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

    How to Plan Your PCB Layout for a High Voltage Design

    Altium Designer
    |  August 23, 2017

    I used to trail run with a friend who is an urban planner. As part of her devious plan to get me to run further before I was too tired and bored, she’d tell me about the various considerations that go into the zoning and construction in a town. There were also a lot of shenanigans with local politics that provided a juicy distraction.

    Although my friend would disagree, layouts for a high voltage PCB design have some similarities to complex urban planning. In addition to all the other considerations that go into a PCB design, a high voltage PCB also needs a layout that can control and optimize field strength across the board to provide the best performance and lifetime protection in your final product.

    Isolate high voltage areas

    The same way that a town creates zoning areas and restricts what land can be used for, you want to group your high voltage circuitry together to minimize the impact it will have on the rest of your board. By partitioning high voltage areas from low voltage areas, you can decrease the risk of arcing on your board.

    One way to physically isolate high voltage areas is to add an insert around them. When you lay out the board, be sure to include a slot that will be routered out where you’d place the insert. Talk to your manufacturer to be sure this is feasible, and to find out what size tolerance they have for the slot.

    Since you are placing the slot near the highest voltage region of your board, overvoltage conditions are likely. Proto Express recommends that you design the slot to survive repeated arcing. The minimum slot width should provide adequate protection at the highest voltage expected on the board. By adding a little margin to the slot size, you can ensure the PCB will stay undamaged even if the edges of the slot carbonize during corona or arcing. This is important because the resistance of the PCB material drops along the edges that suffer arc damage.

    During manufacturing, the slot will be routered like any other feature or via on the board. Then you can place an inert insulator material into the slot to form a vertical barrier. For lower voltages, you can use PCB material, but at higher voltages, you’ll want something like polyester or Teflon. The inserts can be held in place with clips, glue, or by designing the shape of the slot and insert to lock in place.

    Components on a long PCB
    Partitioning a high voltage PCB is important to provide a gradual decrease of voltage across the board.

    Decrease voltage across the board gradually

    After you’ve isolated the highest voltage regions on the board, you should still lay out the rest of the board in “zones” that let you step the voltage down gradually. By placing circuitry that operates at lower potential around the main conductors, you can redistribute the electric field. The lower field strength over an area lessens the potential for corona and arcing.

    Voltage floating rings, or field grating rings, can also be used to manage the field distribution of high voltage pcb designs. They can serve as a termination or be coupled to resistors and/or capacitors, depending on the AC/DC characteristics of the high voltage source that your design will protect. These are pretty advanced design components. If you’re considering using them, it is worth diving deep into their literature.

    Isolate noise sources

    If there’s a single universal rule of PCB design it’s to either use short traces or isolate your noise sources. This is still the case with high voltage PCB designs. Just like you don’t want to live next to a loud manufacturing plant, you don’t want signal or power supply noise to reign-free on your board. If noise couples through parasitic capacitance on the board or in the insulation, it can easily propagate to very sensitive areas of the board.

    Minimize interconnects

    You should minimize interconnects on your Printed Circuit Board. Using fewer interconnects reduces the opportunities for transient generation in your design. It will also minimize the propagation of high voltage across the board. Like noise, any transients or unexpectedly high voltage areas can damage sensitive components or reduce performance.

    ASIC chip on a PCB.
    PCB interconnects make it easier for the electric field to propagate across the board, which is highly undesirable.

    Use design checks

    Make sure your PCB design tool has a thorough design rules checker. That checker is the urban planner of your board, making sure that spacing and positioning throughout the design and assembly of your board are up to spec. All cables, connectors, and components can affect the performance of any board, but a high voltage product poses a particular risk to itself and users if the design goes awry.

    Looking for great design layout software for getting started? Look no further than Altium. Design rules checking can be automated and performed in real time, saving you a tremendous amount of work in the small tweaks that are needed to get the board just right, especially for high voltage!

    Have a question about high voltage PCB design? Contact an expert at Altium.


    Check out Altium Designer® in action...

    Powerful PCB Design

    About Author

    About Author

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

    most recent articles

    Back to Home