Acronyms, Initialisms, and Some Useful Terms

Atrick Design tries to avoid the lingo and uses easy to understand terminology.  Here is a list of some of what you will hear and what they mean.


Bending tubing with the centerline radius equal to the tubing diameter. 2D is 2x the centerline radius and so on.


Bill of Materials - What's in the product as far as manufactured and purchased components along with alternatives.


Breadboarding is a quick way of testing circuitry. Using a solderless breadboard and jumper wires, complex circuits can be setup (breadboarded.)  It is very helpful in prototyping an electrical design and allows for quick and easy corrections. It does not replace prototyping pc boards, it helps find errors before designing and ordering pc boards.  Breadboarding should never be used in products as its fragile and easy to accidently unplug something.


Computer Aided Design - Computers take care of the math and geometry for you to allow high accuracy design.


Center Line Radius


Component Placement List - a list of component locations and rotations. Sometimes referred to as a POS (position) file.


Design For Manufacturing - This means its not just a pretty picture on a computer, its designed to be manufacturable.  Having background in manufacturing and fabrication helps a designer understand the challenges / impossibilities their design has. Unfortunately all of the bad designs in the world have driven the creation of this initialism.


Designed For Assembly - This means its designed to be assembled.  There are sometimes simple tasks that should take a few minutes that take hours to complete because something wasn't though through. Having background in building and servicing products helps a designer understand why this needs to be part of the overall design.

DIN Rail

DIN translates loosely to German institute for standards (Deutsche Institut for Normung). Din rail is a way of mounting wiring blocks, fuse holders, and more complex components.  Din Rail has a few common sizes and standardized component sizes to fit.  DIN rail is a way of mounting different components together to help tidy up wiring.  Unfortunately it is sometimes seen as a sign of quality but should generally be seen as costly, complex, time consuming, hard to troubleshoot, and error prone. While it is great for one offs, it should not be used in place of integrated and sensible designs.


Design Rules Check - part of ECAD software to verify clearances, connections, shorts, and manufacturability of a PC board before finalizing the design.


Electrical Computer Aided Design - software to aid in designing circuit boards.


Failure Mode Effects Analysis - This is researching a failure with real data, making sense of the data, verifying the data, and understanding what other impacts of the failure mean.  See also RCFA.

Ground Bond

This is an electrical safety test that injects current into the grounding connections of a machine. It's purpose is to verify the machine grounding can handle the supply current safely in a fault situation.


High Potential electrical testing is a non-destructive test that injects high voltage into the system to check for shorts and other issues.  This is part of safety testing each item built over a certain voltage. A ground continuity (connection) test is usually part of this as well.


Just In Time - this is an assembly line initialism. It describes 2 or more subassemblies that are manufactured in a time balanced way, meaning they are finished at the same time. The subassemblies can then be immediately combined together with minimal delay.

Modular Design

Modular design is breaking down functions into building blocks (modules) to allow different options, subassembly, or a level of a replacement part. Think of this as a building block that completely serves a purpose / role that is easily swapped out or add as an optional feature.


Mean Time Between Failure - The expected lifetime of an item.


Printed Circuit Board - 1 or more conductive layers of circuitry on 1 or more non-conductive layer.  The conductive layers are etched (acid eats away the spacing between traces) to create circuitry between components.  PC boards can save a lot of time, complexity, assembly time, component cost, and errors by incorporating circuitry on the board.  It is easy to miss the complexity hiding in a pc board and how much it can simplify a product.


Printed Circuit Board Assembly

Planned Obsolescence

Purposely designing a product with an artificially limited life.  This is a large driver of e-waste.


A design validation to check functionality, assembly, and if it does it's job properly and effectively, and to test reliability. It is a check to see if its ready for production. This is not typically a one and done. A balance of cost, risk, and time to market. Prototypes should ideally never be sold as functional items.


Root Cause Failure Analysis - This is finding the root cause(s) of a failure.   This is the opposite of jumping to conclusions.

Safety 3rd

Safety 3rd is not ignoring safety or saying its not important.  Its saying safety is a priority but not so much that it overtakes the product.


Simplification is removing complexity from a product without affecting functionality.  Its easy to design something complex that accomplishes a function. Its difficult to design in simplicity to accomplish a function.  Think of this as time spent in doing a good designs to save in costs, assembly time, lesser components, etc.


A subassembly is an assembly of different parts that is not quite complete.  The idea is that it breaks assembly into manageable chunks.


End of Life - most products have a sensible product life cycle / life length that at some point no longer make sense to manufacture.  These can unfortunately mean you can not buy a piece of your product. Not all companies do this well and can cause sourcing disturbances, redesigns, etc. (see also, Hobby Grade.)

Hobby Grade

Hobby Grade is a general label of part quality being sub-par.  Hobby grade is ok for one offs and tinkering.  Where you don't want hobby grade items is in a product that your company is standing behind.  Sourcing, quality, and mean time to failure are all typical issues caused by using hobby grade parts.

Non-Plated Through Hole

A hole in a PC board that is a drilled hole that is not electrically conductive.  Think of this as a screw hole that won't accidently short out.  These typically have a clearance defined to keep conductive components away.

Plated Through Hole

A hole in a pc board that has a conductive plating added after it is drilled. It connects through hole components or connectors (with legs / pins) to traces on a pc board.


Quality Control - a companies methodology to maintain quality in products they build.


Quality Inspection - checking or testing a product or subassembly to verify its functionality.

Through Hole Component

An electrical component with pins or legs that get pushed through a pc board then soldered. This is early pc board / component technology that is still used for connectors. Aligning the multiple pins on a component with plated through holes can be challenging.  Through hole components are easier to solder by hand which can aid in prototyping and breadboarding.


Surface Mount Device - an integrated circuit or component that is mounted and connected to the surface of a printed circuit board. These use solder to connect the device to conductive pads to both hold and connect the component.


Surface Mount Technology - electrical component mounting and connection methods. 


User Interface - the means in which the user and the product interact.


User eXperience - overall how a user experiences a product in how pleasing and simple it is to use. This is often thought of as just the software but is the ergonomics, simplicity, clarity and functionality combined into how a user feels using or interacting with the product.


A hole drilled in a pc board that is plated with a conductive material. Meant to connect different layers or traces of a pc board together. These also help move heat around a pc board. Similar to a plated through hole but smaller and not meant for a terminal / leg to go through.