorbells.

With the form factor, there are challenges that one should take care of while selecting the form factor. They include;

  • Lightweight: Most Internet of Things products are for consumer use and most users want something that is not heavy for them.
  • Miniaturized: Internet of Things devices are designed to be carried anywhere and therefore they have to be very small in size as possible.
  • Hard-wearing or ruggedized: You will realize that some of these products are designed for rough and tough uses hence they operate in very extreme conditions. Therefore, you have to design something capable of overcoming such
  • Ergonomic: if you are building something that needs to be worn by the consumer again it should be very comfortable for them.

To overcome the above challenges, it is recommended and advisable to use these practices –MCAD/ECAD.

Why does MCAD/ ECAD collaborate?

Electrical and mechanical engineers must be great mates while working on the IoT product. When any change is experienced in the electrical it affects mechanical design, that’s why alignment should be maintained in every single step.

Working together is key if your device operates on battery. Consumption of power can be very demanding and hence the thermal output from the processors and the microcontrollers should be kept always in check. One needs to undertake a thermos-airflow simulation, which can only be achieved through MCAD tools. Take for example, if there is a manufacturing process of an IoT device that produces a lot of thermal output at maximum achievement if the collaboration between mechanical engineers and electrical engineers takes place mechanical people will help in the performance of simulation of the airflow that will ensure the design will minimize overheating.

Leveraging multiple board designs

The old horizontal printed circuit boards are not well suited to be user-friendly and miniaturized Internet of Things products.

  • If a designer takes the advantage of the multiple PCB designs seriously, they can overcome the challenges of form factor.
  • Among the approaches is building tinier modules and stacking them to reduce the general horizontal footprint.
  1. Connectivity

There is the availability of so many wireless technologies that can be chosen when trying to come up with an internet of things product.

  • The kind of connectivity that you choose will always determine the power utilization, certification, compatibility, and many other things.
  • You are interested in making connectivity into account when making the architectural stage and the early you choose the right and best technology the safer you are.
  • That means deciding if you require Zigbee, wifi, and Bluetooth.
  • All the decisions that you come up with will have a perfect impact on the range and data rate of your internet of Things devices making the right decision is very important.
  • The below layout practices which happen to be so common can help you ensure that you come up with an IoT product that is less affected by the noises;
  1. The analysis of the power: the power consumption will have a fluctuation during the given period and therefore, you should come up with a way to ensure that that can be measured and have a formula that will ensure that the fluctuation is well catered for. Ensure that you come up with a projection of the required power over the lifetime of this product especially if the product is powered by a battery.
  2. The stack-up of the PCB: this ae very necessary when it comes up to the RF performance and the thermal conductivity of the product. Ensure that you take a lot of time when trying to come up with the stack-up to ensure that you can avoid the problems associated with power delivery, signal transmission, and antennae feed.
  3. Process of grounding: the ground surface is always limited for the tiny devices and therefore a lot of care must be taken so that proper grounding can be provided for better heat dissipation and RF better performances.
  4. The stitching of the vias: when via stitching is done efficiently, we expect proper returns of the current and a great reduction of the interferences from noise. When it is well combined with the grounding process, you will have an effectively reduced noise and you can easily achieve high performance for the RF design being made.
  5. The performance of the antenna: when doing the selection of the antenna directivity, form factor, orientation, and gain is very significant.

3. Cost

The price of the internet of things product that you have designed will always depend on the complexity. Let us take the following examples of how to frame our cost design challenges:

  1. Research & Development: the time taken in the process of research and development will always depend on how complex the product is and it should take between months and years.
  2. MSRP: ensure that the selling price of your product falls in the right price range which could be determined by the complexity and the functionality of the same product.
  3. The certifications: sometimes the IoT products certification can prove to be so expensive here you could find yourself spending over 20000 dollars to fully protect and certify your printed circuit boards.
  4. The non-recurring engineering fee: this is the money that is always used in the setting up of the production process. This usually involves the contraction of the manufacturer which may take a very long time to process.

Design for Manufacturing and Assembly

You are supposed to start planning with your CM at an early stage of your product development so that you don’t get surprises when the production process begins. The proper planning before manufacturing will hold the CM not to increase the production prices due to requests that are made at the last minute and in a hurried manner. The assembly and the production costs can be lowered also through:

  • Reducing the number of the components used: ensure that you reduce the number of the components that would be bought in bulk.
  • Building of the standard components: it is very easy to assemble parts that are common and when the common parts are used in the production lines, it is very easy to lower the costs of the production of the PCB.
  • Relaxing designing tolerance: given design will always need strict adherence.
  • Leveraging plastics: most electronic products will make use of metal materials for support purposes. If it is possible to make sure that you make a replacement of the metal parts with cheaper plastics.,

When you are the first person to market your own IoT product can be advantageous to you for you will have the ability to establish your market base before other competitors come in.

Key Takeaways for Successful PCB Design in IoT Products

There is a lot to have in for each of the above pillars of successful PCB design. If one needs to start or focus on the path of the Internet of Things hardware development they should keep the following points in mind;

  • They should do everything they are able for them to choose the right technologies earlier or in the prior stages.
  • They should keenly collaborate with MCAD and ECAD and maximize this collaboration.
  • They should always design for manufacturing and assembly.
  • Always plan early for their certifications and manufacturing.
  • Ensure they have shortened the design feedback loop and always do the testing early.
  • They should know mistakes that happen will always consume time and will be costly.

Printed Circuit Board Applications That Are Controlled By IoT

PCBs are now in control of electronic devices and have ensured that electronics offer the IoT capabilities that are mostly available in smart applications or even on smartphones screens in vehicles’ dashboards. Also, the internet of things is still influencing the design of PCBs and apps to meet the high demand for new ways of utilizing the internet which include;

  • Cameras and sensors in automobiles and residential applications to offer higher levels of convenience, efficiency, and proper security.
  • Fitted trackers with data being analyzed away from the client.
  • Color-changing bulbs that can create self-satisfying moods for various rooms, these can be managed from smartphones or even small smart devices or tablets.
  • In shop centers or even amusement parks there are grid layouts.

Printed circuit boards have made almost every new or proposed idea to be possible, from the monitoring of train arrivals times and its maintenance schedule needs to creating reliable transportation schedules or even tracking real-time traffic which navigates through the car dashboards

Internet of Things Opportunity in the area of Flex and HDI Printed Circuit Boards

In the early computer and technology days, the shape, weight, and size of the computer depended on the inner components’ structure. Years later, technology has evolved and the industry is now all about the creation of optimal Internet of Things products that can function similarly no matter the form it undertakes. This has made it crucial to rethink the internal schematic to reflect this progress in methodology.

The functionality of the new form aspects of printed electronics is at the forefront in making sophisticated production possible. Flex printed circuit boards and HDI printed circuit boards ensure there is freedom for design, cater to very high-power demands in raising fastening printed circuit board spaces, and are suitable where electromagnetic interference is intense. This also offers tensile strength.

Flex PCBs and IoT Benefits

  • Small size: Rigid PCBs being bulk limits freedom designs but they also tend to require too much space within the PCB. Flex PCBs occupy a small volume, this allows components like microphones, and batteries all to fit in a tiny package without disturbing capabilities for performance
  • Great resistance: Material used in flex PCBs give improved durability, increasing their ability to resist stress caused by electromagnetic interference
  • Clear wiring routes: Wiring methods have been simplified by flex PCBs with their abstinence of mechanical connections.

Materials used by flex PCBs are flexible and open up a world of opportunities for mobile gadgets and moving parts, this makes the undisputable tool for a wide range of IoT applications.

HDI PCBs and IoT Advantages

HDI is an indispensable tool for the tiny packaged PCBs we see in many electronics today. While facing the bigger picture of IoT, fabricators should consider the advantages of HDI boards, which includes their reliability and speed. The aspects they should put the effort into include;

  • Reduced weight and size: HDI PCBs are commonly known for dense component holding capacity. They are identified with their small trace size and high density of the wires. Great courtesy of stacked micro Vias and other characteristics which help save the space on the board. Having a small board translates to a great application, making them perfect for use with the changing strategies in the field of IoT.
  • Clean circuit route: High-density interconnect PCBs provide a versatile routing option, this is highly influenced by blind vias or buried Vias and micro Vias which forms the smooth dense parts of the circuit. This makes it possible for IoT optimization due to the small space performance of HDI printed circuit boards.
  • Improvement of cost-effectiveness: Reduced layering and higher energy efficiency lead to a more cost-effective product to produce and implement.


The Changes in the Internet of Things PCB Design Process

The procedures and process of making IoT products start with the evaluation of the new form of possibilities and out of their transition into the stages of selecting printed circuit boards layouts and materials. The requirements for assembly into a finished product need to be considered throughout the product design flow.

The main aspect of industry rattling of IoT is a crossover between an electronic and the mechanical, between a product itself and its printed circuit board form.


Internet of Things Design Tips and Recommendations

While designing a printed circuit board that is perfect for IoT, one will come across a few key areas of design to pay attention to. Some of the areas with tips that help in making a PCB ideal for IoT include;

  • Size requirements: Bigger devices are getting smaller. Printed circuit board designers no longer have extra PC board layout space in their routine placement of traces and tracks, components, and Vias. Currently, great flexibility and functionality in small areas are made possible via high-density interconnectivity and rigid-flex PCBs. With these tiny forms, it is important to ensure all IoT products are on the same stage from the very start of the design.

  • Product fitting: After the size of the board, one will wish to do much prototyping virtually to ensure they easily include the shapes of their design into the IoT form it is intended for. Circuit boards in IoT will at some point fit on non-functional materials for better functionality, and one might find themselves opting for a plastic component in their designs that they never expect.