The new version of Altium's unified electronics design solution introduces over 100 new features that unify still further the different design processes... now read on...
True collaboration with the mechanical world
Electronics generally goes into some sort of casing or enclosure, but traditionally there has been minimal linking between electronics designers and mechanical designers. Getting the electronics to fit into the case has traditionally been a matter of good luck, rather than good management.
The folks at Altium have changed this by offering a real solution to the problem of matching electronics design (ECAD) to the mechanical design (MCAD) processes of enclosure design. Electronics designers, for the first time, can now link directly to the mechanical CAD world in a non-proprietary way and unify ECAD and MCAD. Altium Designer's existing 3D board design capabilities have been enhanced to allow for direct linking to external STEP models, an intelligent 3D file format supported by all major MCAD software.
This means that electronics designers can bring mechanical assemblies or designs done in MCAD software into Altium Designer. Features have been added to allow full interference / clearance checking between any objects in the design, such as components and the case that surrounds them. Updates to the source STEP models are detected by Altium Designer, providing a dynamic link between the electronic and mechanical domains.
Altium Designer now reads and writes STEP files, so electronics designers can set up dynamic linking between the PCB and mechanical design packages (depending on the MCAD system being used).
Electronics designers can interactively adjust board layout, component placement and even component package choice to suit the proposed enclosure design. They can ensure that the PCB complies with mechanical clearance constraints – tested directly against the real enclosure design – before the board is sent for prototyping or manufacture. This can significantly reduce the number of design iterations necessary to close the ECAD-MCAD loop and make electronic product design easier.
Automatic previews with Design Insight
Altium Designer has a number of features under the banner of 'Board Insight' for the PCB design environment. Altium now extends these Board Insight principles with the initial set of Design Insight features.
A new Document Insight mode gives designers automatic previews of documents when they hover over entries in the Project Panel or Document Bar. Project Insight allows designers to preview all documents in a project by simply hovering over the project icon in the Projects Panel. They can then select any document from the preview to open or jump to.
Connectivity Insight lets designers hover over any net in their schematic source files and get a pop-up preview of all documents in the project connected to that net, as well as a list of connection nodes. The designer can click on any connection to jump straight to it.
In combination these new Design Insight features deliver faster, easier and more intuitive project navigation.
Design Insight raises project and document navigation, and information display, to the platform level, allowing designers to make the most of Altium Designer's unified environment. Features developed under Design Insight will work across multiple document types and across design editors to provide an environment-wide solution to the problem of managing increasing design complexity across multiple projects and design disciplines.
Better design publishing management
There are a great number of different files that need to be published in various forms throughout the lifecycle of an electronic product. These include manufacturing files, design files of various types, files used for documentation, specifications, bills of materials for procurement and various other data. The process of collecting and disseminating this information can create enormous amounts of work and lead to problems if the task is not well managed.
Altium simplifies the job of generating the right outputs with an Output Job editor. This provides a centralized interface from which to define all required outputs. The information is stored at the project level, ensuring designers can recreate any necessary output files at any time.
Altium now makes generating different types of output easier with the addition of Output Media options in the Output Job editor. This lets designers consolidate multiple outputs into a single media type. For example, a designer can put the schematics, composite PCB layout and bill of materials (BoMs) into a single PDF output.
Multiple Media Outputs of the same type can be defined and named to allow outputs to be grouped and generated in a variety of ways.
Designers don't now need to generate different output files separately, and then manually consolidate them into a final output. They can define exactly the information they want to print or publish to PDF and then generate the output as a single operation.
Manufacturing discrepancies removed with new representation of internal planes
As new technologies emerge and new design techniques move into the mainstream, Altium helps designers to harness these developments.
Internal planes are becoming much more common in all areas of designs. Their use is becoming more sophisticated and therefore designers need the capabilities to work with complex plane configurations. In Altium Designer, plane support has been significantly upgraded and enhanced.
Internal planes are now modeled and displayed in 2D and 3D with 100% accuracy in the PCB editor. Also, the DRC now includes live connectivity checking of planes and detects net breaks caused by inadvertent plane splits, isolated pads and vias, and starved thermal relief connections.
The end result is that designers can create internal signal planes in their designs and work with the confidence that what they see and verify in the PCB editor will translate into a correct set of manufacturing files. This eliminates discrepancies between design and manufacturing files and gives designers a much higher degree of visibility into the final shape, connectivity and electrical integrity of their plane layers. Errors going to manufacture are reduced, and there are fewer prototype spins overall.