What is a 6-Layer PCB Stackup?

What is the structure of a 6-layer PCB?

PCB Basics PCB Fabrication 
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Editorial Team - PCB Directory

Jun 27, 2023

A 6-layer stack-up PCB refers to a printed circuit board configuration consisting of six distinct layers of conductive and insulating materials. It offers a higher level of complexity and functionality compared to lower-layer stack-ups while maintaining a reasonable cost.

A PCB layer stack-up refers to the arrangement and configuration of multiple layers within a printed circuit board. It involves the positioning of conductive layers, insulating materials, and other structural elements to create a multi-layered PCB. The stack-up determines the order, thickness, and composition of each layer, which has a direct impact on the electrical performance and functionality of the PCB.

The layer stack-up of printed circuit boards (PCBs) is a critical aspect that significantly impacts the PCB design's functionality, performance, and reliability. The arrangement and configuration of signal layers, power planes, ground planes, and internal signal layers within the stack-up profoundly affect various aspects of the PCB, including electrical performance, signal integrity, power distribution, and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC).

Understanding the 6-layer PCB stack-up is crucial for designing and implementing PCBs that meet the complex requirements of modern electronic applications. This article provides an in-depth guide to the 6-layer PCB stack-up, its composition, the role of different layers, and how it enhances EMI reduction, electrical properties, and overall performance.

Advantages of 6-Layer Stack-ups

  • Increased Design Flexibility: The additional layers in a 6-layer stack-up offer enhanced routing options and flexibility, making it suitable for complex designs with higher component density.
  • Improved Signal Integrity: The dedicated power and ground planes minimize noise, crosstalk, and EMI, leading to improved signal integrity and reliable data transmission.
  • Enhanced Power Distribution: The presence of dedicated power planes ensures efficient power distribution across the PCB, reducing voltage drops and maintaining a stable power supply.
  • Suitable for High-Density Designs: 6-layer stack-ups provide ample space for accommodating a more significant number of components and complex routing, making them ideal for high-density designs.
  • Cost-Effective: While offering increased functionality and design options, 6-layer stack-ups are generally cost-effective compared to higher-layer configurations.

Considerations Associated with 6-Layer Stack-ups

  • Design Complexity: With additional layers, 6-layer stack-ups require more careful planning and consideration of factors such as signal integrity, controlled impedance, and routing.
  • Manufacturing Cost: Compared to lower-layer stack-ups, 6-layer configurations may involve slightly higher manufacturing and fabrication costs due to the additional layers and complexity.
  • Signal Integrity Constraints: Although 6-layer stack-ups provide improved signal integrity compared to lower-layer configurations, designers must still ensure proper trace widths, controlled impedance, and layer ordering to optimize signal performance.
  • Design Feasibility: While 6-layer stack-ups offer more routing options, designers should evaluate the complexity of their designs and the required routing paths to ensure feasibility within the stack-up limitations.

Different Types of 6-Layer PCB Stack-Ups

Typical arrangement of layers in a 6-layer stack-up PCB (Fig. 1):

Fig. 1

  1. Top Layer: The top layer serves as the outermost layer of the PCB, accommodating various components such as surface-mounted devices (SMDs), connectors, and other circuit elements. It is primarily used for routing signals and traces.
  2. Inner Signal Layers (2): The two inner signal layers are located between the top and bottom layers. They provide additional routing options and flexibility for high-density PCBs, allowing for efficient signal transmission.
  3. Internal Power or Ground Plane (2): The two internal power or ground planes are situated between the inner signal layers. They act as conductive layers for distributing power or serving as reference grounds for adjacent signal layers. These planes contribute to reducing noise and electromagnetic interference.
  4. Bottom Layer: The bottom layer is the bottommost layer of the PCB, serving as another routing layer for signals and traces. It helps connect components and complete the circuit paths.

There are several different types of 6-layer PCB stack-up configurations, each with its own advantages and considerations. Here are a few common types:

Standard Stack-Up:

  • Top Layer
  • Signal Layer 1
  • Internal Power or Ground Plane 1
  • Signal Layer 2
  • Inner Power or Ground Plane 2
  • Bottom Layer

This stack-up is a basic configuration where the internal power or ground planes are sandwiched between two signal layers. It provides good signal integrity and power distribution capabilities.

Mixed Signal Stack-Up

  • Top Layer (Analog)
  • Signal Layer 1 (Analog)
  • Internal Power or Ground Plane 1
  • Signal Layer 2 (Digital)
  • Internal Power or Ground Plane 2
  • Bottom Layer (Digital)

In a mixed signal stack-up, the layers are separated based on the type of signals they carry. Analog signals are placed on separate layers from digital signals to minimize interference and noise.

High-Speed Signal Stack-Up

  • Top Layer
  • Signal Layer 1 (High-Speed)
  • Internal Power or Ground Plane 1
  • Signal Layer 2 (Ground Plane)
  • Internal Signal Layer (Signal Integrity)
  • Bottom Layer

This stack-up is optimized for high-speed signals. The ground plane between the high-speed signal layer and the internal signal layer acts as a shield, reducing electromagnetic interference.

Power Integrity Stack-Up

  • Top Layer
  • Signal Layer 1
  • Internal Power Plane 1
  • Ground Plane
  • Internal Signal Layer (Power Integrity)
  • Bottom Layer

This stack-up prioritizes power integrity. The internal signal layer is used to improve power distribution and reduce voltage drops, ensuring a stable power supply.

Buried Capacitance Stack-Up

  • Top Layer
  • Signal Layer 1
  • Internal Power Plane 1 (with Embedded Capacitance)
  • Signal Layer 2
  • Inner Power Plane 2 (with Embedded Capacitance)
  • Bottom Layer

This stack-up incorporates embedded capacitance layers in the power planes. It enhances power integrity and reduces the need for discrete decoupling capacitors, saving space on the board.

These are just a few examples of the different types of 6-layer PCB stack-ups. The choice of stack-up depends on the specific requirements of the design, including signal integrity, power distribution, noise reduction, and cost considerations. It is important to carefully analyze the design requirements and consult with PCB layout guidelines and experts to determine the most suitable stack-up configuration for your application.


A well-designed 6-layer stack-up is essential for achieving desired electrical performance, signal integrity, power distribution, and EMC in PCB designs. The advantages of a 6-layer stack-up include increased design flexibility, improved signal integrity, enhanced power distribution, and suitability for high-density designs. Designers should consider the complexity, cost, signal integrity limitations, and routing feasibility when choosing a 6-layer stack-up. Achieving impedance control and signal integrity in 6-layer stack-ups requires careful planning, accurate calculations, and adherence to design guidelines. By considering these factors and implementing proper techniques, designers can ensure the reliable and efficient operation of their electronic circuits.

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