HDI PCB: Choosing the Best Stackup Type for Your Project

High Density Interconnect (HDI) technology has revolutionized the printed circuit board (PCB) industry by allowing designers to create smaller, more complex boards with improved performance. As electronic devices continue to demand greater functionality and reduced size, HDI PCBs have become increasingly significant. Choosing the right HDI stackup type is crucial in optimizing board performance, reliability, and cost, so it’s essential to understand the available options.

There are multiple HDI stackup types, each offering distinct capabilities and advantages. Factors to consider when selecting the ideal stackup type include component density, signal integrity requirements, and thermal management objectives. Additionally, budget and manufacturing constraints should be taken into account, as certain stackup types can be more expensive and challenging to produce than others.

In this article, we will explore the various HDI stackup types, their distinguishing features, and how to determine the best choice for your PCB design needs. With the right HDI stackup type and a thorough understanding of its benefits and limitations, designers can optimize their PCBs for superior performance in today’s technologically advanced world.

Understanding HDI PCBs

High-density interconnect (HDI) PCBs are a type of printed circuit board design that allows for more complex and compact electronic devices. The distinguishing feature of HDI PCBs is the use of microvias, which are smaller than traditional vias, enabling denser routing and a higher component count in a smaller area.

Benefits of HDI PCBs

  • Increased component density: HDI PCBs can accommodate a higher number of components and connections in a given area, leading to more compact devices and efficient use of space.
  • Improved signal performance: The small size of microvias and shorter interconnects can result in better signal integrity and faster signal transmission.
  • Reduced weight and size: As HDI PCBs can fit more components in a smaller area, overall device weight and size can be reduced, which is essential for portable and handheld devices.
  • Enhanced flexibility: The design of HDI PCBs allows for greater flexibility in component placement and routing, making it easier to design complex circuitry.

Challenges and Limitations

While HDI PCBs offer significant benefits, there are some challenges and limitations associated with their design and manufacturing process:

  1. Increased design complexity: Designing HDI PCBs involves more intricate layouts, which can make the design process more time-consuming and challenging.
  2. Higher manufacturing costs: Due to the complexity of the design, specialized equipment, and materials required, HDI PCBs tend to have higher manufacturing costs compared to traditional PCBs.
  3. Limited availability of equipment and materials: Some HDI PCB manufacturing processes require advanced machinery and materials, which can be difficult to source and may increase lead times.

Types of HDI Stackups

Type 1 – Passive Substrate

Type 1 HDI stackup, also known as passive substrate, focuses on a single layer of high-density interconnects (HDIs) above or below the core layers. This approach enables a higher density of interconnects within a single layer while keeping the overall PCB thickness lower compared to traditional multilayer PCBs.

Some key attributes of passive substrate HDI stackups include:

  • Single layer of high-density interconnects
  • Reduced PCB thickness
  • Better thermal performance

Type 2 – Standard Multilayer

Type 2 HDI stackup utilizes standard multilayer PCB construction methods but places HDI layers on both sides of the core layers. With this approach, the number of layers and interconnects increases, which allows for more complex routing and better signal integrity.

Characteristics of standard multilayer HDI stackups:

  • Multiple layers of interconnects
  • Higher component density
  • Improved signal integrity

Type 3 – Buried Capacity

Type 3 HDI stackup, also known as buried capacitive layers, involves implementing highly capacitive layers within the stackup of the multilayer PCB. These buried layers help to distribute power supply noise uniformly across the board, thus improving overall power integrity and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC).

Key features of buried capacity HDI stackups include:

  • Capacitive layers embedded within the stackup
  • Enhanced power integrity and EMC performance
  • Improved performance in high-speed and high-frequency applications

Type 4 – Coreless Construction

Type 4 HDI stackup, called coreless construction, eliminates the traditional core material layers commonly used in multilayer PCBs. Instead, it relies on copper foil and dielectric layers laminated together to form the structure. This results in a thinner, lighter PCB with superior electrical performance.

Coreless construction HDI stackups provide the following benefits:

  • Elimination of core material layers
  • Reduced PCB thickness and weight
  • Enhanced electrical performance

Selecting the Right HDI Stackup

Performance Requirements

When selecting an HDI stackup for your PCB, it’s crucial to consider the performance requirements of your design. This includes factors such as signal integrity, power distribution, and thermal management. For example, high-speed designs may require specific stackup configurations to reduce signal loss, while designs with high power consumption might need additional layers for power and ground planes.

Manufacturing Considerations

Manufacturing constraints also play a key role in determining the right HDI stackup. HDI stackups can be more complex than traditional ones, requiring advanced manufacturing techniques such as laser drilling for creating microvias. Consider the capabilities of your PCB manufacturer and determine if they can support the chosen stackup. Furthermore, having a clear understanding of manufacturing tolerances and design rules will ensure your board can be produced efficiently and without defects.

Cost Factors

Lastly, it’s essential to consider cost factors when selecting an HDI stackup. More complex stackups with higher layer counts, smaller vias, and tighter tolerances can result in higher production costs. Balancing performance requirements with cost considerations is vital to find the best solution for your project. Keep in mind that investing in a higher quality stackup from the beginning can save you from potential challenges and rework in the future.

Design Tips for HDI PCB Stackups

Materials and Thickness Selection

When selecting materials for your HDI PCB stackup, consider factors such as the electrical performance, manufacturability, and overall cost of the project. Some common materials used in HDI PCBs include FR-4, polyimide, and high-speed laminates. Additionally, be mindful of the required thickness of the PCB to ensure proper functioning and mechanical stability.

Via and Trace Design

HDI PCBs often require smaller vias and traces to accommodate their high-density design. Consider using methods such as microvias, blind vias, and buried vias to optimize your PCB’s layout. Keep in mind the following guidelines for via and trace design:

  • Ensure sufficient clearance between vias and traces
  • Maintain a consistent trace width and spacing throughout the design
  • Avoid sharp bends and right angles in traces

Signal Integrity Considerations

To achieve the best signal integrity in your HDI PCB design, it is important to address issues related to impedance control, signal coupling, and crosstalk. Here are some tips to help maintain signal integrity:

  • Maintain a consistent impedance across the PCB by carefully selecting materials and stackup configurations
  • Minimize signal coupling in high-speed areas by using differential pair routing and proper trace separation
  • Reduce crosstalk by avoiding parallel routing of traces and by placing ground planes between signal layers when possible


In summary, selecting the right HDI PCB stackup type depends on various factors such as design complexity, component density, signal integrity requirements, and cost considerations. Analyzing these factors carefully before choosing a stackup will ensure the optimal performance of your PCB.

There are three common HDI stackup types:

  1. 1+N+1 HDI Stackup: Ideal for medium-density designs, it offers a balance between cost and complexity while still supporting fine-pitch components.

  2. 2+N+2 HDI Stackup: Suitable for high-density designs with more signal layers and enhanced routing options.

  3. 3+N+3 HDI Stackup: Recommended for extremely complex designs, requiring advanced capabilities and higher overall costs.

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