4 Layer PCB Stackup Has Never Been Simpler with Altium Designer
Don’t settle for a layer stackup management tool that can’t handle simple, necessary requests. Utilize the right PCB design software that gets your job done right the first time.
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For your stackup management needs, choose the proper PCB design software.
Every project—large or small—begins with pre-planning that considers each project phase from concept to implementation. With PCB design project, pre-planning begins with the layer stackup. As designers work with the layer stackup, they may discover problems with signal integrity or circuit vulnerabilities that may not have become apparent until layer stages of the project. The PCB layout also serves as the roadmap for designing the PCB layout and eases the complexity of multilayer PCB designs that have more than 30 layers.
Altium Designer provides the essential tools needed to create a PCB 4-layer stackup in standard rigid boards, rigid-flex boards, and multilayer board assemblies. The unified environment offered within the software combines access to those tools with the capability to seamlessly communicate with layout, simulation, and rules checking features. Each of the layer stackup tools included within Altium Designer enable the production of compact electronic devices that offer a wide array of functionality. With Altium’s support of High-Density Interconnections (HDI), designers can provide the features and compactness that consumers desire.
When working in the Altium Designer PCB Editor, you can define the PCB area available for components and routing. Within this functionality, you can use Board Shape to match the shape defined by a set of objects on one of the mechanical layers of the Printed Circuit Board. In addition, you can use Board Shape to assign a layer sub-stack to a specific region of the board shape.
The Board Shape tool also allows you to split the Printed Circuit Boards into multiple board regions and place bending lines on a flex board region. You can also use Board Shape to split power planes and define the boundaries of the power planes. As you work with rigid-flex designs, you can balance the mechanical and electronic design areas by using the surface of an imported 3D STEP model to redefine the board shape.
Altium Designer Offers Advanced PCB Layer Stack Management
Altium’s Layer Stack Manager allows designers to configure the layers of a Printed Circuit Board. While using the Layer Stack Manager, you to add, merge, remove, and configure the layer stacks. After the Layer Stack Manager defines the material and mechanical requirements of the layers, materials, thicknesses, and dielectric constants, Altium Designer uses the Layer Stack Table to graphically document the layer configurations.
You can define the layer properties while consulting with your fabricator. Layer properties extend across the entire layer and across all associated stacks. All mechanical layers appear after the physical layers. You can use the Layer Stack Table documentation to lessen the complexity of rigid-flex layer stack structures.
You can use Altium Designer to define a single set of layers and then use any layer stack. Whether your design uses a single board or a rigid-flex board with different sections, the set of layers includes all layers used in the PCB design. The layer stack includes the copper, dielectric, surface finish, and mask layers. With the layers configured, you can concentrate on planning component placement, tracking vias and holes, and the PCB layout.
- Learn more about advanced layer stack management.
- Learn more about stackup management and routing.
- Learn more about working through the history of layer management in circuit design.
The Layer Stack Manager integrates with impedance formula editor, works for simple, rigid PCB designs, and allows the addition of sub-layer stacks for rigid-flex designs. You can switch between Simple Mode to manage the layers for rigid boards and Advanced Mode to add and manage multiple sub-stacks for rigid-flex PCBs.
When using the Simple Mode, you can load a previously saved layer stack from a Stack-up file or stack data from a revision of the Layerstack item in a connected Altium Vault. Choosing either option opens the Merge Layer Stacks dialog within Layer Stack Manager and allows you to control the use of the layers in the existing stack or the Layerstack item from the Vault.
Altium Designer Solves Rigid Flex Design Issues
Standard stackups used for flex and rigid-flex boards separate into the Type 1 – Single Layer, the Type 2 – Double Layer, the Type 3 – Multilayer, and the Type 4 – Multilayer Rigid-Flex. While the Type 1 – Single Layer has one conductive layer uncovered on one side or laminated between insulating layers, the Type 2 Double Layer uses two conductive layers with plated through holes. An insulating layer fits between the conductive layers. Multilayer flexible boards have three or more conductive layers with flexible insulating layers between each conductive layer.
Rigid-flex PCB designs to not have consistent sets of layers across the entire circuit design. Type 4 – Multilayer Rigid-Flex boards combine rigid and flexible materials with the rigid section having a different set of layers from the flexible section. If several rigid sections join a number of flex sections, the design may use a different set of layers in each of the sections. Although both Type 3 and 4 multilayer types use plated through-holes between layers, the multilayer rigid-flex board has conductors on the rigid layers.
Altium Designer allows the definition of multiple stacks for rigid-flex designs. An overall master layer stack defines the total set of available layers for the design. You can define any number of sub-stacks from the available master stack layers. Using the Advanced Mode, Rigid-flex PCBs fabricate as a single entity within Altium Designer. Layer Stack Manager allows design teams to carefully define the horizontal (X-Y) direction when establishing the overall shape of the rigid-flex board. In the same way, design teams define the board structure in the vertical (Z) direction and all the layers needed for a functional design.
Because rigid-flex multilayer boards have different 4 layer PCB stackup requirements, design teams must define multiple layer stacks along with the rigid and flexible zones of the Printed Circuit Board. Each zone or board region associates with a specific layer stack. This approach allows your design team to suppress EMI and crosstalk between layers and to establish the correct routing between layers. From there, your team uses Altium Designer to generate the output fabrication and documentation files for the rigid-flex design.
- Learn more about layer stackup in rigid and rigid-flex PCBs.
- Learn more about designing rigid-flex boards.
- Learn more about a fabricator's perspective on rigid-flex boards.
Altium Designer is working endlessly to ensure your rigid-flex designs are supported
Because multilayer PCBs use large numbers of vias to pass signals between layers, you need to establish design rules and electrical rules that suppress electromagnetic interference and reduce crosstalk. Without the rules and checks in place, external fields and noise will ruin the signal integrity of the PCB.
Along with providing full-featured design rule checks and electrical rule checks, Altium Designer uses ActiveRoute to determine the corner style that eliminates sharp corners. For single-sided flex designs, you should also select teardrop-shaped pads that have anchoring spurs that allow capturing of part of the pad shape within the coverlayer. ActiveRoute assists with avoiding the placement of through holes in the bend region of rigid-flex design.
Multilayer PCB designs require appropriate routing widths and clearances to achieve the correct impedance. Altium Designer allows you to specify the desired impedance for your PCB and then calculates the routing width required for each layer. The Characteristic Impedance Driven Width option under the Routing Width design rule automatically translates the required impedance into widths for each signal layer.
When you route the Circuit Board and change the number of layers, Altium Designer automatically adjusts the track width to the size that matches the impedance. The Signal Integrity command found within the Altium Designer PCB Editor Tools menu allows you to use the material properties established through the Layer Stack Manager and the actual widths of the routes to check for impedance mismatches and reflection issues.
Real-time BOM Management Assists with PCB Project Design
Altium Designer associates its CAD or EDA toolsets with the Bill of Materials (BOM). While the BOM refers only to the components involved with the engineering design process, it shows all the components needed for a PCB design. When information from the BOM feeds into the CAD system and become part of a specific CAD library, it also includes a comment that establishes a unique identifier that includes information about the component, package type, component footprint, manufacturer, and a reference designator. Supporting information within the BOM shows tolerances and values that the design team uses when selecting and placing parts.
- Learn more about easy component management and component search in Altium Designer.
- Learn more about real time BOM management in Altium Designer.
- Learn more about Altium Designer's global editing features.
BOM management and other manufacturing outputs are easily organized with Altium Designer
Altium Designers unified environment supports the production of a PCB design from schematic through layout and to documentation. The PCB design software generates manufacturing outputs, the BOM, Gerber files, and other types of documentation. With this information, your PCB design team can work with any fabricator and any manufacturer.