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With design software that includes multi-layer PCB troubleshooting tools available for PCB designers, there’s no reason to guess at the configuration of your circuit board layers anymore.
TOPICS IN THIS SOLUTION
Designed from printed circuit board schematic through the manufacturing process for multilayer PCBs.
Designing modern printed circuit boards, whether they are rigid or rigid flex, can be a challenge. Everyone wants more electronics stuffed into their designs, and that results in higher density designs, high-speed rules, and constraints, as well as the unique structures required for flex designs. Creating a multilayer PCBs takes state of the art troubleshooting tools to create the circuit board layer stackup that your designs will need for their optimum performance.
For years PCB designers have relied on the input from their manufacturing vendors to give them the layer stackup information that they need. Now there are new features built right into your PCB design tools that will help you to take that manufacturing information, and troubleshoot complex designs in order to create the precise layer stackup for your PCB. With built-in functions such as configurable impedance calculators and auto-generated board layer stackups, today’s PCB design tools can offer you more help than you would have ever believed possible. Fortunately, the design tool that has some of the best multilayer PCBs troubleshooting tools available is also one of the most widely used PCB design tools on the market today; Altium Designer.
We tend to lump printed circuit boards all into one group, but here more than anywhere else it is safe to say that one size does not fit all. From the obvious differences between rigid and flex circuit boards, to the more subtle differences between two boards that appear to be the same but are not, there are many different ways that each board can be configured. The number of layers in a PCB is dependent on the amount of circuitry on the board and the electrical requirements of those circuits.
Very subtle changes to the materials used for the dielectric layers can create a huge difference in circuit performance, and your PCB layer configuration must take all of this into account. Copper and solder usage in PCB layout, traces between components, and pad or pin placement can all be pivotal in getting your printed circuit board through PCB manufacturing with a secure, readable Gerber file. Here is some basic information that will help you to be prepared for your next design.
The more you understand what goes into determining the configuration of layers in your PCB design, the better your design will be.
Altium Designer’s layer stack manager gives you the troubleshooting tools you need
Understanding what layer configuration you need and why will get you started on the design that you need to create, but don’t forget the importance of including your manufacturer in your design configurations from the beginning. They can tell you which is the most practical and economical layer structure to work with and can help you with many of the other questions and decisions that you will have to make with your board. Once you get to this point though, it is up to you and your CAD tools to create the design layer configuration that will best fit your needs.
Altium Designer is equipped with powerful tools for troubleshooting your design layer configurations and getting you the answers that you need. The layer stack manager in Altium Designer will allow you to pick from a list of pre-configured layer configurations, or help you to build your own. It will allow you to load dielectric and conductive materials into the layer stack manager and configure those layers with the widths that you input. The layer stack manager also has an impedance calculator built into it that will take all of this information and plug those results directly into your design rules so that your trace routing is done with the correct width and spacing for the materials that your board is going to be built with. With many more features built into it, Altium Designer’s layer stack manager is the kind of troubleshooting tool that you need to create your best designs.
Layers can be difficult to manage when paired with pad and pin placement, components and traces, copper and solder flow, and schematic generation with multilayer PCBs. With the advanced functionality built into the layer stack manager, Altium Designer is ready to go when you need help configuring your multi-layer Printed Circuit Board designs.
Altium Designer’s native 3D engine is a big help in PCB design
Altium Designer’s layer stack manager is a powerful ally for nailing down the precise configuration you need for your multi-layer PCB design, but the help that Altium Designer will give you doesn’t stop with the layer stack manager. There is much, much more waiting for you as you lay out your PCB design starting with the design rules. The design rules and constraints within Altium Designer are vast and work in conjunction with the information provided from the layer stack manager through the impedance calculator. Not only with Altium Designer’s rules keep your routing according to the width and spacing that you need for your design technology, but it will control every aspect of your design and help ensure that your design will manufacture error-free and perform as intended.
Another key feature in Altium Designer is its native 3D engine. You no longer are restricted to an image of your board layer configuration in your mind only, now you can see exactly how it looks in full 3D. Not only will this give you an unparalleled ability to fully check your component placement to imported mechanical features in 3D, it will also give you a clear view of your signal and power plane layers as well as how your blind and buried vias are being used. This view lends itself well to the intelligent interactive routing capabilities within Altium Designer. Point to point signal routing, bus routing, differential pair routing, and auto-interactive routing are all combined together to give you the most powerful PCB design tool possible.
Altium Designer will give you the tools you need to design any type of PCB no matter what size, shape or configuration it is.
When you are preparing your complex circuit boards for design, don’t just guess at what your board configuration will be. Let Altium Designer help you with its multi-layer PCB troubleshooting tools.