What is Maintenance Engineering? Circuit Risk and Design Knowledge

October 17, 2019 Cadence PCB Solutions

Maintenance engineer helps to keep systems running

 

I once harbored a dream of taking up gardening as a hobby. When the first lily bulb grew, I was intrigued and hoping for the flower to blossom. Then, I figure out that gaming was more interesting than tending to that young plant. 

As you may have guessed, weeds soon outgrew the budding lily plant. It never stood a chance as I did nothing to tend to the plant. It held out for sometime, but in the end the controller was the only thing I was giving daily attention to. While you don’t have weeds growing over a PCB, it does have problems of its own if it was not adequately maintained. 

In this respect, maintenance engineering is a discipline that PCB designers should pay attention to, even if they are not directly involved in the execution. Maintenance engineers are the front-liners who keep the systems running after the PCB is deployed. 

What Is Maintenance Engineering

Maintenance engineering is an engineering discipline that focuses on the reliability and durability of a system. It involves effective planning and procedures utilizing technical knowledge in ensuring minimal downtime for a specific system.

In the electronics industry, maintenance engineering is critical to ensure the functionality of equipment or systems in various applications. Critical systems like medical electronics, aeronautics, and food processing require the system to be regularly serviced to ensure they are fully functional. 

The task of a maintenance engineer goes beyond analyzing the root cause of failures. He or she is also involved in seeking replacement parts or repair to ensure the prolonged reliability of the system. The ability to make decisions in a highly challenging situation is a highly-valuable trait of a maintenance engineer.

Maintenance Engineering For Electronics Systems

As an accomplished PCB designer, your immediate task is getting a functional product to the field. But, inevitably, electronics may eventually fail. There are various factors that contribute to electronics failures. 

For example, components degradation, harsh environment, user interaction, and transient surges may render a PCB faulty. In such instances, maintenance engineers are immediately called to action. They will systematically locate the fault point of a system that may involve multiple PCBs. 

 

 Two circuits being prepared for analysis

Failure analysis is part of a maintenance engineer’s concern.

 

When a faulty PCB is detected, the PCB is then replaced with a functional one. The faulty PCB is returned to the manufacturer for further troubleshooting. While a maintenance engineer may not be directly involved in repairing defective PCBs, he or she will expect a thorough report to mitigate the future probability of failures.

Based on the report, the maintenance engineer could forecast the budget needed to ensure the reliable operation of the system. Besides, he or she will also make a recommendation for parts replacement and viability of the existing system. 

How PCB Design Affects Maintenance Engineering

As a PCB designer, it’s easy to fall into the assumption that nothing you do could influence the tasks of maintenance engineers. That couldn't be further from the truth. Design planning, techniques, and execution can make the life of a maintenance engineer way easier. 

For a start, you’ll have a PCB that has a lower failure rate. In the event of a fault, a well-designed PCB can make repair works easier, thus shortening the downtime of a system. For example, there’s a huge difference between a PCB that’s designed for serviceability than one that has designators improperly placed. 

Choosing the right components is also the key to designing a reliable PCB. This is particularly true for power modules and transient-protection components. Also, there should be an allowance for the rating relative to the actual requirement as the field often has a harsher environment than the test lab. Maintenance engineering will also take care of obsolete components or systems. 

 

 

A compiled and functional printed circuit board

A well-designed PCB reduces reliability issues.

 

Of course, the fundamentals of a good PCB design helps to reduce calls to the maintenance engineering team. EMI susceptibility could translate into system glitch, and thermal hotspots can affect the functionality of certain components on the PCB. As a PCB designer, you ought to adhere to best practices, mainly when dealing with high-speed signals. 

It also helps to utilize a PCB design software that also does a good job ofin running simulations. Tools like Allegro PCB Designer helps to identify potential issues that may cause unnecessary problems for the maintenance engineering team.

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts

About the Author

Cadence PCB solutions is a complete front to back design tool to enable fast and efficient product creation. Cadence enables users accurately shorten design cycles to hand off to manufacturing through modern, IPC-2581 industry standard.

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