Key Takeaways

  • Engineers in various specialized fields design PCBs.

  • Electrical engineers focus on overall design and functionality.

  • Layout engineers specialize in optimizing circuit board layout.

  • Designers use software for schematics, layout, and simulation.

  • Choosing a qualified design team is crucial for optimal PCB design.

Who Designs PCBs?

A printed circuit board (PCB) is a critical component in various electronic devices, providing connectivity and electrical functionality. Designing PCBs is a highly specialized process involving engineers from diverse fields and expertise.

Electrical Engineers

Electrical engineers play a central role in the design process, overseeing the overall design and ensuring the PCB meets functional specifications. They collaborate with layout engineers to optimize the electrical performance of the board, including selecting appropriate components and determining their placement. Electrical engineers also conduct rigorous simulations to verify the design and identify potential issues.

Layout Engineers

Layout engineers specialize in optimizing the physical layout of the PCB, ensuring efficient use of space, proper signal routing, and adherence to manufacturing constraints. They use specialized software to create detailed schematics and layouts, taking into account component placement, trace routing, and thermal considerations. Layout engineers work closely with electrical engineers to ensure the design meets performance requirements while minimizing design errors.

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers contribute to PCB design primarily by ensuring the board is physically compatible with the intended enclosure or device. They provide insights into component clearances, mounting constraints, and thermal management, ensuring the PCB can be integrated seamlessly into the final product. Mechanical engineers also work on optimizing the board’s aesthetics and usability.

Other Design Professionals

In complex PCB designs, additional design professionals may be involved, such as:

  • RF Engineers: Responsible for designing PCB layouts with high-frequency signals, ensuring signal integrity and minimizing interference.

  • Thermal Engineers: Focus on optimizing thermal performance and preventing overheating on the PCB, ensuring reliable operation under various environmental conditions.

  • Software Engineers: May assist in developing software for embedded systems integrated into the PCB, ensuring hardware and software compatibility.

PCB Designers: The Evolution

The field of PCB design has evolved significantly over the years:

  1. Early Days (1950s-1970s): PCBs were hand-crafted using a manual process, requiring extensive labor and expertise.

  2. Computer-Aided Design (1970s-1990s): The introduction of computer-aided design (CAD) software revolutionized PCB design, allowing engineers to create more complex layouts and improve design efficiency.

  3. Advanced Software Tools (1990s-Present): Modern PCB design software offers sophisticated features such as component libraries, autorouting, and powerful simulation capabilities, enabling engineers to design more sophisticated and reliable PCBs.

Choosing the Right Design Team

Selecting a qualified team of PCB designers is paramount for ensuring optimal design and performance. Consider the following factors when choosing a design team:

  • Experience and Expertise: Look for engineers with extensive experience in designing PCBs for your industry and application.

  • Software Proficiency: Ensure the team is proficient in the latest PCB design software to leverage its full capabilities.

  • Communication and Collaboration: Effective communication and collaboration skills are essential for successful PCB design projects.

  • Quality Assurance: Choose a team that follows rigorous quality assurance procedures to ensure the design meets specifications and industry standards.

  • Design Support: Look for a team that provides ongoing design support and technical assistance throughout the project lifecycle.


  • Who is responsible for designing PCBs in small companies? Typically, electrical or design engineers may handle PCB design in small companies where resources are limited.

  • What is the difference between PCBA and PCB? PCBA (printed circuit board assembly) refers to a complete PCB with all components assembled and soldered in place, while PCB refers to the bare board without components.

  • How long does it take to design a PCB? The design time varies depending on the complexity of the design and the experience of the designers, typically ranging from several weeks to months.

  • Can I learn PCB design on my own? While it is possible to acquire basic knowledge through online courses or tutorials, professional PCB design requires specialized training and experience.

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