Analyzing Your Power Networks in Altium Designer

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The practical performance of a PCB design layout depends on a multitude of factors, many of which can be predicted, to a reasonable degree, through a range of PCB design analysis tools such as post-layout Signal Integrity analysis. What's often neglected, however, or simply relegated to a 'rule of thumb' methodology, is developing the most effective layout design for board's DC Power Delivery systems. This is the judgment applied to the design of a board's copper areas that provide both the DC supply rails to the circuitry and their ground or common return path to the DC supply source. The desired outcome is an efficient design that maintains the integrity of the design's DC power layout.

With modern digital designs featuring high-speed circuitry, multiple devices, densely populated boards, and multiple supply rails, the demands placed on a design's DC power distribution network warrant a more analytical approach to its design. The DC analysis of a Power Delivery Network (PDN), or the results of its DC Power Integrity (PI-DC), is basically aimed at ensuring that adequate copper has been provided in the path from the voltage sources to the loads – in other words, that the planes, traces, and vias on the board are of sufficient size (and characteristics) to meet the power consumption requirements of the devices on the board.

Fortunately, the guesswork can be removed from the assessment of a PCB's power delivery network (PDN) through the use of a DC Power Integrity (PI-DC) simulation tool, which analyzes a board design's DC performance based on its electrical and physical properties and helps the engineer answers critical design questions, including:

  • Identify and resolve DC voltage and current density issues.
  • Calculate multi-network and return path interactions.
  • Visualize the voltage and current density distribution and identify hotspots in the PCB editor.
  • Examine the voltage, current density, and via current at any location on the board.
  • Generate a report of the analysis simulation results.

To perform a DC Power Integrity analysis right in the Altium Designer PCB design environment, the PDN Analyzer powered by CST® (Computer Simulation Technology) is available. Refer to the PDN Analyzer (by CST) page to learn more.

For the latest DC Power Integrity analysis functionality, take a look at Altium's Power Analyzer by Keysight - supported for use in Altium Designer 22.10 and later.

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