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Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… ™
Stackups: The Design within the Design

by: Bill Hargin

From material selection and understanding laminate datasheets, to impedance planning, glass weave skew and rigid-flex materials, topic expert Bill Hargin has written a unique book on PCB stackups.

According to the author, “The difference between a high-speed PCB design that can be built, and a design that should be built, depends upon the backbone of the design itself: the stackup. The stackup touches every single high-speed signal and yet has had surprisingly little written about it.”

While perhaps not the final word on the subject of stackups, this book is a good place to kick off a broader discussion of stackup planning and material selection in an effort to comprehend what Hargin calls, “the design within the design.”



ISBN: 979-8-9856020-1-2 ISBN POD: 979-8-9856020-2-9

Bill Hargin is the CEO (Chief Everything Officer) at
Z-zero, developer of the PCB stackup design and material selection software Z-planner Enterprise. Bill is an industry pioneer, with more than 25 years working in PCB signal integrity and manufacturing. Author of dozens of articles on signal integrity, stackup design, and material selection, Bill is a regular contributor and columnist for a variety of industry publications, as well as a contributing author for the Printed Circuits Handbook. Bill served as director of marketing for HyperLynx SI software and director of North American marketing for Nan Ya Plastic’s PCB laminate division in Taiwan. More than 10,000 engineers and PCB designers in over 30 countries have taken his workshops on high-speed PCB design. He holds a mechanical engineering degree with an MBA from WSU. Bill currently lives in Washington state and is an avid volunteer, supporting Little League baseball and softball.

About Z-zero
Z-zero, LLC, based in Redmond, Washington, offers a comprehensive software solution to close the gap between hardware design teams and their PCB fabricators. Designed to look and feel like a spreadsheet, Z-zero's software enables hardware design teams to automate the stackup design and material selection process within legacy PCB design flows. For more information or to download a free evaluation of the software and stackup-design tutorial, please visit z-zero.com.

About Siemens Digital Industries Software
Siemens Digital Industries Software is driving transformation to enable a digital enterprise where engineering, manufacturing and electronics design meet tomorrow. Our solutions help companies of all sizes create and leverage digital twins that provide organizations with new insights, opportunities and levels of automation to drive innovation. For more information on Siemens Digital Industries Software products and services, visit siemens.com/software or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Siemens Digital Industries Software – Where today meets tomorrow.

Siemens Digital Industries Software—Where today meets tomorrow.
This book has been technically reviewed by the following experts:

Eric Bogatin Dean, Signal Integrity Academy

Eric Bogatin is currently the dean of the Teledyne LeCroy Signal Integrity Academy. Additionally, he is an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado – Boulder in the ECEE department, where he teaches a graduate class in signal integrity and is also the editor of the new journal Signal [...]

Michael Ingham

PCB Design Manager, L3Harris

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Michael began his career in PCB design in 1984 as an engineering tech, repairing and designing high-speed boards with tape and light tables, before getting his first CAD exposure. He worked his way through school and obtained his BSEE from California Polytechnic State [...]

Chapter Summaries

  • Chapter 1

    Materials Matter


    Chapter 1 discusses the importance of selecting the correct material and beginning stackup planning early in the design process.
  • Chapter 2

    Understanding Laminate Datasheets


    Chapter 2 explains how to make sense of laminate data sheets and which parameters to consider when reviewing available laminates.
  • Chapter 3

    Cutting Your Losses


    Chapter 3 focuses on signal loss as it relates to stackup design, including dielectric and conductor loss, and methods for avoiding under- or over-designing your board.
  • Chapter 4

    Material Qualification and Selection


    Chapter 4 covers the material qualification process, including a variety of trade-offs including cost vs. performance.
  • Chapter 5

    Impedance Planning


    Chapter 5 explores impedance planning, some common impedance calculation errors, and the potential effects of impedance errors on your stackup.
  • Chapter 6

    Glass Weave Skew


    Chapter 6 discusses glass-weave skew—what it is, how to mitigate it, and why technologists should be concerned about it when designing high-speed PCBs.
  • Chapter 7

    Rigid-Flex Materials


    Chapter 7 covers various types of rigid-flex stackups, and it also provides tips and techniques for creating the perfect rigid-flex stackup design.
  • Chapter 8

    The Bottom Line


    Chapter 8 explains why stackup design is so critical to the success of your design, and why improper stackup is one of the leading causes of PCB design respins.

Print-on-demand paperbacks are available for this title. Click below to order from our distributor.

What Our Readers Are Saying






Skyler Sopp, SI/PI Engineer, Mercury Systems
Full Review

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Skyler Sopp, SI/PI Engineer, Mercury Systems

If you have ever contemplated crosstalk, eye closure, power loss, or a list of other issues defined in this textbook, then you also need to understand what, why, and how stackups can and will impact your circuit’s performance. After all, the stackup is one of the few things that directly touches every single part of your design; therefore, you must set yourself up for the highest probability of success by establishing a strong foundation through a well-designed stackup.

With 25 years of experience in PCB manufacturing and signal integrity, author Bill Hargin is an expert in the field of stackup design and it shows here. In Chapter 3, Bill shows how your dielectric of choice will directly impact your “eye.” He explains the breakdown of how each variable contributes to the overall loss budget, then defines how he recommends material planning before any routing has begun. This book helps the reader establish the variables of interest and the impact of those variables, and makes a recommendation on what to do about it so you can improve your future designs.

Boards are getting thinner, power requirements are increasing, and routing densities are becoming finer. You will need to make compromises in your stackup, so understanding that trade space is vital. This book breaks down concepts like board loss, material selection, impedance planning, and more to help you understand how each one of them will influence your design when fabricated. This book will assist you in learning how to make educated compromises earlier in the design cycle.

If you are a hardware or electrical engineer who is not already deeply invested in stackup design, this book is really for you. It is full of practical information, not bogged down by technical jargon, has easy to understand and useful images, and gets you off to the races quickly. Even the seasoned veteran will find this book a worthy reference for understanding when one needs to know things like the contribution percentage of each variable on impedance. Regardless of where you are in your stackup knowledge, I recommend downloading the book and reading it! It will be well worth your time and may just save you future headaches.

Eric Bogatin Eric Bogatin is currently the dean of the Teledyne LeCroy Signal Integrity Academy. Additionally, he is an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado – Boulder in the ECEE department, where he teaches a graduate class in signal integrity and is also the editor of the new journal Signal Integrity Journal. Bogatin received his BS in physics from MIT, and MS and PhD in physics from the University of Arizona in Tucson. He has held senior engineering and management positions at Bell Labs, Raychem, Sun Microsystems, Ansoft and Interconnect Devices. Bogatin has written six technical books in the field, and presented classes and lectures on signal integrity worldwide.

Michael Ingham

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Michael began his career in PCB design in 1984 as an engineering tech, repairing and designing high-speed boards with tape and light tables, before getting his first CAD exposure. He worked his way through school and obtained his BSEE from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, with a concentration in RF and Microwave electronics. Armed with his degree and hands-on experience as a tech, Michael was thrust into the world of high-performance PCB designs, working with ultra-high-speed digital, RF, and millimeter wave applications. He did his first 10GHz design in 1994 and first 40GHz design in 2000.

After working various engineering roles in industry, Michael formed his own company focused exclusively on high-performance PCB designs. In this capacity, he oversaw over 2,000 successful designs operating in the 10-110GHz frequency range. Michael also specializes in stackup design and solving SI and EMC problems.

Now a PCB design manager for L3Harris, Michael lives in Florida with his wife Rosa Maria and their Maltese dog Diva.