PCB Design for Military & Aerospace Grade Electronics

PCB Design for Military

PCB Design for Military & Aerospace Grade Electronics

Military-grade PCBs carry stringent performance, sourcing, and manufacturing requirements that are encoded in a number of standards.

Preparing the next Printed Circuit Board for a military electronics system for manufacturing and assembly must also follow important sourcing and quality standards.

The list of standards on military PCBs is too long to list, but many of these standards are derived from the IPC-A-610E Class 3 standards.

 These standards specify performance requirements for high-performance electronic products that provide perpetual uptime in harsh environments.

This means that military and aerospace PCBs require special consideration in terms of design, fabrication, and assembly.

In avionics, aerospace, and military systems, Circuit Boards are often part of a larger embedded system that almost always includes onboard processing with custom firmware, volatile and non-volatile memory, communications capabilities, and signal processing capabilities.

Components in these systems must be sourced from compliant vendors in order to guarantee functionality in these systems.

Given the long list of military-grade PCB specifications, electronics designers need PCB design tools that helps them comply with these standards by using rules-driven design flow

Military-grade PCB Specifications for Design

Military-grade PCB standards are arguably the most stringent electronics standards placed on manufactured products. These systems must withstand harsh environments, tend to have higher operating requirements, and must meet a higher reliability standard in order to maintain perpetual uptime.

In particular, the MIL-PRF-31032 set of standards is among the strictest that can apply to any Printed Circuit Board. PCB layout, manufacturing processes, and materials are regulated under this standard. There are plenty of other aspects related to components and assembly that are specified in military standards.

Performance Requirements on Military-grade PCBs

Military-grade PCBs should be designed to withstand maximum current and thermal loads in order to ensure reliability. These devices should also be designed to withstand and suppress ESD, meet important FCC EMC standards, and much more.

Power consumption may also be an important consideration in mobile military electronic devices in order to extend battery life.

Working with the right PCB design toolchain that includes a simulation and analysis can help design electronics that meet military-grade PCB specifications.

Thermal management is one important operational aspect of military PCBs. Thermal management helps ensure PCB remains reliable in a harsh environment.

Aerospace and military PCBs require transient voltage protection, either implemented internally or using an external surge protector. 

Military-grade PCB Specifications for Manufacturing

Individual PCBs for use in military and aerospace should be manufactured in conformance with MIL-PRF-50884, MIL-PRF-31032, and MIL-PRF-55110 standards.

When PCBs are included as part of an embedded system, the list of specifications grows to include standards specified elsewhere in the MIL, IPC, and ISO standards.

Electronic components are also regulated under ITAR and have quality requirements that are specified in the AS9100 standard for quality management.

Military-grade PCB Standards and Manufacturing

Military quality standards on PCBs and procurement rules limit the range of acceptable manufacturers available to electronics companies and procurement officers. The manufacturer should be certified to manufacture electronics for aerospace and military systems under AS9100.

Given sourcing regulations on components for military PCBs, designers, and procurement officers should remain aware of quality and traceability standards for military-grade components.

  • With the defense industry being highly regulated, there is a need to implement procedures to help manufacturers stay within budget and maximize yield.
  • Military PCB manufacturers need a complete bill of materials for the board in a consistent format. 

Whether producing a small PCB prototype run or preparing for full production, your product development flow should help throughout the sourcing process, ensuring sourcing components from compliant distributors. Your PCB design flow should have means to generate documentation directly from design data helping you stay compliant and properly communicates design intent.

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