Dfm Property Management
Dfm Property Management – Every design should begin by selecting the materials that will appear in the PCB stack, as well as arranging the layers in the stack to support layout and routing. This part of our PCB manufacturing and DFM crash course focuses on selecting the right materials for your PCB design. Materials should be selected based on the specific design requirements outlined in your specifications.
For the new designer’s brief, we will focus largely on FR-4 as this is the most commonly used material class for PCB design.
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Before choosing a material, it is important to note that your manufacturer needs to have it in stock before you decide to include it in your design. If your design requires a certain type of material, and you have specific requirements for this in your PCB overlay, you should contact your manufacturer and see if they stock this material or a compatible alternative. Not all manufacturers carry every possible ingredient, and they may not have a process that is compatible with every ingredient. Plus, you can’t always mix and match every ingredient into a stack the way you want. It is important to contact the manufacturer for guidance to ensure that the design you create can be manufactured in a standard process.
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The IPC has defined material compatibility requirements in the IPC-4101 and IPC-4103 standards. The standard requires laminate manufacturers to create “slash sheets” that list specific material properties and processing requirements. Laminate manufacturers will design their material to fit one of these slash sheets. This allows manufacturers to know immediately when two materials will be compatible and interchangeable with each other.
When designing a PCB, there are several material options to consider based on your unique design needs. Before choosing a material, it is recommended to first determine the functional and reliability requirements that your board must meet. See the flowchart below for a typical material selection process.
Electrical materials are the focus of most designers because they are often trying to achieve specific impedance targets (for high-speed designs), signal or power loss targets (for high-frequency designs), breakdown voltages (for high-voltage designs), or some combination of these. . Electrical materials are important, but for DFM consideration, mechanical and thermal properties need to be known to your manufacturer so they can accommodate them in the fabrication process.
The fabrication house that will produce your etched circuit board needs to know how to implement your material selection into the process. If you choose your own materials, this is why it is best if you contact your fabricator directly and ask them to evaluate your stack. If they cannot fabricate the overlay as you have designed it, they can often suggest an alternative material set and alternative overlay, or they can often provide a standard overlay.
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The most critical properties to consider for electrical requirements are electrical strength, dielectric constant, and moisture resistance. Refer to the following table for a list of some of the more common materials and their associated property values. Remember to consult your manufacturer for more specific data on electrical properties if you have specific requirements such as high voltage design or high frequency design.
For some designs that require high reliability, curing agent and resin content are two other important factors. This is especially true for high voltage designs that do not have enough space for large distances between conductors in the PCB layout. Two curing agents commonly used in PCB laminate materials are DICY and phenolic-based curing agents. Phenolic is preferable in high voltage layouts because the curing agent is known to produce a rigid material that can withstand conductive anodic filamentation (CAF) failure. If you have a specific design, it doesn’t hurt to get your manufacturer’s recommendations on which material system to use to ensure reliability.
There are different types of copper foil used in printed circuit board laminates. The most common is electro-deposited (ED) copper foil due to its ease of manufacture and use on PCB laminates. Most materials will use this type of copper. The type of copper used in laminate is not something you as a designer can just mix and match with different laminates. When choosing a laminate, it almost always comes with one type of copper, and you won’t be able to substitute any alternative.
One exception is with some PTFE-based materials for high-frequency PCBs. Vendors for these materials know that their material sets are typically used in high-frequency designs, so they tend to offer multiple options with different types of copper. Another standard type of copper used in this material is known as rolled-plated (RA) copper, although laminates for high-frequency PCBs can also have surface-treated copper that has a very smooth profile.
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Manufacturers will usually offer a variety of foils for you to choose from, the most common being rolled copper. Rigid boards will typically use electro-deposited copper foil while rigid flex boards will use rolled copper foil.
Copper is placed on the PCB laminate in a certain thickness, but this is often expressed as the weight of copper in oz./sq. Feet. The typical weight value of copper found in most circuit boards is 0.5 or 1 oz./sq. ft. If a heavier weight of copper is required, your circuit board fabrication house will need to have materials with thicker copper available, or they will need to use a plating process that deposits copper to the required thickness.
The weight of the copper will affect the manufacture, but it will also affect the equilibrium temperature of the PCB, depending on the amount of current carried by the traces. Since copper traces have some DC resistance, it will produce some power loss that will be converted to heat. The result is that a wider footprint will be able to have a higher current carrying capacity.
For example, the pair of graphs below can be used as a reference to understand the current carrying capacity of the inner layer for a typical copper thickness and temperature level above ambient. This graph assumes the effect on a standard FR-4 grade laminate with no other copper nearby. each line in the top graph corresponds to the temperature rise above the ambient value you would expect to observe for each pair of trace areas and current values seen along the x and y axes.
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There is something important to note here: these graphs tend to be very conservative and may over-predict the temperatures you expect to see in the board during its operation. Note that placing a copper plane layer under the associated trace, or pouring copper around the trace, will help reduce the temperature of the trace and the board altogether. This is one of many PCB layout requirements that will affect your ability to manufacture a PCB.
When you’re ready to start your design and you want to make sure you meet every DFM requirement, use the design and layout features in Altium Designer®. Once your design is ready for thorough design review and manufacturing, your team can share and collaborate in real-time through the Altium 365™ platform. Design teams can use Altium 365 to share manufacturing data, project files and design comments through a secure cloud platform and within Altium Designer.
We’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible with Altium Designer on Altium 365. Start your Altium Designer + Altium 365 free trial today.
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 the theory, materials and stability of random lasers. His background in scientific research includes topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental and stochastic sensors. 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 several companies. He is a member of the IEEE Photonics Society, the IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, the 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 focusing on Port Interfaces Representing Photonic Signals Using SPICE-class Circuit Simulators.
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How to Find the Best PCB Layout Help for Your Specific Design Questions: PCB Design Tips & Tricks – Altium Audio Bites Altium Audio Bites, provides you with bite-sized information that is easy to digest and apply to your daily design tasks. From our PCB Design Tips & Tricks audio series here is: How to Find the Best PCB Layout Help For Your Specific Design Questions. All of our audio series are from real PCB designers in the field, detailing their daily problems and experiences. We hope you can learn from this as much as we have. Listen and tell us Read Article
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