One of the greatest mistake committed by new hardware designers is forgetting to calculate or even consider PCB trace current in their design. When this happens on hardware designs that contain high current tracks, the result usually overheated PCB or damaged tracks. This result in a costly redesign and material wastage.
Sometimes issues with insufficient PCB trace width to handle high current happens where multiple tracks of smaller current merge into a bigger track. This can be easily overlooked by designers as there is no single high current element in the design. The result is equally as bad as overlooking designs with high current components.
Calculating PCB Trace Current and Width
The right way to approach high current design is to calculate the current value and ensure the width of the track is sufficient. The wider and thicker copper track will naturally have lesser resistance and able to handle higher current. On the other hand, a thin track conducting high current will result in drastically increasing temperature.
Various PCB calculators are available online to help you evaluate if your current design is sufficient to handle the PCB trace current. These calculators usually required basic parameters such as the trace thickness, length and the expected temperature rise to provide the result. If the results show that your trace is insufficient in width and thickness, you’ll have to make adjustments accordingly.
Evaluating PCB Trace Current In Design Software
While an online PCB calculator offer designers a quick tool in minimizing overheating issues due to high PCB trace current, designers should not rely on it alone. If you’re working on a design that has minimum room for error, it is best to invest in advanced PCB design software with power analyzer feature. This will not only alert you to parts where the traces are too thin but also gives you a visual heat map of your entire PCB layout.