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The newest version of Altium Designer—revision 19.0—includes functionality for designing printed electronic circuits. We wanted to get the scoop on Altium’s PEC tools, so we asked Nikolay Ponomarenko, Altium’s director of product management, to give us a tour of the new functions.
Andy Shaughnessy: Nikolay, tell us about the printed electronics design capabilities in the newest version of Altium Designer. I’ve heard good things about it.
Nikolay Ponomarenko: Starting with AD 19.0, we have added a set of capabilities targeting the design of non-conventional boards. One of these is printed with conductive ink in a semi-additive style without traditional etching of the solid copper planes.
Altium Designer users can now design a stackup with all of the specifics of the processes of printed electronics, which takes into consideration the passes of the conductive or non-conductive material deposition; internally, we refer to this as layerless stackup.
As part of that process, designers can define explicit dielectric layers (i.e., the layers where dielectric might be represented by some geometry) instead of the assumed solid as seen in traditional boards. For each of the printing passes (“layers”), you can explicitly define the ink material.
Connectivity between conductive layers assumes the physical connection of the printed materials in Z-axis. For example, part of the trace might consist of segments printed with different inks or it takes multiple passes to reach the desired thickness of the feature.
When such connectivity is not desirable, the designer can simply build the dielectric crossovers, isolating different nets when they need to jump over each other using a manual or automated approach.
To control the shorts and connectivity, the rules and constraints system was adjusted and acknowledges the uniqueness of the Z-axis connectivity of the printed designs.
Shaughnessy: What were some of the drivers that led you all to develop PEC design functions?
Ponomarenko: Altium has always been a leader of innovation in the EDA software industry, and we see printed electronics as one of the emerging niches in the market. We want to ensure our users can stay up to date and are not limited by the tool to move forward with their products—that was the key motivation. We have been working with an excellent partner, Tactotek, to create design capabilities and parameters for printed electronics. They make production scale injection molded structural electronics (IMSE).
To read this entire interview, which appeared in the July 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.