Downloads

    Take a look at what download options are available to best suit your needs

      How to Buy

      Contact your local sales office to get started improving your design environment

                              • Altium Designer

                                Professional unified design system, high productivity stress-free environment and native 3D PCB editor

                              • Altium Vault

                                Centralized platform for ECAD design data, library, workflow and team management

                              • CircuitStudio

                                Professional PCB design tool, ready to pick up and go

                              • Ciiva

                                Transform intent into realizable design with intelligent parts that manage themselves, so you don't have to.

                              • CircuitMaker

                                Streamlined PCB Design tool custom built for your community

                              • Altium Subscription

                                Altium products are constantly being updated to provide the latest technology

                              • TASKING

                                World-renowned for superior compiler technology, TASKING tools have been used for over 25 years

                              • Product Extensions

                                Additional tools, analysis systems, support for new devices and design flows for Altium products

                              • Altium DXP Developer Platform

                                Create and deploy custom extensions and business system integration for Altium products

                              • Octopart

                                Fast, accurate, and easy to use component search, that connects you with supply chain and component data.

                              Altium Designer 16

                              Stress-free, Native 3D PCB design for professionals

                              Subscription

                              Maintain peak efficiency and productivity by always having access to the latest tools

                              • Forum

                                Where Altium users and enthusiasts can interact with each other

                              • Blog

                                Our blog about things that interest us and hopefully you too

                              • Ideas

                                Submit ideas and vote for new features you want in Altium tools

                              • Bug Crunch

                                Help make the software better by submitting bugs and voting on what's important

                              • Wall

                                A stream of events on AltiumLive you follow by participating in or subscribing to

                              • Beta Program

                                Information about participating in our Beta program and getting early access to Altium tools

                              All Resources

                              Explore the latest content from blog posts to social media and technical white papers gathered together for your convenience

                              Downloads

                              Take a look at what download options are available to best suit your needs

                              How to Buy

                              Contact your local sales office to get started improving your design environment

                              • Documentation

                                TechDocs is where you can find our extensive documentation online for free

                              • Training & Events

                                View the schedule and register for training events all around the world and online

                              • Design Content

                                Browse our vast library of free design content including components, templates and reference designs

                              • Webinars

                                Attend a live webinar online or get instant access to our on demand series of webinars

                              • Support

                                Get your questions answered with our variety of direct support and self-service options

                              • Technical Papers

                                Stay up to date with the latest technology and industry trends with our complete collection of technical white papers.

                              • Video Library

                                Quick and to-the-point video tutorials to get you started with Altium Designer

                              PCB Design Guidelines for High-Frequency Circuits in Car Radar and 5G Applications

                              This morning I saw a very strange sight while walking down my street. A long, tangled rope of magnetic VHS tape was twisting down the road, carried by the wind. It took me back to a simpler time of Blockbusters and rewind machines. If you thought those rewind machines were fast, today’s electronic breakthroughs will make your head spin. One of the latest evolutions in PCB design is being driven by two emerging technologies, 5G networks and advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) enabled cars. Both of these technologies use something long feared by PCB designers, the extremely high-frequency (EHF) band. You’d best prepare your boards for a high-frequency future before they go the way of BetaMax and boomboxes.

                               

                              magnetic tape reel
                              Thank goodness we’ve gotten rid of this stuff.
                               

                              Why Are We Using Millimeter Waves?

                               

                              Weren’t RF and Microwave frequencies good enough, why are we moving up into the EHF Spectrum? There are two advancements forcing us into higher frequencies, 5G and ADAS radar.

                               

                              • 5G - Telecommunication companies are looking to take us from today’s 4G/LTE speeds and latency to the faster, brighter tomorrow of 5G. Current cellular networks can give us download speeds of somewhere on the order of 10’s of megabits per second and latencies around 70 ms. 5G will be a big jump, up to 10 Gbps download with latencies under 10 ms. All of this is possible because 5G will operate in the EHF spectrum. Wider frequency bandwidths give us lower latencies, and faster frequencies give us better data rates. The industry expects 5G to start being implemented somewhere around 2018. At that time, you’ll need to be ready to deal with millimeter (mm) wavelength signals.

                              • ADAS Radar - One technology that’s already here is radar for ADAS enabled vehicles. Collision detection radars used to operate below 30 GHz, but recently the standard has moved up to 77 GHz. As manufacturers build more cars with ADAS capabilities, we can expect to see more radar systems driving around our streets. If you want to design PCBs that deal with any kind of car radar, you should be ready to work with EHF signals.

                               

                              As both of these things grow, you’ll need to know more and more about how to deal with their operating frequencies. This is the part where I give you some material and design guidelines to help you cope with the rapidly changing PCB design ecosystem.

                               

                               smartphone with 5G on screen
                              5G devices will use frequencies we’ve rarely designed for.

                               

                              Material Guidelines

                               

                              I actually just wrote about how to choose which material to use for your high-frequency boards. However, the frequencies we’re talking about are a bit higher than normal, so I’ll reiterate a few points.

                               

                              • Very Low Dielectric Constant (Dk) - We engineers often find something that works and then stick with it. Maybe you moved your high-frequency boards one level up from FR4 and figure that will be ok for EHF. For mm waves you need to use materials with the absolute lowest Dks possible. Dk losses increase proportionally with frequency. That means a moderately low Dk is no longer acceptable.

                              • Very Little Soldermask - You may ask your supplier about the moisture absorption of your substrate, but I doubt you ask about the soldermask. Most soldermasks have high absorption, allowing them to gorge on water, which has a Dk of 70. A damp soldermask will introduce high losses into your mm wave circuit. You should use as little soldermask as possible on these PCBs.

                              • Very Smooth Copper - Your copper needs to be as smooth as possible on these boards. The skin depth for current at these frequencies is very shallow. So shallow, that it’s sometimes on the order of the mountains and valleys that make up a rough surface. Rough copper will give your current a longer path, increasing resistive losses. Use smooth copper.

                               

                              self-driving car on road
                              ADAS car radar will require us to learn new design techniques.

                               

                              Physical Guidelines

                               

                              Along with material considerations, you need to think about geometry and other physical specifications. Two important things to think about are laminate thickness and transmission line characteristics.

                               

                              • Laminate Thickness - You not only need to select the right kind of laminate, you need to select the right laminate thickness. Generally you want your laminate thickness to be somewhere between ¼ and ⅛ wavelength of the highest operating frequency. If your laminate is too thick, it can resonate and even propagate its own waves. Remember that laminate thickness can affect your conductor widths, so factor that into your decision.

                              • Transmission Line Characteristics - In regard to transmission lines, you’ll need to decide which type of conductor you want: microstrip, stripline, or grounded coplanar waveguide (GCPW). Microstrip is probably the most familiar but has problems with radiated losses and spurious mode propagation above 30 GHz. GCPW is a good choice but will suffer more conductor losses than microstrip or stripline. Stripline is great but can be difficult to manufacture, increasing costs. In addition, you’ll need to use microvias to connect the stripline to outer layers with minimal signal reflections. Microvias are difficult to fabricate, so if you choose this option work with your manufacturer to reduce potential defects.

                               

                              All of us technology fanboys like to argue. First, it was Betamax vs VHS, then Blu-ray vs HD DVD, Firewire vs USB, etc. Unfortunately for us, we won’t be able to argue against high frequencies in our next gen PCBs. Rising data rates and changing technologies like 5G and ADAS enabled cars are raising frequencies as well. Now we just have to learn how to deal with it. You’ll need to be careful about which PCB materials you use for these new high-frequency designs. You’ll have to keep an eye on the physical characteristics of your circuits as well.

                               

                              The future can sometimes be a bit ominous, but luckily you don’t have to face it alone. Great PCB design software, like Altium Designer, can help you master the techniques of tomorrow. Altium Designer has a great range of advanced tools to make design easy for engineers like you.

                               

                              Have questions about EHF circuit design? Call an expert at Altium.