Free Trials

Download a free trial to find out which Altium software best suits your needs

How to Buy

Contact your local sales office to get started on improving your design environment


Download the latest in PCB design and EDA software

  • Altium Designer

    Complete Environment for Schematic + Layout

  • CircuitStudio

    Entry Level, Professional PCB Design Tool

  • CircuitMaker

    Community Based PCB Design Tool


    Agile PCB Design For Teams

  • Altium 365

    Connecting PCB Design to the Manufacturing Floor

  • Altium Concord Pro

    Complete Solution for Library Management

  • Octopart

    Extensive, Easy-to-Use Component Database

  • PDN Analyzer

    Natural and Effortless Power Distribution Network Analysis

  • See All Extensions

    World-Renowned Technology for Embedded Systems Development

  • Live Courses

    Learn best practices with instructional training available worldwide

  • On-Demand Courses

    Gain comprehensive knowledge without leaving your home or office

  • Altium 365 Viewer

    View & Share electronic designs in your browser

  • Altium Designer 20

    The most powerful, modern and easy-to-use PCB design tool for professional use


    Annual PCB Design Summit

    • Forum

      Where Altium users and enthusiasts can interact with each other

    • Blog

      Our blog about things that interest us and hopefully you too

    • Ideas

      Submit ideas and vote for new features you want in Altium tools

    • Bug Crunch

      Help make the software better by submitting bugs and voting on what's important

    • Wall

      A stream of events on AltiumLive you follow by participating in or subscribing to

    • Beta Program

      Information about participating in our Beta program and getting early access to Altium tools

    All Resources

    Explore the latest content from blog posts to social media and technical white papers gathered together for your convenience


    Take a look at what download options are available to best suit your needs

    How to Buy

    Contact your local sales office to get started improving your design environment

    • Documentation

      The documentation area is where you can find extensive, versioned information about our software online, for free.

    • Training & Events

      View the schedule and register for training events all around the world and online

    • Design Content

      Browse our vast library of free design content including components, templates and reference designs

    • Webinars

      Attend a live webinar online or get instant access to our on demand series of webinars

    • Support

      Get your questions answered with our variety of direct support and self-service options

    • Technical Papers

      Stay up to date with the latest technology and industry trends with our complete collection of technical white papers.

    • Video Library

      Quick and to-the-point video tutorials to get you started with Altium Designer

    3D Printing versus Real Time, Pre-Build Clearance Checking

    Alexsander Tamari
    |  August 24, 2017

    3d printing PCB

    3D printing has been revolutionizing the manufacturing industry. Once you have your completed design, just feed it into your printer and press a button, and it can be fabricated automatically. 3D printing is used for fast and easy prototyping of all sorts of complex and intricate items. So why not use it to fabricate your completed printed circuit board designs? Well, because when it comes to PCBs, there’s a better way.

    The Problem with 3D Printing PCBs

    3D printing is cheap and easy—when you’re printing relatively simple items using basic polymers. A printer that can print with several different materials, including copper, and at the intricate level of detail necessary to create a working PCB, is much more expensive and takes much longer.

     Printing the entire PCB is therefore impractical for most purposes. However, the board’s enclosure is generally made of fiberglass, which can be printed fairly cheaply and easily. Once you’ve done that, you can use that enclosure in conjunction with a true PCB prototype, fabricated in the traditional, reliable way, rather than printed. This will save you both time and money, while delivering a better overall prototype.

    3D PCB Software Modeling

    In order to make a prototype work in this way, you need to be able to create a 3D model of your PCB within the design software. PCBs contain such intricate detail at such a small level that regular, 2D designs often can’t fully capture them. As such, if you’re 3D printing your enclosure, but only have 2D design software, it makes accuracy more difficult. Clearance checking from track to hole, or from pad to hole, is an iffy proposition at best. As such, the chances of printing the board correctly the first time are low. Prototypes end up with errors, and you end up wasting a lot of time and materials—which amounts to wasting more money as well.

    The only way to prototype properly is with 3D modeling software. This will help you visualize the design more accurately and in better detail, and aid in the manufacture. But the question is, how do you design in three dimensions? Most PCB design software platforms don’t include 3D capabilities. And the ones that do, like Eagle, turn it into a very expensive add-on, which isn’t the best idea if you’re trying to cut down on costs.

    However, there are a few PCB design platforms that offer 3D modeling either as a standard feature with the basic software package or as a free or low-cost download. And as we’ve seen, it’s well worth the time and effort to find a platform that provides you with these capabilities. 3D visualization provides for more detailed designs that are more accurately representative of what the completed board will look like. Because of this, they’re able to provide for real time clearance checking, before you build the board. This will cut down on how many prototypes you turn out, saving you both time and money.

    3D printing is not essential for your PCB prototyping, and can cause more problems than it solves if not used correctly. 3D modeling software, however, IS essential. No matter what kind of fabrication you use, 3D modeling will help you perform clearance checks more efficiently and build better PCBs, faster and cheaper. What more could you ask for in a PCB design software?

    About Author

    About Author

    Alexsander joined Altium as a Technical Marketing Engineer and brings years of engineering expertise to the team. His passion for electronics design combined with his practical business experience provides a unique perspective to the marketing team at Altium. Alexsander graduated from one of the top 20 universities in the world at UCSD where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

    most recent articles

    Back to Home