The printed circuit board (PCB) integration service from Eurocircuits is supported by a set of online tools that give the user more control and better visibility of what will be produced and how. The use of these tools is free and does not require you to place any orders, and is very good at developing the design of the PCB before deciding to have it done.
In previous articles, we have discussed (in alphabetical order) the PCB Checker, PCB Configurator, PCB Solver and PCB Visualizer this time. We will look at the Panel Editor.
What is a panel?
Panelboard that holds one or more PCBs. Provides a framework that allows boards to go through the default assembly lines. The panel usually covers many events of one design, but not really. The panels can handle many different designs, exactly how PCB assembly works. Eurocircuits, and probably every other integration service, puts many different designs on a single large board split into individual boards when ready.
Who needs a panel?
As mentioned earlier, a panel is required when the board will be filled in the automatic assembly line, but it may be useful for making small assembly boards for SMD components as solder paste can be used in one place throughout the panel. , they speed things up a lot. On smaller boards, the panel can be useful, making it easier to use. If the application contains several PCBs, assembling them on the panel is a good way to get all the boards together. By assembling the PCB and mass production, the panel's purpose is, of course, to waste as much PCB material as possible.
Introducing Panel Editor:
Now that we know what a panel is and why we want it to be let's see how we can do it with a panel editor.
Go to the Eurocircuits website, log in, calculate and edit' and click 'Analyze your data. Complete the form, select your Gerber files and verify the form. Please wait for the PCB Visualizer to do its job (when the busy moving icon is replaced by a solid object, preferably a green marker), then open the Visualizer. Select the panel as 'delivery format' to make the 'panel' section appear (right under the 'Stencil' section). The' Panel' button will also appear for panels only with 'Eurocircuits' (eC or customer).
The EC panel is compatible with Eurocircuits' EC-stencil-mate or eC-stencil-fix tools. If you do not use one of these tools, you do not need an EC panel. Let's continue with the 'customer panel with Eurocircuits'.
Enter the panel parameters:
Clicking the 'Panel' button takes you to the Panel Editor. Before you get there, you are asked a lot of questions to clarify:
Panel border: I chose 'blank' with a diameter of 10 mm (default).
Separation method: I have chosen 'Break routing' (i.e. tab path) and 'PCB space' 2 mm (default and minimal).
'PCB stamped' or 'Stamped block'. A block is a rectangular shape (suitable for triangular boards, 'L'- or 'T'). I chose 'PCB stamped'.
The number of boards: specification on both X as Y index. I put '3' in both and set 'Rotation' to 180 ° (because it allowed me). Note that the size of panel size is 580x425 mm.
After clicking 'Finish', the Panel Editor opens.
Why all these questions are asked is unclear to me as all these parameters can be changed in the Panel Editor anyway. As it happens, the quickest way to the editor is to start with 'eC-panel by Eurocircuits' and then click the 'Advanced panel options' button to open the editor tools menu.
The advantage of doing so is that the fiducial marks are borderline (so you will not forget them), and some text (which you should not forget) are accompanied by eC only, which means four more holes in the panel border can be removed by unchecking the 'EC-registration compatible panel' box.
Working in Panel Editor:
The editorial functionality is very accurate. The parameter changes are displayed in real-time, the information boxes provide critical contextual assistance, and errors are marked immediately. Selecting the object tool, such as setting a spacer or a hole, will highlight in the 'Detailed View' window where the object can be placed, and, after selecting a valid location, object parameters are displayed and can be changed. The most visible link, 'Click here for more information, refers to a more detailed description page, if not all panel options and possibilities. Undo, Redo, and Reset buttons allow for hours of fun exploring without the risk of breaking anything.
You should know about tabs: if the partition method crosses the line, then tabs are required to build a stable panel. Because their placement is so important, this work was done by the Eurocircuits engineer after you completed the panel design. For this reason, the tabs are not displayed. When you are done with the panel, click 'Apply'. You will return to Visualizer with an automated board size and quantity, and you can order it immediately. Click 'Save Changes' to quit Visualizer.
Panel Editor is a powerful and flexible tool that allows users to create panels the way they want. I like that it allows illegal parameter values to be entered and flagged instead of not allowing things without explaining why or how to do it right, as it makes cheating easier.
Although Panel Editor (currently) does not support loading multiple designs on a single panel, nor does it allow it, Gerber files containing multiple designs are approved by Eurocircuits as long as the designs comply with the design rules of the panel.
People who do not feel comfortable designing a panel, who do not have the time or special needs, can leave the panel design in Eurocircuits simply by selecting the 'Customer Panel with Eurocircuits' option and going through the standard 'n' acceptance process.