Working with IPC Compliant Footprint Models

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: January 4, 2019  |  Updated: October 23, 2022
Working with IPC Compliant Footprint Models

Industry standards have been a boon for designers and the electronics industry. Standards are important because they tell designers and manufacturers what to expect from certain component packages, and they assure designers that the components they select can be reused across their designs. It’s all about increasing productivity and ensuring your devices will work as you intended.

The IPC 7350 series of standards (specifically, IPC 7351B) specifies generic physical design parameters of land patterns for surface-mount components. Footprints used in IPC-compliant component packaging need to have a significant amount of information and it can be time-consuming to place all of this into a library for every component. In addition, unless you have the general footprint requirements memorized, you're probably reading dimensions off a datasheet for each component when creating a footprint.

To help speed up the footprint creation process, Altium Designer now includes a footprint generator that is compliant with IPC standards. This generator tool automatically performs all the mathematics required to create a footprint that is compliant with IPC standards. This guide will look at how to use the footprint generator for a custom CQFP package.

Creating a Component With an IPC-Compliant Footprint

Not all components are designed with IPC-compliant footprints. Thankfully, the best PCB design software packages have CAD tools that allow you to work with these components, so long as you apply some simple design strategies. For example, the pitch between landing pads may not be compatible with standard trace widths, and you’ll need to modify this setting in your design software if you intend to use these non-compliant components.

If you’re looking to avoid any placement or routing problems that can arise when working with custom components, you can skip the hassle and immediately create an IPC-compliant footprint for your component. The IPC Compliant Footprint Wizard is available in Altium Designer as an application extension. This wizard uses templates to generate compliant footprints for your components and saves a huge amount of time compared to creating a component manually.

To access the wizard, you’ll need to create a new PCB library file. You can create this as a standalone file or as an addition to an existing project. With this new window active, you’ll need to click on the “Tools” menu and select “IPC Compliant Footprint Wizard”. You’ll see options to create many different component footprints. For this example, we’ll use the CQFP package.

Screenshot of the IPC Compliant Footprint Wizard in Altium

Selecting a component from the IPC Compliant Footprint Wizard in Altium

After you click “Next”, you’ll be able to define your package dimensions. You can select the package dimensions you need for your custom component. You’ll also get 2D and 3D previews of your component footprint and you can generate a preview of your STEP model for this component.

Screenshot of the IPC Compliant Footprint Wizard in Altium

Defining the dimensions for a component footprint in Altium

The following screen will let you define minimum and maximum values for the lead width range and the number of pins required for this component. The wizard will calculate the required lead span range and the lead length range for the lead widths and number of pins you specified. You can also enter your values on this screen. Once you click “Next”, the wizard will show you the maximum and minimum gull-wing values for this component.

The next two screens allow you to define tolerances for this component. You’ll have some freedom to adjust these values based on the specifications of your component manufacturer. You’ll also see a screen that shows the pad dimensions for this component, and you’ll have the ability to define the silkscreen width, courtyard and assembly information, and component body information. Many of these values will be calculated for you based on the IPC specifications, and you should use these values if you want your component footprint to be compliant.

The final screen allows you to save your new component information in a PCB library. You can embed it in the current new library that is open in the background, or you can create a new library file for this component. You can also export a 3D STEP or Parasolid model for your component. Click “Next” and then “Finish” to complete the wizard.

Screenshot of the finished component in Altium

Saving your component information and models in Altium

Once with wizard finishes processing, you’ll get access to 2D and 3D views of your finished component. Go to the “View” menu and select “3D Layout Mode” or press “3” on your keyboard to see your new component in 3D.

Screenshot of the 3D view of  a custom component in Altium

3D view of your new custom component

This new component has been saved in a .PcbLib file, and it’s been given the name “CustomCQFP.PcbLib”.

Creating a Symbol for Your New IPC-Compliant Component

Once you’ve created the footprint for your new component, you’ll need to create a symbol for it so that you can use the component in a schematic. First, you’ll need to create a new integrated library project. Click on File -> New -> Project -> Integrated Library to load this new project. You’ll then need to add the.PcbLib file you created in the previous section to this project. You can drag this file into the integrated library project if you still have it open in the navigator, or you can open this file manually.

Now you’ll need to add a new schematic library to your new integrated library project by clicking File -> New -> Library -> Schematic Library. You’ll need the.PcbLib file and the.SchLib files in this project to create a link between the schematic symbol and the component footprint that will appear in your layout. To link the two files, click on Tools -> Model Manager. This will bring up the window shown below.

Screenshot of the Model Manager dialog in Altium

The Model Manager dialog in Altium

The footprint is linked to the schematic by clicking “Add Footprint”. Another window will appear that allows you to select a .PcbLib file from your local machine or the current integrated library project. Since the CustomCQFP.PcbLib file was already added to the project, you can click the “Browse” button and select the CustomCQFP component directly without searching for it on your hard drive.

Screenshot of the PCB Model dialog in Altium

Linking your PCB model to your schematic

If you have the schematic symbol generation tool installed, you can access the extension from the “Symbol Wizard” option in the “Tools” menu. You’ll see the symbol creation wizard appear. This dialog lets you define the pin layout that you’ll see in the schematic symbol. You can also choose the pin arrangement that appears in the schematic symbol. You can choose whichever arrangement will make it easiest to make connections with your other components.

If you have a small number of pins in your component, you can configure each manually if you like. However, for components with a large number of pins, you can write out the pin information in Excel and copy it into the pin table in the Symbol Wizard rather than scrolling through a large table and defining each pin manually. This makes it very easy to define groups of pins quickly. You can also easily define the electrical properties (Input, Power, Output, I/O, etc.), reference designators, and display names.

Once you have built the symbol for your new part and defined the functionality of each pin, you can place it in the schematic library by clicking the “Place” button, followed by “Place Symbol”. This will place the symbol in your schematic library, and it will now be linked to your new compliant footprint.

Screenshot of a custom schematic symbol Altium

The schematic symbol for the CustomCQFP component

If you need to make changes to your schematic symbol, just click on the “SCH Library” tab in the “Projects” panel on the left side of the screen. From here, you can link supplier information and edit your pin information. You can also customize the size of the pins that appear in the schematic symbol. Once you’re ready to compile your integrated library, click on the “Project” menu, followed by “Compile Integrated Library”. This will save your new library in your project folder.

Finding Pre-made PCB Footprints

No one likes making footprints, but luckily you don't have to reinvent the wheel for every component. Instead, you can access the Manufacturer Part Search Panel to help speed up the library creation process. From inside this panel, you'll be able to browse parts, find parts with attached symbols/footprints, and instantly view sourcing information in a single interface. This greatly speeds up the part search and selection process as you can instantly see the state of the component supply chain. You can also speed up your design time by picking components that have footprint data attached. Once you've identified the important components that need to have footprints created, switch over to the IPC-Compliant footprint generator to create library data for these components.

When you need to create component footprints, use the complete set of CAD tools in Altium Designer®. The PCB Editor in Altium Designer contains the industry's best tools for creating advanced electronics layouts and preparing your designs for manufacturing. When you’re ready to release these files to your manufacturer, the Altium 365 platform makes it easy to collaborate and share your projects.

We have only scratched the surface of what’s possible with Altium Designer on Altium 365. Start your free trial of Altium Designer + Altium 365 today.

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 2500+ technical articles on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). He previously served as a voting member on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee working on technical standards for quantum electronics, and he currently serves on the IEEE P3186 Working Group focused on Port Interface Representing Photonic Signals Using SPICE-class Circuit Simulators.

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