Be the Expert When it Comes to Designing Your Power Distribution PCB

Created: March 9, 2018
Updated: September 25, 2020

Picture of Olympic CurlingEditorial credit: Paolo Bona /

Around my house, we seem to undergo a transformation to obscure-sport experts every four years, and coincidentally it occurs at the same time that the Winter Olympics is taking place. Yes, I’m talking about the sport of curling. We have all become subject matter experts in the “button,” the “hammer,” the “house,” “sweeping,” and of course the “curl.” Rest assured, by next month we will have forgotten most of this until the next winter games roll around.

Becoming an expert every four years is great for a sport that we watch on TV, but it isn’t so great for our everyday tasks. For those who design printed circuit boards, we need to be spot on every time we report to work. Our industry is very fortunate to have designers like you that are, in fact, spot on. But there is one area that we as designers have traditionally fallen short in our expertise, and that is in designing the power distribution network of our PCBs.

Up until now the successful design of a power distribution network in a PCB has relied on either very expensive simulation software, or prototype boards to work out the problems. The modern solution, of course, is a power distribution network analysis (PDNA) software built into your PCB design tools can help you design the power delivery portion of your circuit board right the first time. Your PDN expertise can shine with the right tools.

Easy to Use

The first advantage that you will see is that PDN analysis tools are easy to set up and use. Because they are part of the same platform of PCB design tools, they are already installed and ready to go.

Setting them up is also simple as they use the same style of menus and command selections that you use to set up the rest of your design. Then when you analyze the power network of your design, you will have visual feedback overlaid on your design within the layout tools so that corrections are visible immediately.

These tools complement the PCB design software that they are part of instead of being an add-on, third-party tool. This eliminates the amount of work that traditional simulators can take for installation and setup, as well as the need to learn how to run yet another tool.

Picture of dollar sign on circuit board routing
Using a PDN built into your PCB layout software can save you time and money

Low Cost

The next advantage that you will see is the low cost of using these tools. Traditional power simulation analysis tools can cost a lot of money to purchase. On top of that, there is the cost of maintenance as well as setup for the users. Traditional simulators will also see a cost in time for users to configure and learn how to use these tools.

analysis tools eliminate these costs. Since they are part of the entire PCB design tools platform, there are no additional installation or maintenance costs associated with them. And since analysis tools are part of the overall unified design environment, users will already be familiar with their structure and operation. This will save time resulting in yet cost savings for you.

Picture of menus from Altium ’s  Analysis toolBe the power distribution network expert on your next PCB design with a built-in

You Will Become the Power Distribution Expert on Your PCB

Where you used to have to rely on outside help for simulating your power distribution network, or even in building multiple prototypes to work out the bugs, these new analysis tools will make you the expert. You will be able to see at-a-glance problems associated with copper such as:

  • Insufficient amounts of copper.
  • Isolated areas of copper (islands).
  • Excessive amounts of copper that can be reduced.

You will also be able to see which device pins may not be getting enough voltage so that you can correct it in real time. By being able to define your power nets as sources, loads and grounds, you will be able to track all of these kinds of problems and see exactly what you need to do to get an adequate amount of power to all of your circuit board.

Power distribution network analysis for PCB design like this is available to you today. It can make you an expert in designing your instead of relying on other methods to find power design problems. You don’t need to spend extra time and money on expensive simulators and multiple circuit board prototypes when you can get immediate results from this tool.

With power being such a contested territory for designs as they look to lift heavier loads with less size, PCB design software that can keep your work smooth and your ideas strong is paramount. For a PDN Analyzer  that compliments your PCB layout, enables you to see and work with the results in real-time, and send your design out for manufacturing in short-order, Altium Designer® is your strong software choice.

Don’t settle for bronze - ask for help with your next power delivery network design on your next PCB layout. Talk to an expert at Altium.

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