Screaming Circuits: CAD Parts Libraries

Beagle CAD paw prints

Unfortunately, I can't generically hand out Eagle CAD QFN footprints without knowing the specific part, but I can illustrate the areas I initially had difficulty with. All of the traps that used to get me seem blindingly obvious now, but they weren't when I first tried to make my own library parts.

The very first thing I would recommend is to make your own library file. When I started in with my own parts, I would just add them to an existing library. For example, I'd put a new Microchip PIC processor into the "microchip.lbr" library. It seemed the logical choice because there are other similar parts to start with. But, when it's time to upgrade, migration of those custom parts becomes a nightmare. So, now all of my custom parts go into "dfb-parts.lbr."

Eagle footprint menu barSpeaking of modifying existing parts, another recommendation I have is, except for parts where the package footprint is EXACTLY the same, start from scratch with the package footprint.

The schematic symbol is easier to reuse - just make sure you have the right pins in the right place - but subtle differences in the copper footprint can have a big difference at the assembly stage.

Datasheet footprint page land patternI also don't try to hand size and hand position the pads on the silk screen. Start by just putting a pad in the footprint area. The use the Properties/Info button (the big "i") and use the dimensions given in the data sheet to enter the size and position by number.

Look for the "recommended land pattern" or similar diagram toward the end of the component datasheet. Entering the numbers in the Properties/Info box will bypass any position precision issues. Just make sure that you use the right units (i.e. metric to metric).

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Duane Benson
World to end at 9:30. Details at 11:00

Let's Get Small, as in 0.3mm

Not long ago, I wrote about a 0.3mm pitch wafer scale BGA we received and were asked to place. The gist of that article was that those parts are very small and we d0n't yet have a process that we feel will give the quality, reliability and consistency that we want to deliver. That means officially, we don't, at the moment, support that form-factor.

However, as it turned out, we went ahead and built it and the x-rays all said it looked good. Whew! We still don't officially support it, but we're working on it. If you have one of these things, you can always give us a call and see if it's something our manufacturing engineers are comfortable with. If they say "sure, send it in", It will be a non-standard, essentially, experimental, operation so our normal guarantees won't apply. It will be "we'll do our best."

But that's not the point. The point is that there are still a number of unanswered questions with 0.4mm pitch, and now we have a smaller one??!!

I've only seen 0.3mm pitch in two places: some data from Amkor, and the data sheet for this part.The part in questions is a Maxim MAX98304 Mono 3.2 Watt Class D amplifier. The entire package is just 1mm x 1mm.

There is still a lot of difference of opinion on solder mask defined (SMD) vs. non solder mask defined (NSMD) at super small pitch like this. For BGAs 0.5mm and lager, the general consensus and IPC recommendation is NSMD. At 0.4mm, the Beabgleboard folks at Ti recommend SMD to reduce bridging. But I've had other folks say they get good results with NSMD. For 0.4mm, we've had best results with SMD. It's more than just that though, you also need to religiously follow the manufacturer's recommended pad sizes and such.

Shrinking BGA pitchFor this part, the datasheet shows the pad size (0.18mm), but doesn't cover the SMD vs. NSMD question. Instead, it refers to a Maxim app note (#1891) for that bit of information.

Of course, this is where it gets sticky. That app note, as of this writing, shows 0.5mm and 0.4mm, but no 0.3mm. It does reference IPC-7351, which is a very good thing, but I don't think IPC-7351 has 0.3mm pitch covered yet. Ugh. The 0.3mm part we placed used SMD pads.

Duane Benson
It's not just Facebook where you can designate something: "It's complicated."


Missing Mars Probes

Back in ancient times when multi-legged beasts ruled the earth, there were a lot more standards. Or maybe there were just fewer total things resulting in fewer total variations, which looks like more standards.

In any case, if you got a 7408 IC from one manufacturer, it was pretty much equal to a 7408 from any other manufacturer. Even connectors were more or less standard. If you plugged in one PCB mount DB25, you could plug in just about any PCB mount DB25. There were variations, just not as many as now. Today, though, there are a very large number of variations to a standard footprint. For example, while the pin footprint on most Ethernet jacks matches, I've probably seen a dozen different arrangements of mounting and alignment pins.

Another area that can throw monkey wrenches all over is the dreaded metric v. SAE units.

Metric vs imperial

This seems to pop up most often with connectors, as in this image, but it occasionally shows up on other types of parts as well. The footprint here is for a .1" (2.54mm) pitch connector. The connector has 2.5mm pitch. It would be fine for three pins, maybe four or five. But beyond that, it's just not going to fit.

I don't really understand the logic in 2.5mm pitch. If .1", which equals 2.54mm weren't such a ubiquitous standard, 2.5mm would make sense, but as it is, it's just too close. It's close, but they aren't the same. 2.5 != 2.54.

Duane Benson
It doesn't seem like much difference in mm, but in beard-seconds, it's 4,000* units off

*By some definitions, including the Google converter, it would be 8,000 units off


Via in Big Pads

The answer to the question: "is it ever okay to put open vias in BGA pads?" is simply No. It's no, no, no, no, not ever!!! That makes it easy. No technique to worry about. No tolerances. Nothing. Just don't put an exposed via in a BGA pad. The only option is between the pads, with a complete soldermask dam between the pad and via, or have the vias filled and plated over at the board house. Nothing but metal is allowed on the BGA pad.

Now, other components give you more flexibility and thus require some choices and guidelines. Andy B. asked about large components, such as voltage regulators where the manufacturer has recommended vias to connect the thermal pad to the ground plane, or to additional thermal area on the back side of the PCB.

The easy answer is to just treat it like a QFN and read our various suggestions surrounding that form factor. Here's some. Having the extra room does allow for additional flexibility, but if the vias are open, they still run the risk of sucking solder to the other side of your PCB. You can sometimes get away with really tiny vias, as in here. But it's not best-practice.

It's really a matter of trade-offs. I have seem opinions stating that you should never fill or cap the via because doing so might impede the thermal transfer. Well, power chip manufacturers, you shouldn't rely on unbuildable design to meet product specs. You can fill the vias with thermally conductive material. You can cap the via with solder mask, as in the link I just gave you. Just make the via cap as small as possible - 100 to 125 microns larger than the via.

DFN8 w stop and paste w vias-trFinally, segment your paste stencil layer. If you put solder paste on top of an open via or even on top of a masked via, you can be asking for trouble. In this image, the six vias (which will be capped) are put between the openings of the stencil.

Duane Benson
Tesla says what?

Via in Pad x 8

Via in 8 pin padsHere's an interesting via in pad case. On the one hand, the footprint is very symmetrical and clean looking. On the other hand, it has open vias in the pads.

At first glance, I thought this was a DIP footprint with extra long pads, but it's not. It's for an SMT part. Personally, I would have put mask between the pads. Looking at the rest of the board (not shown), the spacing between pads and mask is pretty wide, so there may be a good reason. I'm not sure though.

Definitely, though, I would not put the vias in the pads like that. Those open vias will cause solder to flow down to the other side of the board, make a mess there and leave the chips without sufficient solder.

Duane Benson
Sucking solder through a straw - or via

How not to treat your BGA friends

Over the years, most of what we see are good PC boards. But some standout in the other direction as examples of what not to do. Some didn't make it through the board house alive. Some were unknowingly rendered useless in layout and some were just held on to too long or not stored properly.

Large BGA via in padIn this first image, we see a guaranteed not to work example. Open vias in BGA pads will ruin your whole day. And you can't just cap them with solder mask either. For BGAs, the only two via solutions are to have them filled and plated over at the board house, or not be in the pads at all. Having a via in a BGA pad is like trying to cook scrambled eggs over a camp fire without a skillet. The eggs will in fact cook, but they'll be all mixed in with the fire and coals and stuff and you won't be able to eat them.

BGAB mask issuesThis next guaranteed not to work example shows a valiant attempt at keeping the vias out of the pads. But, as we used to say on the playground: "close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades - and sometimes atom bombs." Here on the right, first, the mask registration is way off. That's not good but doesn't necessarily spell BGA death on its own. What will kill this assembly is the clear metal path between some of the pads and the vias. You need to have some soldermask blocking the metal path between the pad and the via. If you don't, it's almost as bad as putting the via in the pad. This board has a few places where there is a thin solder mask dam between the via and the pad. But, in the cases where there is no mask, the solder and solder ball will most likely migrate over to and down through the via.

Duane Benson
Close might also count with badgers.


P3281577 smIt's pretty important to have unambiguous polarity markings and pin one markings printed on your PCB. In theory, for SMT parts, it really shouldn't matter; the centroid would take care of the placement orientation. But, you may have noticed that it's not a perfect world. It took me a while to figure that out, but I have finally concluded such.

It's not uncommon for the CAD library part to have the wrong zero degree rotation orientation The IPC specified location for pin one orientation Quad and BGA for square chips like QFPs, QFNs and BGAs is either the upper left or middle top. Check out our Centroid guide for more detail. If it's wrong in CAD, the centroid will be wrong as will everything downstream. That's why markings on the board are still important.

What do you do if your part is ambiguous though? This particular chip has three markings that could be interpreted as pin one indicators. At first glance, I'd assume it's the dot in the center top. It would match with the text. However, there is a white dot in the lower left that could be pin one indicator which would mean, in this case, the CAD library component had the incorrect zero rotation orientation.

Datasheets aren't always easy to find. This one is behind a registration wall. If you have a part like this, it's really helpful if you include some documentation (in electronic form) clarifying. I found the datasheet for this particular part and was able to confirm that it is correct as placed with pin one down in the lower left (90 degrees).

Duane Benson
Via via in the board,
what's the top on my PCB?

Connectors Kill

Lot's of types of components can cause footprint woes. QFNs have their center pad issues. BGAs have escape via issues. But the most common footprint issues seem to be with connectors. At least with chips Connector footprint 2smand discrete silicon and passive components most manufacturers pretty much follow IPC standard footprints. Sometimes they'll create new ones for smaller parts, but generally they still stay reasonably close to in line.

Connector footprint 1smConnectors are another story though. I'm not sure any manufacturer follows anything close to a standard. This pair of ethernet jacks is a good example. Often the actual pin layout will match, but the mounting will vary widely. I've seen it on ethernet, mini-USB, micro-USB and even the old, old RS232 connector.

It gets more frustrating when they're almost the same. We see that a lot; the layout will almost, but not quite match a footprint in the library. The bottom line is never take a connector footprint for granted. Always double check before getting your boards fabbed.

Duane Benson
Carburetors man. That's what life is all about.

More CAD footprint woes

AT this point, I really shouldn't call them "woes." More like business as usual. I'm talking about the need to make custom footprints, or at leas modify footprints. Back in the old days, the only thing needed to make footprints was some copper pds, maybe plated through, maybe not. It was pretty rare to even need to make a custom footprint. Other than the occasional odd switch or relay, it was all done.

I really need to just get over it though. On the one hand, it seems like none-productive time; like I should be able to get right to schematicing and layouting. On the other hand, It's so common, I just need to see it as no different than any other routing task.

Starting at the top of my BOM, I have:

  • An MCU in QFN format - I modified a symbol and added a custom paste layer to the copper land
  • Two SOIC Mosfet drivers - I modified the symbol on an existing footprint
  • Some Mosfets in a PowerQFN package - Made a complete custom footprint
  • A Mosfet in SOT-23 package - Who hoo! I found a workable part in the library
  • Some Power Schottky diodes - custom copper land

Custom footprints

I have another Schottky, some TVS diodes, LEDs and a bunch of passives that came straight out of the library. It's certainly not everything that needs footprint work, but with so many variations of the more complex parts these days, it safe to assume that any SMT project will require a fair amount of library work. It's just the way it is.

Duane Benson
It's a pain but at least it's not as bad as 11811 has it

Shrouded vs. non-shrouded

Notch down bp purpleA connector isn't a connector isn't a connector. In this photo, the original PC board was designed to have an unshrouded break-away header, as shown in the inset on the right. I measured it. The entire header fits within the silkscreen outline.

However, as you can see, a shrouded header was used in that spot. While as designed, there was plenty of clearance between the header and the two capacitors and resister, the shroud for the substituted header covers all of the resistor and half of the capacitors.

You can prototype it this way, but it will never fly in production.

Duane Benson
Find the ghosts of Dawnstar