Altium Designer Documentation

Working with a Embedded Board Array Object on a PCB in Altium Designer

Created: April 22, 2016 | Updated: April 11, 2017
Now reading version 16.0. For the latest, read: Embedded Board Array for version 21
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Parent page: PCB Objects

A 2 x 2 board array that references a single PCB design.
A 2 x 2 board array that references a single PCB design.


An embedded board array is a primitive design object. It allows you to create a PCB panel (representing the physical board that the PCB is to be manufactured from) as part of your PCB design project. This is also known as panelization. You can use this panel to hold an array of PCBs on using the embedded board array command. This command links the panel to the original PCB design files, stepping it out the specified number of times. You cannot edit the PCBs directly from the board array, only through their original files.

Multiple embedded board arrays can be placed and each can reference a different PCB file. By spacing out the boards in each array and then overlaying, rotating, and flipping the different embedded arrays, any panelization arrangement can be created. This can be used to reduce manufacturing costs by maximizing the number of PCBs per panel of PCB material.

If you are building a panel consisting of different PCB boards, it is important that you ensure the layer stackup for each board is compatible. On placement of an Embedded Board Array, you will be notified of any layer stack discrepancies. A status message about stack layer compatibility is also available in the Embdedded Board Array dialog.


Embedded Board Arrays are available for placement in the PCB Editor only, by selecting Place » Embedded Board Array from the main menus.


  1. After launching the command, the cursor will change to a crosshair and you will enter embedded board array placement mode. The location of the crosshair decides the lower-left corner of the board array.
  2. Position this corner of the array at the required location and click or press Enter to place.
  3. Continue placing further embedded board arrays, or right-click or press Esc to exit placement mode.
If a placed array that does not yet reference a PCB document, there'll only be a red crosshair to represent the blanket array.

The embedded board array object can be rotated or flipped while in placement mode:

  • press the Spacebar to rotate the embedded board array. Rotation is anti-clockwise and in steps of 90°
  • press the L key to flip the embedded board array to the other side of the board.

Graphical Editing

This method of editing allows you to select a placed embedded board array object directly in the workspace and change its location or orientation, graphically.

When an embedded board array object is selected, it is distinguished by light gray background. The images illustrate this for both an un-referenced board array and a 2 x 2 array that references a single PCB design.

Un-referenced board array.
Un-referenced board array.

A 2 x 2 array that references a single PCB design.
A 2 x 2 array that references a single PCB design.

Click anywhere within the boundary of the array and drag to reposition it. The array is automatically 'grabbed' by its lower-left corner and the board array's location is used as the anchor point to the cursor. The embedded board array can be rotated or flipped while dragging:

  • press the Spacebar to rotate the embedded board array. Rotation is anti-clockwise and in steps of 90°
  • press the L key to flip the embedded board array to the other side of the board.
If attempting to graphically modify an object that has its Locked property enabled, a dialog will appear asking for confirmation to proceed with the edit. If the Protect Locked Objects option is enabled on the PCB Editor – General page of the Preferences dialog, and the Locked option for that design object is enabled as well, then that object cannot be selected or graphically edited. Double click on the locked object directly and disable the Locked property or disable the Protect Locked Objects option, to graphically edit the object.

Non-Graphical Editing

The following methods of non-graphical editing are available:

Via the Associated Properties Dialog

Dialog page: Embedded Board Array

This method of editing uses the following dialog to modify the properties of an embedded board array object:

The Embedded Board Array dialog.
The Embedded Board Array dialog.

The Embedded Board Array dialog can be accessed prior to entering placement mode, from the PCB Editor - Defaults page of the Preferences dialog (Tools » Preferences). This allows you to change the default properties for the embedded board array object, which will be applied when placing subsequent embedded board arrays.

During placement, the Embedded Board Array dialog can be accessed by pressing the Tab key.

After placement, the Embedded Board Array dialog can be accessed in the following ways:

  • double-clicking on the placed embedded board array object
  • right-clicking the embedded board array object and selecting Properties from the pop-up menu
  • selecting the Edit » Change command, then clicking once over the placed embedded board array object.
Quickly change the units of measurement currently used in the dialog between metric (mm) and imperial (mil) using the Ctrl+Q shortcut. This affects the dialog only and does not change the actual measurement unit employed for the board, as determined by the Measurement Unit setting in the Board Options dialog (Design » Board Options).

Via the PCB Inspector Panel

Panel page: PCB Inspector

The PCB Inspector panel enables the designer to interrogate and edit the properties of one or more design objects in the active document. Used in conjunction with appropriate filtering, the panel can be used to make changes to multiple objects of the same kind, from one convenient location.

Via the PCB List Panel

Panel page: PCB List

The PCB List panel allows the designer to display design objects from one or more documents in tabular format, enabling quick inspection and modification of object attributes. Used in conjunction with appropriate filtering, it enables the display of just those objects falling under the scope of the active filter – allowing the designer to target and edit multiple design objects with greater accuracy and efficiency.


  1. The embedded board array(s) used to create a representation of the manufacturing panel should be placed on a separate PCB document within the existing or alternate PCB project. This document should be considered as the manufacturing 'hub' for other PCB documents that contain the actual designs.
  2. You can place additional objects to support panel manufacturing (for example free pads as tooling holes), but it is not advisable to place any other objects that would represent the actual physical design, within the same document as the embedded board array(s).
  3. As the embedded board array object references a PCB design file, rather than containing a pasted copy of it, the source PCB design may be modified at any time. Once the reference file is saved, refresh the view of the panel document in order to bring the panel up-to-date.
  4. Gerber, NC Drill, ODB++ and printed output can be generated from a panel of embedded board arrays.
  5. When using the Create Primitives From Board Shape command's Route Tool Outline option, you can also select the Include Cutouts option to simulate tool paths that contour board cutout edges.
  6. The software atomatically attempts to resolve layer stack compatibility issues. The automatic layer stack synchronization process will attempt to:
    • Ensure that all required child board layer stack ordered layers exist in the parent board (the PCB file containing the embedded board array).
    • Modify the parent board layer stack in an attempt to acheive synchronization - a child board is never modified.
    • Make only additive or layer type modifications to the parent board, layers are never removed.


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