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The rapid increase in the electronic complexity of motor vehicles calls for specific considerations relating to reliability, modular design, 

data management and electromechanical integration (among others). This is what I’m focusing on in this three-part series of blog posts.

The increase in alternatively fueled cars and trucks, along with the rise in vehicles becoming ever more ‘smart’ and ‘intelligent’, with integrated wireless and connection to the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT); will result in a further growth of integrated electronics. One vital part of meeting this challenge is to understand how electronic design matures alongside the other disciplines in the overall product design cycle, and how it affects the bottom line in vehicle production.

Today I’m focusing on reliability.

Reliability is one of the key issues that designers face when creating a PCB for a transportation product.

Extreme temperatures. Cars and trucks are expected to withstand extreme temperatures and rigorous conditions throughout their lifecycle; this includes the PCBs and components used in the design.

It is no secret that the automotive industry has faced this challenge for many years. By adding more electronic modules, selecting the right materials and components becomes even more important. Choosing between a low-temperature, co-fired ceramic and a high-temperature FR-4 could mean the difference of a few cents or more for each PCB in the system. Taking into account the number of cars one company manufactures in a year, those few pennies can have a significant impact on the overall margin of each vehicle.

Wide range of integrated electronics options with varying voltage and current power supplies. Many cars have optional navigation systems, portable music interfaces and Bluetooth hands-free systems to choose from. All of these options introduce a new set of concerns during product development: Signal integrity, analog simulation, RF analysis and EMC studies are becoming an integral part of the design process.

What makes the problems unique for automotive engineers is that in addition to dealing with the range of power supplies introduced into the PCBs typically seen in consumer products, they are also working with other large voltage and current supplies throughout the system of the car to make it operational.

Native system-level 3D environment simplifies the complexity of maintaining signal quality for automotive applications.

With these elements in mind, ensuring that signal quality and crosstalk interference are maintained within specifications is essential. Throw in the fact that some cars include memory and SuperSpeed USB, and engineers are now dealing with constraint management issues along with the need to conduct early analysis.

All these reliability factors make a strong case for putting a concerted effort into designing right the first time, and adds to the pressure of improving savings from iteration reduction.

Watch out for the next blog post on this topic, focusing on the importance of modular design in the automotive industry.

HUMAIR MANDAVIA is executive director of the Zuken SOZO Center (zuken.com); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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