Customizing a Pad Stack in Altium Designer

Created: January 11, 2024 | Updated: January 17, 2024

Parent page: Working with Pads & Vias

Working with Custom Pad Shapes

The standard pad object can:

  • Be set to a number of different shapes, including round, rectangular, rounded rectangular, and octagonal.
  • Be sized differently in the X and Y directions, extending the range of shapes that can be created.
  • Be customized to change the shape for each layer of the board.
  • Have a round or slotted hole, which can be offset from the pad center.

However, there is a huge variety of pad shapes needed for component footprints, and standard pads are not always enough. To create a different shape from those listed above, you must create a custom pad shape.

An example of a footprint with custom shape pads.

Strategies for Creating Custom Shape Pads

Custom pad shapes can be created by converting placed Region objects or a closed outline, or directly, by selecting the new Custom Shape entry from the Shape drop-down in the Pad mode of the Properties panel.

Converting Regions

To create a custom shape pad by converting regions:

  1. Place one or more overlapping regions defining the custom pad shape in the design space. The regions can be defined on any layer.
  2. Place a pad so its center is located within the area of the region(s) that define the custom shape. The center of the pad will define the origin of the custom pad shape to be created. The layer on which the pad is placed will define the layer of the custom shape pad.
  3. Select the pad and the region(s).
  4. Right-click on the selection and select the Pad Actions » Add Selected Region to Custom Pad command from the context menu or select the Tools » Convert » Add Selected Region to Custom Pad command from the main menus.

The pad of the custom shape will be created on the layer on which the original pad has been placed.

Javascript

A custom pad shape can be created by converting selected region(s). A region that will define the pad shape and a standard shape pad that will define the center of the custom shape pad are shown here.  

Select the region and the pad, then right-click on the selection and select the Pad Actions » Add Selected Region to Custom Pad command from the context menu.

A custom shape pad will be created from selected objects.

Converting an Outline

In some cases (e.g., if the pad shape should be defined according to a component datasheet or using imported data), it can be more convenient to define a custom shape by creating a closed outline. To create a custom shape pad by converting an outline:

  1. Define a closed outline of the shape using lines and arcs. The outline can be defined on any layer.
  2. Place a pad so its center is located within the area of the outline that defines the custom shape. The center of the pad will define the origin of the custom pad shape to be created. The layer on which the pad is placed will define the layer of the custom shape pad.
  3. Select the pad and the outline.
  4. Right-click on the selection and select the Pad Actions » Create Custom Pad from Selected Outline command from the context menu or select the Tools » Convert » Create Custom Pad from Selected Outline command from the main menus.

The pad of the custom shape will be created on the layer on which the original pad has been placed. Note that the outline objects will remain – you can reuse or remove them.

Javascript

A custom pad shape can be created by converting a selected outline. An outline that will define the pad shape and a standard shape pad that will define the center of the custom shape pad are shown here.

Select the outline and the pad, then right-click on the selection and select the Pad Actions » Create Custom Pad from Selected Outline command from the context menu.

A custom shape pad will be created from selected objects.

If the pad shape requires a shape defined at specific locations that do not fall onto a grid, it can be more efficient to define linear guides, point guides, and/or polar grids.

Directly from Pad Properties

A pad of a standard shape (round, rectangle, octagon, etc.) can be converted to a custom shape pad directly from its properties. To do this:

  1. Place a standard shape pad in the design space.
  2. In the properties of the selected pad, select Custom Shape from the Shape drop-down for the required copper layer in the Pad Stack region.
  3. Click the Edit Shape button in the Properties panel and then drag the vertices to the required location using the standard vertex definition and management techniques – refer to the Editing Polygonal Shaped PCB Design Objects page to learn more. Click outside the pad area to finish editing.

Set the pad shape as custom and edit the shape as required.
Set the pad shape as custom and edit the shape as required.

When editing the shape, you can also move the entire pad shape. Note that the pad origin (denoted by a cross-hair when the pad is selected) will not be moved, and when attempting to move the pad shape so the origin is outside of the shape area, an appropriate message will appear.

Also, note that it is the pad origin that is considered the pad center that will be snapped to during an edit action, such as interactive routing, if the Pad Center option is enabled for object snapping.

A custom shape pad can have a calculated Solder and/or Paste Mask, which can either be a user-specified amount or controlled by the rule system. When the mask opening requirements are not simply an expansion or contraction of the copper shape, it will not be possible to use a calculated mask. In this case, you can manually select from a standard set of predefined mask shapes or create a custom shape. Learn more about Defining Solder and Paste Mask Shapes.

Alternatively, you can place suitable primitives (Regions, Tracks, etc.) on the required mask layer.

Editing a Custom Shape Pad

To edit the shape of a custom pad, you can use techniques similar to those when creating a new custom pad shape from scratch.

Select region object(s) or an outline placed and the existing custom shape pad in the design space and select the Add Selected Region to Custom Pad or Create Custom Pad from Selected Outline command. You will be prompted to select a required action: replacing the existing custom pad shape or merging the new shape with the existing one.

Alternatively, use the Edit Shape button to edit the pad shape interactively, similar to when defining a custom shape for a pad just converted from a standard shape pad (see above).

The Modify Custom Pad shape command from a custom shape pad's right-click Pad Actions menu is also available. Once the command is launched, the cursor becomes a crosshair. Each time you click, a new vertex is added to the existing pad shape. You can extend the original border outside of the existing shape and/or come back inside the original border to essentially 'remove' an existing area. Use Shift+Spacebar to change placement modes and the Spacebar to switch end cornering modes.

You can also explode a custom shape pad to a region and a standard shape pad by selecting it and choosing the Pad Actions » Explode Custom Pad to Free Primitives command from the pad's right-click menu or the Tools » Convert » Explode Custom Pad to Free Primitives command from the main menus.

Thermal Relief Support

For custom shape pads, you can configure their thermal relief connections to a surrounding polygon using the applicable Polygon Connect Style design rule or by applying a custom thermal relief at the individual object level. The options are 2 or 4 conductors intersecting the pad origin or auto-placed conductors from the center of each side of the custom pad shape region. You can also manually define a thermal relief by defining connection points along the edge of the pad shape - learn more.

Query Keywords

To simplify the process of selecting custom shape pads, scoping design rules, etc., the following query keywords are available:

Custom Shape Pad Type Query Returns
IsCustomShapePad All pad objects of a custom shape.
IsCustomPadShapeOnLayer All pad objects of a custom shape on the specified layer,
e.g.,  IsCustomPadShapeOnLayer('Top Layer')

You can also use the PadShape_AllLayersPadShape_TopLayerPadShape_BottomLayer, and PadShape_MidLayer<n> keywords with the 'Custom Shape' string to get pads of custom shape on a specific layer. For example, the PadShape_TopLayer = 'Custom Shape' query returns pad objects with a custom shape on the top layer.

Custom Shape Pads in Outputs

Pads of custom shapes will be exported as pads of the Custom DCode Shape to Gerber and ODB++ outputs. Custom pad shapes are output in these formats as true contours with arcs.

Custom pad shapes are supported when saving/loading the PCB in ASCII format.

Defining Solder and Paste Mask Shapes

Besides defining the shape of the pad on the paste/solder mask based on an expansion value (from an applicable expansion rule or entered manually, as described here), you can manually select from a standard set of predefined pad shapes or create your own custom shape.

To select a standard predefined shape, choose the Round, Rectangular, Octagonal, Rounded Rectangle, or Chamfered Rectangle option from the Shape drop-down in the Paste or Solder region of the Properties panel in its Pad mode and use the available options to configure the shape on the corresponding layer.

A custom shape on the paste or solder mask layer can be defined by selecting Custom Shape from the Shape drop-down and clicking the Edit button in the Properties panel then defining the shape of the region on this layer, by either editing the existing or placing new primitives (tracks, arcs, fills, etc.). Copying and pasting primitives while defining the shape is also supported.

Javascript

An example of defining a custom shape on the Top Solder Mask layer through the Properties panel. When the pad is selected, choose the Custom Shape option from the Shape drop-down for the required layer.

When the layer region is expanded, click the Edit button to enter the editing mode of the shape on that layer.

When the shape is defined as required, click the Complete button at the top of the Properties panel (or use the Shift+C shortcut when in the design space).

The result of defining the custom shape on the Top Solder Mask layer.

Alternatively, create the desired custom shape on the paste/solder mask layer using a combination of track, arc, fill and solid region primitives, then add those selected primitives to the pad (on that paste/solder mask layer) using the new Add Selected Custom Masks to Pad command (from the right-click Pad Actions sub-menu).

Javascript

An example of defining a custom shape on the Top Paste Mask layer using placed primitives. A pad with the disabled top paste mask shape is shown here.

Place primitives on the solder and/or paste mask layers defining pad shapes on these layers as required. Four fills placed on the top paste mask layer are shown here.

When the placed primitives are selected, right-click the selection and choose the Pad Actions » Add Selected Custom Masks to Pad command from the right-click menu.

Click the pad to which the primitives should be added.

The primitives will be added to the current solder/paste shapes of the selected pad. The Custom Shape entry will be shown for the affected layers.

Custom paste/solder mask shapes of a pad can be exploded to free primitives by selecting the pad and choosing the Pad Actions » Explode Custom Masks to Free Primitives command from the pad's right-click menu.

Custom paste/solder mask shapes are supported in Draftsman documents and Gerber, Gerber X2, ODB++, and IPC-2581 outputs.

Defining Custom Thermal Reliefs

For individual pads, thermal relief configuration can be customized by enabling the associated Thermal Relief option (or the Relief option in the layer's row) for the required layer. In this case, thermal reliefs are considered custom.

Customize the thermal relief configuration at the pad level using the Properties panel when the pad is selected.
Customize the thermal relief configuration at the pad level using the Properties panel when the pad is selected.

When the Thermal Relief option is enabled, click the link summarizing the current configuration to access the Edit Polygon Connect Style dialog, where you can change the thermal relief options as required. In this dialog, you can use the same options as a Polygon Connect Style design rule offers. For a thermal relief connection, you can choose 2 or 4 conductors of the thermal relief or choose Auto mode, where a conductor will be placed on each side of the pad, with the consideration of the minimum distance between conductors set.

Configure the custom thermal relief for individual pad using the Edit Polygon Connect Style dialog.
Configure the custom thermal relief for individual pad using the Edit Polygon Connect Style dialog.

If the Repour Polygons After Modification option is disabled on the PCB Editor - General page of the Preferences dialog, repour the polygon surrounding the pad after changing its thermal relief options to apply the changes.

Manually-defined Thermal Reliefs

Besides using standard 2- or 4-spike thermal relief or auto-placed thermal relief spikes on each side of the pad shape, you can define connection points of thermal relief spikes for specific pads. When custom thermal relief configuration is enabled, use the commands of the Pad Actions right-click menu of the placed pad in the design space, or click the Edit Points button in the Properties panel.

  • To add new thermal relief connection points, select the Add Thermal Connection Points command. Hover the cursor over the required location of the edge of the pad shape and click to add the marker of a new connection point presented as a white crosshair. Continue adding the connection points or right-click to finish.

    Alternatively, use the Ctrl+Click shortcut to graphically add a spoke at any point along the pad shape. To do this, click the Edit Points in the Properties panel, hold the Ctrl key and hover the cursor over the point along the pad shape to which you want to add a spoke – when a small white circle appears at the desired location, click to add a new connection point.

  • To edit the location of an existing thermal relief connection point, select the Edit Connection Points command or click the Edit Points in the Properties panel. Click and drag the handle of a connection point marker along the edge of the pad shape to the required location.
  • To remove thermal relief connection points, select the Delete Thermal Connection Points command. Hover the cursor over the handle of a connection point marker and click. Continue removing the connection points or right-click to finish. Alternatively, when dragging a connection point, press the Delete key.

Note that when at least one thermal connection point is changed, the thermal relief is considered manual, and it will be marked as such in the Properties panel.

An example of manual thermal relief connection points applied to a custom shape pad
An example of manual thermal relief connection points applied to a custom shape pad

As for the automatically chosen number of conductors, you can limit the number of placed thermal relief conductors at the defined locations by applying the required minimum distance between the conductors. To do that, click the link in the Thermal Relief field of the Properties panel and enable the Min Distance checkbox in the Edit Polygon Connect Style dialog that opens. Enter an appropriate value in the provided field.

Define the Min Distance to limit the number of placed thermal relief conductors.
Define the Min Distance to limit the number of placed thermal relief conductors.

When opening a document with manually-defined thermal relief connections in a previous version of Altium Designer that does not support this feature, you will get a warning that this feature is not supported, and, in addition, such defined connections will revert to the standard 4-spoke connections once an associated polygon is repoured.
Found an issue with this document? Highlight the area, then use Ctrl+Enter to report it.

お問合せ

お近くの営業所にお問合せください。

We're sorry to hear the article wasn't helpful to you.
Could you take a moment to tell us why?
200 characters remaining
You are reporting an issue with the following selected text
and/or image within the active document: