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

Downloads

Download the latest in PCB design and EDA software

  • PCB DESIGN SOFTWARE
  • Altium Designer

    Complete Environment for Schematic + Layout

  • CircuitStudio

    Entry Level, Professional PCB Design Tool

  • CircuitMaker

    Community Based PCB Design Tool

  • NEXUS

    Agile PCB Design For Teams

  • CLOUD PLATFORM
  • Altium 365

    Connecting PCB Design to the Manufacturing Floor

  • COMPONENT MANAGEMENT
  • Altium Concord Pro

    Complete Solution for Library Management

  • Octopart

    Extensive, Easy-to-Use Component Database

  • PRODUCT EXTENSIONS
  • PDN Analyzer

    Natural and Effortless Power Distribution Network Analysis

  • See All Extensions
  • EMBEDDED
  • TASKING

    World-Renowned Technology for Embedded Systems Development

  • TRAININGS
  • Live Courses

    Learn best practices with instructional training available worldwide

  • On-Demand Courses

    Gain comprehensive knowledge without leaving your home or office

  • ONLINE VIEWER
  • 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

    ALTIUMLIVE

    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

    Downloads

    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

    Circuit Board Sizes and Shapes, How to Make a PCB

    Altium Designer
    |  February 2, 2018

    Picture of a suitcase with a camera and a backpack

    For many years my career took me to a lot of different locations as I traveled to conduct business. One of the wonderful things about travel is how it opens you up to new experiences and individuals. You only truly begin understanding how diverse our world is after witnessing the differences throughout various of it. I just wish I brought a dog with me on those trips, so I could name it “Toto,” because I sure wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

    Just as diverse people and cultures can open up our minds to new ideas, working with different boards will also open up our minds to new technologies and circuit board design practices. When you who work for one corporation and design the same shape and sized boards over again, you probably won’t get to see much variety in your boards. After working at many different companies and/or service bureaus, we have probably have seen all kinds of different board shapes and sizes.

    Circuit board shapes and sizes are designed to fit specific electrical components on the board layout. Matching the technology with the schematic design of the circuit board. Here are some of the different size and shapes of PCBs that I have worked with over the years, what they were used for, and what it takes to create them. There’s a lot more to the world of schematic design than what we see in front of us on a regular work-day. Fortunately, we don’t need a wizard to see it, even if we do live in Kansas.

    Board Shapes of all Sizes

    Having worked for many different corporations both small and large, as well as different service bureaus, I have seen lots of different boards. There’s no way that I’ll ever remember them all, but here’s a sampling of those that do stand out in my memory.

    • Standard computer type boards including both plugin boards and motherboards.
    • Skinny little boards that had to tuck around the sides of a CRT.
    • “L” shaped boards that wrapped around a glass screen.
    • Huge industrial power boards for some kind of circuit box.
    • Tiny little boards that fit inside of a watch.
    • Round boards.
    • And lastly, a skull-shaped board. It was the general shape of a skull, and where the eyes should be there were two giant PGA sockets. Where the mouth should be there were two horizontal connectors. This one was kind of spooky as it really did look like a skull.

    As I said, there have been much more than this short list, these are just some of those that are most prominent in my mind. I can honestly say that designing all of these different board shapes in my board design career never left me bored.

    Different circuit boards stacked on each other
    Circuit boards come in all kinds of shapes and sizes

    Different Board Shapes for Different Purposes and Technologies

    These different board shapes all served different purposes and had to fit in different component enclosures. Those skinny little boards were a prototype for one of the first touch screens back in the days of CRT monitors. The “L” shaped board wrapped around a display, while those huge power boards were to able to handle a lightning strike and still function. The small board that went into a watch was years before IoT was a reality, and the round boards were for huge IC testing machines.

    I honestly have no idea what that skull board was for, it was just pretty funny to come into work and have it peering back at me from my CAD system. But all of these designs used very different design rule technologies. The computer boards required high speed design and HDI techniques while the large power board used primarily huge areas of copper pours. And the small board that fit into a watch took some of the smallest space and trace sizes at the time.

    Picture of 3D PCB design from CAD system
    3D design environments can help you to handle even the most unusual board shapes

    Versatile PCB CAD Tools is How to Make a PCB with an Unusual Shape or Size

    Designing all these different boards at several different companies has given me an opportunity to work with an assortment of Printed Circuit Board design tools. A lot of these tools are no longer around, and some of them you may never have heard of before. The first CAD tool that I ever worked on was a Calma GDS system, and before you even ask, yes I am that old. My best friend growing up was the Triceratops down the street until the mean T-Rex on the next block ate him for lunch.

    I had to use a variety of PCB design tools for those different shapes, but today there are some great tools out there making jobs significantly easier. I wouldn’t have to trick the CAD system into doing something that it wasn’t designed to do, or manipulate the netlist or the output files in order to get what I needed. The answer to how to make a PCB that will guarantee your success is to arm yourself with the best PCB design tools that you can get.

    I have found that PCB design software, like Altium Designer®, has the versatility, power, and flexibility to handle anything that I can throw at it, including working in a 3D design environment. I obviously can’t go back in time to revisit those old designs. Going forward though, I’m very happy to have a design tool like this to help me handle whatever the next oddly shaped and sized PCB that is coming my way.

    Would you like to find out more about how Altium can help you to design whatever the next PCB design that is coming your way? Talk to an expert at Altium.

    About Author

    About Author

    PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.

    most recent articles

    Back to Home