Round and Curved PCB Design in Altium Designer

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: April 9, 2020

Our modern lives would not be possible without electronics. Sometimes it seems like a race to be the first person to wire everything in your house onto PCBs. With the multitude of possible device shapes and sizes, circular or rounded PCBs are becoming more popular. If you want to design your next device on a round PCB, your design software needs CAD and layout tools that don’t constrain you to working on rectangular PCB. When you work with Altium Designer, you’ll have full control over your PCB footprint and layout, and you can build PCBs with any shape or size.

ALTIUM DESIGNER

A PCB design software package with the best PCB layout tools for curved or round PCBs.

As PCBs take on stranger form factors and require more advanced capabilities, your design strategies need to keep up with these changes. If your next electronic device has a round form factor, using a round PCB can give you more board space and might be preferable over using multiple rectangular boards. You’ll likely need to implement a number of other design rules and strategies for your particular application. Using an excellent PCB design software package with the best CAD and layout tools will make designing your next round PCB a breeze.

Round and Curved Design Strategies

Once you’ve decided on a shape for your PCB, you’ll need to draw out the shape of your board in your CAD tool. This forms the foundation for your board, and you can then proceed to laying out components. If you’re working on a high-performance device, you’ll likely be designing a multilayer PCB with high speed or high frequency capabilities. You’ll also need to define ground and power planes in different layers. Defining the shape of your power/ground layers requires a polygon editor that is built into your design software.

Round PCB Design for Specific Applications

Certain applications require curved or round devices, and it can pay to design your PCB to match the form factor of your device packaging. Using a rectangular board inside a curved package reduces available board space, and working with curved designs allows your PCB to match the contour of your packaging. This gives you more design flexibility and can even allow you to expand your design to include new features in the future.

Screenshot of curved board design in Altium Designer

Curved board design in Altium Designer

Curved and Round PCBs for Wearable and IoT Devices

Wearable and IoT devices can take on rather odd form factors. This is especially true with wearable devices, and most wearables require rigid-flex curved or round PCBs. The amount of real estate available on these boards is already low, but using a curved PCB will help you maximize your board space. The right PCB design software package will help you ensure that you can add all the electronic capabilities you need for your next wearable or IoT device.

Design Your Next Wearable or IoT Device with the Best PCB Design Software

With wearable and IoT devices requiring so many high-performance features in such a small footprint, design simulation, layer stackup, polygon design, and rules checking features become critical. Integrating round PCB design with other standard design features requires PCB design software that unifies these features in a single interface. Your circuit board will be grateful that you’ve used printed circuit technology for smart board outline and holes placement.

Screenshot of the panelization editor in Altium Designer

Custom panelization in Altium Designer

Moving From Design to Manufacturing with Altium Designer

Altium Designer gives you access to the best CAD tools for defining your board shape and the best layout tools for designing your devices. Since most boards are being designed as multilayer, high speed, low power, high-frequency, or a combination of all of these, you’ll need several other tools to complete your designs. Altium Designer includes simulation and analysis tools, an intuitive layer stackup manager, and top-notch component and data management features. It’s all accessible within a single design interface.

Just like with any rectangular PCB, you’ll need to generate deliverables for your manufacturer once you decide to produce your round PCB. Curved or rounded PCBs require unique panelization schemes and detailed milling instructions, in addition to the standard PCB manufacturing and assembly outputs. Altium Designer will generate your panelization instructions, bills of materials, and Gerber files for your manufacturer within a unified design environment.

Get Access to the Best PCB Design Features in Altium Designer

Using piecemeal design software is a great way to kill your productivity. Instead of moving between multiple modules or programs, your design software should give you the capabilities to access any of the tools you need from a single program. Altium Designer gives you the power to design fully customized PCBs, and all within an integrated design platform.

Designing unique boards is easy when you work in a unified design environment. Your design interface should integrate with trace routing, data management, and deliverable generation tools without having to move between multiple programs. You can validate your device with integrated design rule checking and simulation features, ensuring that your next round PCB design will be a success.

When you need to build a board with odd form factor and advanced capabilities, look to a great PCB design software package like Altium Designer. You’ll have access to all the tools you need to completely customize your design. You’ll have access to all the best the PCB design industry demands within Altium Designer.

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 1000+ technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, and the American Physical Society, and he currently serves on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee.

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