Altium Designer Documentation

Polygon Enhancements

Modified by Jason Howie on Dec 14, 2017

Polygon editing continues to improve in this release of Altium Designer. The objective of these changes is to make it easier and more efficient when working with polygons.

UnPoured, Shelved and Modified Polygons

As part of the 14.3 release of Altium Designer, shelving of polygons was replaced by the concept of Unpouring, which had the effect of replacing the poured polygon with just a thin outline.

The Poured/unpoured concept was implemented to deliver the following two essential editing behaviors:

  • The ability to "hide" a polygon to clear the workspace and make it easier for the designer to work, and
  • A mode to be able to switch a modified-but-not-yet-repoured polygon to, which the software needs to be able to manage that design object while it remains in that state.

This dual-behavior may have made it harder for the designer to predict and understand what was happening with their polygons. For this reason, these 2 behaviors have been separated again in this release.

This has been achieved by:

  • The removal of the Poured/Unpoured concept from the software.
  • The re-introduction of Shelving, where a polygon is effectively removed from the workspace, but remains stored in the design file. This delivers the ability to "hide" a polygon and clear the workspace.
  • A new mode for displaying a modified polygon, which shows both the before-edit and after-edit states of the polygon. Repouring a modified polygon is now a deliberate action the designer must initiate.

A modified polygon, shown selected and unselected - the polygon needs to be repoured to fill to its new boundary shape.

Polygon Shape Editing

Altium Designer 14.3 saw the introduction of greatly improved polygon boundary editing. Replacing the earlier concept of Move Polygon Vertices, which required a command to be launched and only offered unconstrained vertex movement, the new editing behavior is launched by simply clicking to select the polygon, revealing its editing vertices. The earlier concept of launching a command to commence editing a polygon meant that the software also knew when the command was terminated and that editing had finished, so would then repour the polygon (in accordance with the setting of the Repour preference).

The new direct editing methodology does not require launching a command, which means the software does not know when editing has finished. This gives the designer the advantage of deciding when to repour their modified polygon(s), which can be done at any time via the right-click Polygon Actions menu, or the Tools » Polygon Pours menu.

Changes to the Vertex Moving Modes

The new polygon editing modes introduced in Altium Designer 14.3 included a total of 3 corner vertex modification modes, and 3 center vertex modification modes. Originally these were paired, which meant that if you switched mode while editing a corner vertex, you also switched to the paired center vertex modification mode. In this release the corner and center modes have been separated, so switching modes while moving a center vertex no longer switches corner modes, and vice versa. Modes are still switched by pressing Shift+Spacebar while moving the vertex.

The default modes for a corner vertex is now Moving Vertex (freely move the vertex), and the default mode for a center vertex is Breaking Edge (freely move the vertex).

Repouring a Polygon

Prior to AD14.3, a repour was either automatic (Repour preference set to Always), or prompted (Repour set to Never). In this release the repour is always prompted, and can be left for later by clicking the Leave As Is button. 

Polygons now include an IsModified attribute, reflecting when the polygon is modified but not yet repoured. This attribute is visible in the Polygon Pour Manager dialog and the PCB Inspector panel.

Polygon Net Connections

Polygons are often used to create the connectivity of the net they are attached to. This allows the designer to not worry about routing that net, knowing that once the polygon is poured the pins on that net will be connected. In the past, this has meant that if the polygon was temporarily removed from the workspace, by shelving or unpouring it, the software would re-analyze that net and restore the connection lines. Not only does this create unnecessary visual clutter, it also meant the designer might have to wait while the net was being re-analyzed.

These two challenges have been solved by enhancing the software's design awareness. Now when a polygon is shelved the connections created by the polygon are maintained internally so the connection lines will not be displayed, clearing the workspace of unneeded connection lines and removing the need for net analysis.

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