This product is designed to assist with the assembly and servicing of electronics circuit boards (PCBs).
Many circuit boards are large and complex, with a vast quantity of small components. When working on such a PCB, it is often necessary to locate specific components. Finding the specific part among the many can often be difficult and time consuming.
‘PCB Guide’ is a software tool designed to aid this task. It uses data generated by the PCB design software - specifically the ‘pick-and-place’ file. This file is normally generated for automatic assembly tools. It contains each component’s reference, value, position (X,Y and PCB side) and orientation on the PCB.
‘PCB Guide’ uses the pick-and-place file to generate a location map of the components, and combines this with top and bottom images (photos or CAD generated images) of the PCB. The user performs a simple calibration process of referencing and locating three components on each side of the PCB. From this calibration PCB Guide sorts out the dimension translations between the component map and the PCB images. Any component can then be found by selecting it from the component list. ‘PCB Guide’ shows the component location in a full PCB view as well as a zoomed view.
The component list can be sorted in different ways – for example by component reference; component value; component type or component package.
The application generates a special ‘pcb-guide’ file. This file is a combination of the PCB images, the components table, and the reference and scaling factors. The prototype ‘PCB-Guide’ application generates new ‘pcb-guide’ file, and also allows them to be viewed. However future versions may separate the viewer and generator operations to two separate products. There will be a ‘view-only’ product that can display already generated pcb-guide files. Then there will be a file generation application, or a web service, that will allow the generation of pcb-guide files. This provides options for the ‘PCB-Guide’ business model – the viewer can be made freely available, allowing anyone to view the files. However the file generator can be charged for, either on a per-use basis, or by the purchase of a file generation version of the tool. Password protected and time limited pcb-guide files could also be implemented to help protect intellectual property.
‘pcb-guide’ files could become a standard file provided to circuit assemblers and servicing personnel. With the electronics circuit diagram and PCB-Guide, tracing through a circuit is much easier and quicker as test locations can be very rapidly located.
‘PCB-Guide’ is also a useful tool for hand assembly of circuit boards – especially at the prototype stage. The component list can contain only the components to be fitted, sorted appropriately. PCB-Guide then allows an assembler to scroll down the installation list, displays the component details, and shows the component location. By using an image of an assembled PCB, ‘PCB-Guide’ also makes it easy to show the correct orientation of the components.