PCB Design

Hello! My name is Oxana Oosterlee and I am currently working full-time as an ‘Electronics and Control’ engineer at Delft Hyperloop. I finished my bachelor Electrical Engineering last year, and before starting a master’s degree I wanted to get some more practical hands-on engineering experience which is why I decided to join one of the student teams.

Currently, my main focus lies on designing PCBs (printed circuit boards, which you find in most electronics). Designing PCBs is fun, and quite a practical skill to have as an electrical engineer. During my bachelor studies, I did not learn how to design one, but now I finally have the chance to do so.

For the Hyperloop Pod we are designing, there are two main PCBs that need to be made. One is the interface board, which is placed on top of the board we are using as the pod’s computer. All sensors and actuators of the pod are connected to the interface board. It contains conversion circuits for digital signals (which sometimes cannot be fed to the computer directly), and filtering circuits for analog signals (which can be noisy). The second PCB that is made is a ‘power board’. This mainly contains DC-DC converters so that everything in the pod gets the power it needs from the batteries.

At first, it took quite some time to learn how to design a PCB properly. Firstly, I needed to learn how to work with Altium, the PCB design program we use. Furthermore, there are quite some ‘good design practices’ when it comes to designing reliable PCBs, so there was a lot to learn. Last but not least, designing circuits and finding components to use also takes quite a lot of time. Gradually, I got more and more the hang of it, making the design process go much easier. The most fun part is placing and routing all components on the board, which is a big puzzle. You have to decide where all components are placed most conveniently, and you have to route all signals such that they do not intersect.

The next step is actually getting the PCB’s produced at a company and placing the components. Then comes the testing, which is the most exciting but also the scariest part. That is when we find out if the boards actually work, or if I need to put some more work in designing (I do hope it’s the former!).