Venice, Florida — Altium Limited has added a 3D PCB visualization engine to Altium Designer. The new 3D PCB visualization capability in Altium Designer 6.8 allows designers to see at any time exactly how the manufactured board will look, and makes it easier to share information with the rest of the design team.
This is one of about 300 new features and enhancements delivered in Altium Designer 6.8 which continue the unification of board level design, programmable hardware and embedded software development into a single design environment. These features address the needs of each of these design disciplines in a single, unified architecture.
The 3D visualization engine allows designers to rotate and flip their designs, navigate around components, zoom into the bare board down to the tracks and traces, and even dive beneath the surface of the board to explore the inner layers. All this is done in real-time with no special 3D models or set-up required by the designer.
The board is rendered in full hardware-accelerated 3D graphics, complete with textured surfaces, realistic colours, lighting and PCB surface finishes. And designers can examine the internal structure of the board by simply moving the cursor around the design.
PCB designers can use the new visualization features to verify connectivity on internal layers visually, and check for the correct positioning and legibility of silkscreen text. The real-time 3D view is also useful for capturing fabrication details quickly, to include with manufacturing instructions and to provide images for design and product documentation.
More board-level features and enhancements
Other board-level additions in Altium Designer 6.8 include differential pair support for Altium Designer's interactive track length tuning feature. Designers can now adjust the lengths of both traces of differential pairs simultaneously, of particular benefit when using the extensive differential signalling features available on most current FPGAs.
In Altium Designer 6.8, metafile data can now be pasted directly from the Windows clipboard directly into a PCB design, making it easy to include logos, tables or image data on PCB mechanical layers. The PCB editor has also been enhanced to support placement and alignment of inverted text, the direct creation and placement of barcodes, and the creation of board cutouts.
Connections of wires, busses and signal harnesses at the schematic level have been unified and radically simplified with the introduction of Signal Harness objects. Designers can assemble logical groupings of any signal type thus streamlining the structure of schematic designs. They can create and manipulate higher levels of abstraction between sub-circuits, allowing more complex designs to be represented with simpler drawings.
Signal Harness objects raise the level of design abstraction, which makes designing complex pieces of circuitry for reuse much easier. Being able to drop previously designed complex sub-circuits into a new schematic reduces design time and frees designers to focus on areas of greater value.
Many board-level designers are moving towards programmable devices such as FPGAs. The new OpenBus graphical editor provides an intuitive and high-level mechanism for creating the system structure. System components include processors, bus arbiters, peripheral driver hardware and memory interfaces. OpenBus abstracts the complexity of creating such Wishbone systems by simply dragging and dropping components from a palette and connecting them using a single line.
Altium Designer 6.8 offers unified hardware-software compilation, extending the existing compiler, taking standard C code input and producing a combination of compiled object code and FPGA-targeted RTL output. Developers simply choose the particular C functions and variables they wish to implement in hardware before compilation, and designers don't need to be skilled in using HDL.
During the initial parsing of the C code a file is generated that details which functions are implemented in hardware and which in software. Both the C-to-hardware compiler and the standard software compiler reference this file during the overall compilation process. When a function is offloaded to hardware the software compiler automatically inserts an interface to this hardware into the generated software file. The output to be implemented in hardware is automatically combined with the HDL output from the graphical editors and any hand coded HDL sources to produce the overall system description that is passed to the synthesizer during the design build within Altium Designer.
Design reuse - at the core of Altium Designer's unified architecture - has also been enhanced with the introduction of reusable Device Sheets, in which whole schematic sheets can be stored and reused between design projects. Designers can create and store verified circuitry that is easily reusable. Proven design elements can then be incorporated into multiple design projects. And the management of this process is simplified with a new Board Level Annotation function that labels and synchronizes logical components.
The company has also enhanced migration tools in Altium Designer 6.8 with the addition of a DxDesigner import mechanism.
Altium Designer 6.8 is now available for purchase, and free download for existing customers. Pricing is available from Altium on 1-800-544-4186 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.