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This application note covers some valuable layout concepts for doing printed circuit board designs using Microwave Office. It demonstrates how to use positive and negative layers to ease drawing ground flood regions. By utilizing some simple setup procedures it is possible to have all lines draw with a user-specified spacing to the ground flood automatically. This technique greatly simplifies drawing the ground flood when the initial layout for a circuit is complete. This application note also discusses various ways that Gerber files can be created in Microwave Office. One way is to merge the positive and negative layers to make one Gerber file. The other way is to keep the positive and negative layers separate if using a paint-scratch-paint processing technique.


Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Layout Application Note 2 - Multi-Level Layout


Board layout Simplification Techniques

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This Application note demonstrates:

  • the capability of Microwave Office to streamline Printed Circuit Board (PCB) designs
  • how to properly set up Microwave Office to do PCB layout in an efficient manner, and the advantages of this approach
  • several options for exporting the layout, focusing on different options for creating Gerber files.

In a PCB design, all of the components (active and passive) are used as discrete parts. The circuit is then assembled on a microwave substrate with metal patterns etched or machined to make transmission lines. This document assumes that the reader has a strong understanding of Microwave Office layout concepts. For more information on layout, see the Microwave Office User's Guide "Layout" chapter and the layout principles application notes available on AWR's web site ( Additionally, the Microwave office project used to make all the figures in this application note is available.

The examples included here use a process technology that has a two-sided microwave board with thin-film resistors on both sides of the board. Chip components are only allowed on the top of the board. This may not be a practical technology, but it helps demonstrate many of the concepts discussed here. These techniques and discussions can easily be extended too multi-layer boards.

Typically, when designers are doing a PCB design, they design the entire circuit to fit into a fixed area. The last step is to draw the top ground plane so that it covers any area not populated by other components. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, drawing the top ground can be difficult if the board is complex and especially if there are curved lines or circles in the layout. This technique becomes even more difficult if the designer needs to make changes. Now instead of just moving one component in the layout, the component and the drawn ground plane all must be moved. The technique presented here eliminates all of these problems and allows the software to draw the proper spacings from transmission lines, pads, components, etc. to the ground plane.

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