The PCB Design Guide for Engineers Part 2 - PCB Planning

Created: February 21, 2017
Updated: December 9, 2020


As a PCB designer, the planning of the development of a one or several printed circuit boards can be a daunting task. There will be a host of other software tools that will be used in the development of your project. From tools that can be used to track the progress of your human resources within your team to the software tools used by your internal and external resources to bring your project to life. What about high speed components, the solder mask, and component placement? None came to be more important that the tool used to gather all of the data together intelligently to assemble the documentation required to bring to life the center of any electronic product, the printed circuit board. What do you need to look for in your design tool to make your next project easy? Read on to learn about a PCB planning guide.

PCB Design: To Centralize or Not to Centralize

There are a host of PCB layout and planner tools available that will most certainly allow you to complete your project and achieve your design goals. The difficulty when working with multiple tool sets is inherently getting these tools to communicate with one another for cohesive collaboration among all the people working on the project.

Altium Designer® provides an all-in-one environment for developing your concept to simulation and signal integrity analysis. It gives you the ability to intelligently plan your board stack up and analyzes your power distribution network’s (PDN) power integrity issues. Using real time data from suppliers it streamlines generation of your bill of material. Altium Designer combines a powerful suite of tools that produces from the simple to complex multi-board project.

Signal Integrity

With Altium Designer, you can analyze the signal integrity (SI) performance of a PCB layout design from either the schematic or the PCB editors, evaluate net screening results against predefined tests, perform reflection and crosstalk analysis on selected nets, and display and manipulate the waveforms.


Altium Designer includes pre-layout and post-layout SI analysis capabilities. The Signal Integrity Analyzer uses sophisticated transmission line calculations and I/O buffer macro-model information as input for simulations. Based on a fast reflection and crosstalk simulator model, the Signal Integrity Analyzer produces accurate simulations using industry-proven algorithms.

Preliminary impedance and reflection simulations can be run from your source schematics prior to final PCB layout and routing. This allows you to address potential signal integrity issues, such as mismatched net impedances, before committing to PCB layout.


Full impedance, signal reflection and crosstalk analysis can be run on your final board (or a partially routed board) to check the real-world performance of your design. Signal integrity screening is built into the Altium Designer design rules system, allowing you to check for signal integrity violations as part of the normal PCB design rule checking (DRC) process. If signal integrity issues are found, Altium Designer shows you the effects of various termination options, allowing you to find the best solution before modifying your design.

PCB Architecture

With Altium Designer, you have a robust set of tools that allows you to quickly and accurately produce the documentation that board fabricators require. It all begins with defining the characteristics of your PCB component placement.

PCB Layout Planning

Altium Designer gives you the latest in board planning technology with three design modes. Beginning with Board Planning Mode, A two-dimensional design environment lets you define board regions and bending lines. A second 2D layout mode enhances the conventional two-dimensional design environment with customizable layer modes. A third environment provides a three-dimensional workspace providing vivid, realistic views of your PCB components.



Layer Stack Manager

The Layer Stack Manager helps you develop and model the physical and electrical characteristics of your PCB components. From simple double sided PCBs, complex multilayers, to flex circuits and flex-rigid-flex designs. It also allows for variations and combinations of different materials and lets you define drill pair layers and specify bind and buried vias. You can enter your material characteristics and customize impedance formulas, allowing you to communicate a concise definition of your Printed Circuit Boards through the various documentation media, generated by Altium Designer.


The Power of Planning

Planning a PCB design project can be a complex and difficult task without the proper tools. The Altium Designer tool set allows for great flexibility in preparing and compiling your data with a shared and collaborative environment that will assure you the greatest success in completing your task in meeting your scheduling needs and achieving your goals.

Want to learn more about successfully planning your next CIrcuit Board project with Altium Designer? Download a free whitepaper today.

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