In March, Mentor announced an entirely new PCB development platform called Xpedition. (See Mentor's Xpedition: Putting More Power Into Your Mouse.) At that time, Mentor said the solution was bigger than just one announcement, and that there was more to come.
Well, true to their word, the folks at Mentor have announced their next offering in the Xpedition platform: the Xpedition Data Management (xDM) product suite.
The PCB design environment is a world unto itself. Product lifecycle management (PLM) tools tend to store only a snapshot of the total data available, such as bills of materials, views of the schematic and layout, and a bundle of the ECAD PCB files. In reality, the PCB universe demands more dynamic relationships, including interactive concurrency and design versioning, changing parts and analysis models, constraints and variants, and front and back annotations.
A graphical visualization of a typical enterprise-level PCB design environment is shown below. Though the individual tools themselves may be extremely capable, powerful, and sophisticated, getting them to talk to one another -- and maintaining control of the design data -- involves a lot of custom and ad hoc system design.
Most users would agree with this diagram, which reflects the fact that environments tend to rely heavily on tool-to-tool and custom interfaces that are time-consuming to establish, expensive to maintain, and difficult to change. Disadvantages of this approach include the need for special authoring tools to obtain design state information, a lack of state overview encompassing dependent disciplines, inefficient (manual) concurrent design management, ad hoc collaboration, and painfully versioned data mining.
To address this, the xDM product suite provides a flow-wide information hub that Mentor says "manages complexity, reduces costs, and increases productivity." This single, integrated solution for design and library management supports applications, data, and knowledge in a single space. Also, it can manage design projects of any size; facilitates the exchange of data among internal, external, and global teams; and supports collaboration anytime and anywhere.
The various elements of the xDM solution are shown below. The data management portion of the system manages and restores design roll-back versions. It supports full concurrency in a managed way. It manages access permissions, and it maintains a complete history/family tree for design traceability.
The design collaboration portion of the system facilitates the review and approval process, with easy access for peers and design reviewers to the latest and previous checked-in versions of the design. The system avoids the sharing or use of incorrect design versions. It supports collaboration across teams (including outsourcing and concurrency), and it provides manager notification for events and actions.
The process integration portion of the system includes a design cockpit for tools and data access. It simplifies the handling of complex ECAD data and prevents data loss caused by incorrect handling of the design data, and it ensures data integrity by managing the relationships among the schematic, layout, and analysis data.
Last, but certainly not least, the enterprise data exchange (EDX) is a secure data exchange and process integration standard that allows the capture of PCB-related data and IP in a consistent representation. The EDX also facilitates the sharing of this data safely and securely between any PCB design tools and third-party applications across the enterprise. Of particular interest is the fact that it provides a robust and stable interface that is independent of releases, vendors, and internal tool database structures.
The xDM product suite will be available in October. For more information, contact a local Mentor Graphics sales representative, or click here to visit the product website.
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting