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PCB Ground Planes: Improve Signal Integrity

PCB ground planes are usually one or more metal layers within the layer stackup of the circuit board, or in some cases, areas of metal on the external board layers. These layers are referred to by several names, including area fills, copper pours, and negative planes in addition to the standard “ground plane.” Not only do they supply the zero-reference voltage for the circuit board, but they also provide signal return paths for most of the circuitry in the design. That’s just the beginning, though, as there’s a lot more to understanding ground planes in PCB design yet to come.