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A Comprehensive Guideline of Multilayer PCB

Posted:10:57 AM December 21, 2023 writer: The Engineering Knowledge

Multilayer boards are now the main component of electronics since their features are high density, good signal quality, and effective heat management. Currently, electronic devices are creating some complicated circuits, so multilayer board design is the main factor in ensuring their operation and reliability. Multilayer boards come with more than two copper layers. It comes with at least three conductive layers of any conductive material, mostly copper. All layers are connected with copper-plated holes, PCB vias, and laser micro vias.

Multilayer boards are configured with copper foil, prepreg or adhesive, and core materials. All these materials are under pressure to remove the air, and heat is applied to cure the adhesive that firmly connects the PCB layers. Here we'll cover the details of the multilayer PCB design and factors that are important for design. So let's get started.

Layer Counts of a Multilayer PCB

  1. Single-Layer PCB:
    • The single-layer board comes with one layer of substrate materials, normally Fr4 or fiberglass, with a conductive layer configured on one side. This board is simple and less costly, but it is not the best to use for complicated projects and has limited functions.
  2. Double-Layer PCB:
    • The double-layer board has two layers of conductive material that have insulation between them. At the upper layer, components are connected, and routing is done here. The lower layer is also used for routing.
  3. Four-Layer PCB:
    • These boards come with an inner signal layer with upper and lower layers. The inner layer used for power and ground plans offers good signal quality, less EMI, and good power distribution features.
  4. Six-Layer PCB:
    • These boards have two inner signal layers that are configured between the upper and lower layers. This layer configuration helps to create complicated circuits, quality signal transmission, and less noise interference.
  5. Eight-Layer PCB and Beyond:
    • These boards have eight or more layers and are used in complicated projects that require high operation. Extra layers offer a large number of routing options, ground plans, and a high level of EMI control.

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How do you manufacture multilayer PCBs?

The different steps involved in the manufacturing of multilayer boards are explained here.

  1. PCB design:
    • Different Printed circuit board design software, such as Eagel, KiCad, etc., is used to make multilayer board designs. The design of the number of layers on the board is defined, and power planes and ground planes are configured. Accurate design helps to ensure accurate function and manufacturability.
  2. Make a Gerber file:
    • After making the board design, generate Gerber files. This file has all the required information used for the manufacturing process.
  3. Material Selection:
    • Select the accurate substrate materials for the board. FR4 is a commonly used material due to its easy affordability and reliability.
  4. Substrate Cutting:
    • Now cut the substrate into panels according to the required size and accuracy.
  5. Drilling:
    • CNC machines are used to drill holes for vias and through-hole component connections. Laser drilling is best for high-density boards.
  6. Layer Alignment and Bonding:
    • Now make an alignment of the internal layers of the board stack and connect them with the use of pressure and heat. It makes a solid, multilayered substrate.
  7. Copper Cladding:
    • Use copper foil on the external surface of the substrate. It makes a conductive layer on the board.
  8. Lamination:
    • Put layered panels in a lamination press that uses heat and pressure to make connections between layers with each other permanently.
  9. Photo Imaging:
    • With the use of a photoresist layer transfer board design on the copper layer. Apply UV light to the panel through a photomask, and after that, etch the desired copper.
  10. Plating:
    • Electroplate board for increasing the thickness of copper traces and vias. It increases the board's durability and conductivity.
  11. Solder Mask Application:
    • On the copper layer, use a solder mask, letting out solder pads and vias. It helps to protect copper and accurately defines the soldering part.
  12. Silkscreen Printing:
    • Add the component marking, different symbols, and required data to the board by using silkscreen printing.
  13. Surface Finish:
    • Different types of surface finishes, such as HASL, ENIG OSP, etc., are used for the protection of copper and to increase the soldering features of the board.
  14. Board Testing:
    • To make sure that the board is of high quality and according to the required parameters, different tests, such as impedance and continuity checks, are performed.
  15. Routing and profiling:
    • A CNC machine is used for board routing for final dimensions and layout.
  16. Quality Control:
    • A final inspection is done to check that the board is according to the required quality parameters and standards.

Multilayer PCB Stack-up Design

Here are some points explained that consider making the board layer stack up.


The circuit function speed and operation condition of the board can be different depending on the materials that the board will use for board creation. Some of the latest materials, such as FR4, can be best suited to project needs, but these materials can also affect different parameters, like impedance measurement. So the best PCB manufacturer will be beneficial for you.


The materials of multilayer board with layer court and arrangement will affect the cost of board creation. For the cost estimation, you must discuss it with your PCB manufacturer.


The routing density of the board is also the main factor in defining the board layer stack-up. It will be annoying for you if you have to add board layers again when you are already working on the board layout. You not only have to rearrange CAD data, but you also have to make many changes in layout. If there are many layers, there will be a high cost.


There is a need to understand the circuit to make an optimized layer design. Such sensitive signals need a stripline layer design for accurate operation, which will add extra ground planes. There must be a separation between analog and digital circuits with their ground planes, and power sources on board must also be separate. All these features will affect the layer arrangement, and it must be planned before starting the layout.

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Multilayer Board Layout: Placement and Routing


  • Component Placement: For accurate signal quality and to reduce the signal delay, components must be connected accurately, which also helps with effective power distribution.
  • Signal Layer Allocation: Distribute the signal over different layers by considering impedance control and reducing crosstalk.
  • Power Distribution: The proper configuration of power plans will have effective power and ground connections between components.
  • Thermal Considerations: Connect heat-producing components accurately for proper thermal management.


  • Trace Routing: There must be an accurate design of width traces, spacing, and impedance control. Use small traces for high-frequency signals.
  • Via Placement: For a quality signal, decrease vias as much as possible and optimize them effectively.
  • Crosstalk Mitigation: Try to route sensitive traces at some distance from the high speed of the noisy signal to reduce the crosstalk.
  • Layer Stacking: Uses an accurate layer for critical signals, power, and ground planes.

Fabrication Drawings and Output Files

Fabrication Drawings:

  • Detailed Layer Stackup: There must be a clear denotation of the layer stack, along with materials and thickness.
  • Drill Drawings: Defines the drill size and location for vias and through-hole components.
  • Copper Pour Information: Accurately define copper pur areas and related parameters.

Output Files:

  • Gerber Files: There must be required erber files for manufacturing, like solder masks, silkscreen, and copper layers.
  • NC Drill Files: Deliver drill files in NC format for accurate hole configuration.
  • ODB++ Format: Make sure that the manufacturer prefers ODB++, so send data in this format.

Design for Manufacturability for Multilayer PCBs

  • Clearance and Spacing: Make sure there is enough clearance between components and traces to have fewer production faults.
  • Annular Ring Size: Make an accurate annular ring size for vias to avoid drill breakouts.
  • Minimum Hole Size: Consider board manufacturing features when defining the hole size.
  • Panelization: It needed to make a design for penalization to optimize manufacturing efficiency.

HQDFM PCB Design Analysis Software

  • High-Quality Design for Manufacturing (HQDFM) Tools:
    • Use the latest board design tools that are supported by DRC, or design rule checks and design for manufacturability features.
    • Find any issues in the manufacturing, like least traces of width violations, components not connected accurately, and spacing violations.
    • Make sure it is compatible with the selected board manufacturing process.

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Factors to Consider in Multilayer PCB Design

Signal Integrity

Sina integrity is the quality of the signal sent through traces on board. Different parameters, like impedance control, transmission line effects, and EMC parameters, affect signal integrity. So we must consider the route of a high-speed signal to avoid reflections and reduce noise to ensure accurate signal transmission.

Power Integrity

It is the main factor in the stable and accurate working of electronic circuits. Designing an accurate power distribution network, connecting the decoupling capacitor accurately, and optimizing the power plane design are the main factors in multilayer board design to reduce voltage loss and round bounce to solve power-related issues.

Thermal Considerations

The dissipation of heat is important for the reliability of electronic circuits. It is best to accurately connect components, accurately make thermal vias, and use copper pours effectively to regulate and avoid overheating, especially in applications where high power and temperature are involved.

Layout Considerations

Effective operation of a multilayer board is based on accurate component configuration. It is best to consider facts like routing methods and accurate component positions and follow the clearance and spacing instructions to ensure good signal transmission, less noise interference, and simple assembly and testing methods.

Design for Manufacturability (DFM)

Make sure the multilayer board is made according to manufacturability to avoid high-cost rework and delays in the production process. Panelizaion solder mask application and copper balance are the main DMF factors that must be accurately performed. An accurate penalization process, proper solder mask design, and balanced copper distribution are important features of well-optimized manufacturing and assembly that minimize the different faults and ensure smooth manufacturing flow without any high-cost damage.


The accurate multilayer board design comes with accurate component connection and routing, accurate documentation in manufacturing drawings and output files by following the DFm rules, and the use of the latest design software for analysis. The support of expert manufacturers and continuous refinement of the design process help to ensure accurate manufacturing of quality multilayer boards.

The detailed approach makes sure that the design fulfills functional and manufacturing needs, resulting in a reliable and manufacturable multilayer PCB. The interval discussion with the manufacturer is important to explain any certain needs or suggestions that are needed for the process and have required board


What is the importance of component placement in PCB layout design?

The placement of components is the main factor in making a reliable and well-operating board. The accurate placement of components also helps with effective routing traces, making a board of optimized size, and it also helps to manage EMI and thermal management.

What are the rules for multilayer PCB design?

The multilayer board must have at least three conductive layers made with conductive material. All layers are interconnected with copper-plated holes, like NC vias and micro vias.

How can simulation tools help in board layout design?
Simulation tools are best to get an idea of the operation of the circuit and find any faults existing on the board before manufacturing. These tools simulate the power distribution, thermal performance, and signal quality, which helps optimize the board design.

What materials are used in multilayer PCBs?

There are three basic raw materials used for manufacturing rigid multilayer boards: resin systems, reinforcement materials, and copper foil. The board is mostly made with the use of glass mechanical strength, and its main operation is to carry resin.

What are some challenges faced by designers in PCB layout design?
Some main challenges are heat management, EMI, component connection, DFm, design rule checking, different layer management, etc.

What is the role of CAD tools in PCB layout design?
It comes with some of the latest features of designing and board simulation, which help to accurately control the layout and component routing and traces. They also come with the latest simulation features that help check the board's operation in different conditions.

How do you identify a multi-layer PCB?

Multilayer board comes with more insulation layers sandwiched between copper layers. Count the insulation layers that help to find the number of layers of the board.


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