Altium Designer Documentation

New in Altium Designer

Modified by Jason Howie on Apr 11, 2017

Altium Designer 17.0

Released: 16 November 2016 - Version: 17.0.6 (build 354)
Released: 05 December 2016 - Version: 17.0.7 (build 424)
Released: 28 December 2016 - Version: 17.0.8 (build 518)
Released: 18 January 2017 - Version: 17.0.9 (build 563)
Released: 08 February 2017 - Version: 17.0.10 (build 617)
Released: 28 February 2017 - Version: 17.0.11
(build 656)

This new Altium Designer release continues to deliver new features as well as enhancements to the software's core technologies, while also addressing many issues raised by customers through the AltiumLive Community's BugCrunch system. Along with delivering a range of new and exciting features that develop and mature the existing technologies, it also incorporates a large number of fixes and enhancements across the software as a whole, helping designers continue to create cutting-edge electronics technology.

It is not possible to update to Altium Designer 17 from an earlier version, a new installation is required. You have the choice to continue with your current version, or to install Altium Designer 17.0 to access the latest features. Alternatively, have both installed side-by-side, and use the version that best suits your needs.


ActiveRoute

The holy grail of PCB routing is to be able to apply the brains and power of an autorouter to multiple nets simultaneously, under the control of a skilled designer. After all, the results from an autorouter can often leave the designer somewhat deflated, and wishing they had routed manually in the first place. This is the challenge that ActiveRoute - the new kid on the interactive routing scene - sets out to achieve.

ActiveRoute is an automated interactive routing technology that delivers high-speed, multi-net, multiple layer routing. It allows the designer to interactively route groupings of nets (by selecting connections directly in the workspace - itself a new arrival in this version), with the optional ability to define a route path or guide, to marshall and contain the routes, as they flow from origin to target.

New Post-Route Glossing Tool

Altium Designer 17.0 sees the arrival of a new post-route glossing tool. Applied to selected tracks, the tool endeavours to improve the quality of the overall route defined by those track segments involved. And while its functionality in this release is embryonic to start with - for example it does not include arcs, and does not observe pad entry design rules - it's a powerful beginning, and one that will continue to be refined and enhanced over future releases.

Controlled Depth Drilling (Back Drilling)

When a high-speed signal travels between PCB layers through a copper barrel, it can be distorted. If the signal layer usage results in a stub being present, and the stub is long, then that distortion can become significant. Altium Designer 17.0 sees support for Controlled Depth Drilling (CDD), also known as back drilling. This is a technique used to remove the unused portion, or stub, of copper barrel from a thru-hole in a printed circuit board. Most commonly used for vias, and also for press-fit backplane connectors, back drilling provides a cost-effective solution to help manage the signal quality for high-speed signal paths.

New Project Releaser

Altium Designer 17.0 brings a fresh, streamlined approach to the way in which you release your PCB design projects, courtesy of the new Project Releaser. With a fresh, intuitive user interface, you are able to generate all manufacturing data for your project simultaneously - so no more having to switch and release individual configurations of the project for fabrication data, assembly data, design source, etc. The releaser also provides the ability to generate the assembly data for multiple variants of your board design, at the same time - what gets released is down to you, with all data items generated as part of a single release process. You don't even have to worry if you haven't created Output Job files - it'll do that for you if you ask it to!

The Project Releaser caters for all types of PCB project - be it totally unmanaged/non-version-controlled, under external VCS control, or managed through an Altium Vault - by offering two modes of operation:

  • Online Mode - releasing all generated data to Items in a target Altium Vault. You don't even have to remember to increment Item Revisions, it's all handled for you.
  • Offline Mode - releasing all generated data into a folder-based structure, all wrapped up in a single Zip file.

With the new Project Releaser, you'll be able to generate your manufacturing data with simplified ease, and with the highest integrity. And you'll also be able to survey the fruits of that generation before you commit to finalizing the release (viewing Gerbers/ODB++ data in the CAM Editor for example), ensuring that the data you have generated is exactly the data required to get your board manufactured on time, first time.

Design Rules Improvements

Altium Designer 17.0 brings with it a number of enhancements to PCB Design Rules. From simplification of the minimum clearance matrix, and the ability to check clearances between split planes, to hole-to-primitive clearance checking, and checking for bad connections as part of the Un-Routed Net rule, these improvements collectively enhance your ability to constrain your board designs exactly as needed.

Smart Copper Editing

Polygon pours are a staple of most board designs, but their modification in Altium Designer's PCB Editor has become a little dated. Desired shapes are often hard to create the first time and editing through movement of vertices can quickly become frustrating - often ending up with more (and sometimes unplanned) vertices than you started with. With Altium Designer 17.0, editing of placed polygons has been re-energized with the arrival of streamlined and intelligent editing - something we like to call Smart Copper Editing.

Support for Parameters in PCB Footprints

Adding to the support of string Parameters at the project, document and schematic level, Altium Designer 17 now offers shared Parameter support for component footprints in the PCB domain. User Parameters defined for components in the schematic space are now transferred to the corresponding component footprints in the PCB layout via a configurable Engineering Change Order (ECO). Parameters that become available in the PCB space can be used for filter Queries, Design Rules, Scripts and Variants, and applied in PCB component Libraries for invoking custom strings in placed footprints.

Selection and Display Improvements

Altium Designer 17.0 brings new functionality, as well as numerous enhancements, to selection and display of objects within the Schematic and PCB design domains. This includes a new Lasso Selection feature, that enables you to select (and deselect) objects through a defined free-form lasso, and Smart Drag Selection, where selection functionality changes depending on the direction of a dragged rectangular selection area. Collectively, these enhancements allow you to select the design objects you need in quick time, and with minimal effort.

Dynamic Cross-Probing and Cross-Selecting

Cross-Probing and Cross Selecting are powerful search tools within Altium Designer that help locate objects in other editors by selecting the object(s) in the current editor. Altium Designer 17.0 includes significant enhancements to both tools.

View Configuration Enhancements

In Altium Designer, a view configuration is a snapshot of display settings that you can configure, save and load as required. The View Configurations dialog is used to configure and enable the special and system layers of your design. Altium Designer 17.0 provides additional options and more concise entries of the dialog for 2D color profiles.

Layer Stack Management Enhancements

Altium Designer 17.0 delivers a powerful enhancement to the way in which saved layer stack information is loaded into the current PCB. Rather than a blanket replacement of the current layer stack with the one being loaded, you now have the ability to control how the layers will be added, effectively performing a merge of the two stacks, to arrive at the desired stack setup.

Draftsman Enhancements

With the release of Altium Designer 17, the Draftsman documentation system includes a range of enhancements and additional features that add to its flexibility while improving drawing efficiency. These include new dimension options, additional drawing object properties, support for Back Drilling, improved rendering performance, and more.

New Pick and Place Generator

Altium Designer 17.0 introduces a new Pick and Place Generator that allows you to select pick and place options before generating the output. The generator makes it easier to prepare your pick and place text file without always needing to perform post-process functions. Among other functions, you can filter components by parameters (by layer, type, or footprint), customize columns, and set the type of units and output format.

Simulation Probe Manager

Altium Designer 17 features several Mixed Simulation enhancements, including the newly introduced Probe Manager. Configuring probed waveforms from the Probe Manager allows designers to display plots as desired without the need to manually add or modify waves post simulation, bringing added flexibility and control to mixed simulation. With the Probe Manager, designers can also use probes and active nets to select waveforms to display.

Simulation Profiles

Along with its other enhancements for Mixed Simulation, Altium Designer 17 allows users to easily create and manage multiple Simulation Profiles. Select an active profile to easily add, remove, edit, run, and/or generate netlists. Simulation profiles can also be added to Output Jobs. Use the Profile Manager to organize profiles and easily use probes or active nets to select waveforms to display.

SimData - Copy Chart Functionality

With Altium Designer 17 comes added functionality for Mixed Simulation, including the ability to copy charts. This allows designers to easily share information from probe analyses in the form of a PNG image.

Supplier Enhancements

Having numerous suppliers from which to search is integral to having the optimal parts for your designs. Altium Designer 17.0 includes a vast increase in the number of parts suppliers. You also now can choose the country in which you want to search for your desired parts and your preferred currency. You can use the Altium Parts Options region of the Data Management - Suppliers page of the Preferences dialog to select your options for part suppliers.

Zuken® CR-5000™ Importer

The Import Wizard is a quick and simple way to convert your design files from other vendors to Altium Designer files. The Wizard walks you through the import process, handling both the schematic and PCB parts of the project, as well as managing the relationship between them. Altium Designer 17.0 includes the capability to import Zuken® CR-5000™ files through the Wizard.

Additional Enhancements & Improvements

Altium Designer 17.0 includes a number of additional significant enhancements and improvements, that include (but are not limited to) more concise mouse wheel configuration settings, easier management of export outputs, and streamlined and consolidated menus.


Enhancements to Working with an Altium Vault

Altium Designer 17.0 also includes a range of new features, enhancements, and improvements, in support of working with an Altium Vault.

Many of the new features and enhancements summarized here require the latest release of the Altium Vault - Altium Vault 3.0.

Support for BOM Templates

Altium Designer, in conjunction with Altium Vault (3.0 or later), caters for the ability to create and manage Excel-based BOM Template Items in an Altium Vault. Such Items are created directly within the target vault, with the relevant Excel template file (*xls, *.xlsx, *.xlt, *.xltx) uploaded to a revision of a target item. A managed BOM Template Item can only be used as a configuration data item in one or more defined Environment Configurations.

Ability to Manage Layer Stacks

Altium Designer, in conjunction with Altium Vault (3.0 or later), caters for the ability to create and manage Layerstack Items in an Altium Vault. Such Items can be created directly within the target vault, or through release of the current stack definition, in the PCB Editor's Layer Stack Manager dialog. In addition, a managed Layerstack Item can be used as a configuration data item in one or more defined Environment Configurations.

Support for Project Templates

Altium Designer 17.0, in conjunction with the Altium Vault (3.0 or later), offers the ability to release Altium Designer Projects directly into the Altium Vault as Project Templates, which subject to Vault administrative constraints, then become available for reuse in future Altium Designer projects. Project Templates stored in the Vault are fully version controlled and lifecycle-managed, and can include the common document and file types that make up an Altium Designer Project, including additional reference documentation and configuration files.

Ability to Store Component Datasheets

Altium Designer 17.0, in conjunction with Altium Vault 3.0 brings the ability to store component datasheets within an Altium Vault and, in doing so, link them to target Component Items. This allows you to more fully describe and support a component, in a centralized fashion, while reducing the reliance on external storage mediums (shared network drives for example). Storing datasheets next to the very items that need to reference them also means you no longer need to have a live internet connection, to consult a reference document that can often, and frustratingly, disappear without warning at the whim of the hosting website!

Support for Draftsman-related Templates

Altium Designer, in conjunction with Altium Vault (3.0 or later), caters for the ability to create and manage Draftsman Template Items - Draftsman Document Template and Draftsman Sheet Template - in an Altium Vault. Such Items are created directly within the target vault. Once a Draftsman Template Item has been created (and data released into a revision of it), and its lifecycle state set to a level that the organization views as ready for use at the design level, it can be reused in future board-level design projects, when creating Draftsman documents (*.PCBDwf) .

Support for Scripts

Altium Designer, in conjunction with Altium Vault (3.0 or later), provides the capability of releasing Script Projects into the Altium Vault where they can then be accessed on a permission basis by Altium Designer users. The Vault-based Script Projects can be opened directly from the Vault, loaded as permanently available projects, used in Custom menu commands, or assigned to Preferences that are controlled by the Vault’s Environment Configuration service. This also allows an organization to manage and distribute ratified, custom script projects to Altium Designer users through administrative control.

Ability to Define the Default Footprint for a Vault Component

Altium Designer 17.0, in conjunction with Altium Vault 3.0, brings the ability to specify a default footprint model to be used for a vault component. This is especially useful, and needed, for components that use multiple footprint models, allowing you to get the footprint you need, by default, when the component is placed into a design (rather than one picked at random).

Support for Multiple Footprints in a Component Template

Altium Designer 17.0, in conjunction with the Component Template Editor extension, brings support for defining multiple PCB footprints as part of a Component Template. Any number of footprint model links may be specified, and this will be a welcome feature for those wishing to create components that reference 3 footprints, satisfying the IPC requirements for different density levels (L (least or minimum copper), M (most, or maximum copper), and N (nominal, or median copper)).

Support for non-Native Design Files as Part of Release

Altium Designer 17.0, in conjunction with Altium Vault (3.0 or later), provides an expanded range of files that can be included when a design is released to the Vault.  Files such as PDFs, word processing documents, images files, testing log files etc are added to an OutJob’s PostProcess Output, and will be then included in the release and accepted by the Altium Vault. As this allows any file to be added to an OutJob, native Altium Designer files can also be included in specific release categories such as Fabrication or Assembly data.

Managed Projects Usability Improvements

Altium Designer, in conjunction with Altium Vault (3.0 or later), provides an improved approach to creating and working with Altium Designer Managed Projects and the release of their manufacturing output data. Altium Designer works with Managed Projects by providing simplified, direct access to the Vault-based project data, and also offers a host of advanced new project management features. Within the Vault, a Managed Project is inherently associated with its released production data, with both the design source and manufacturing output available from a single unified location.

Streamlined Migration of Existing Libraries to an Altium Vault

Altium Designer, in conjunction with Altium Vault (3.0 or later) provides a streamlined, simple process to quickly migrate your existing libraries to an Altium Vault. The GUI to this process - the Library Migrator view - presents an intuitive flow that takes initial selected libraries, and migrates them to a target Altium Vault. Catering for all types of libraries, relating to older component management methodologies - SCHLIB, PCBLIB, INTLIB, DBLIB, SVNDBLIB - the Library Migrator is the perfect solution to quickly building your company's set of vault components, and the many benefits that such components enjoy (high-integrity, lifecycle management, centralized storage and managtement, where-used functionality, ease of design resuse). And while the migration process can be configured - giving you enhanced control over how that migration is performed - at its most simplistic, you can simply accept the default settings and set the migration in motion within a matter of clicks.

New Document Defaults from Vault and Enhanced Preferences Release

The Altium Vault (3.0 or later) offers the ability to store and manage a wide range of Altium Designer document Templates, which when set to suitable Permission and Lifecycle states, can be reused in future designs.  In Altium Designer 17.0, templates hosted in the vault (as Managed Templates) can be manually applied to Altium Designer documents, set as the default template for new Altium Designer documents, and be included in Preferences that are released to the Vault and then reapplied through the Team Configuration center.

Ability to Acquire Vault Data in IntLib Format

Altium Designer 17.0, in conjunction with Altium Vault (3.0 and later), delivers a powerful enhancement to the Content Cart. You now have the ability to acquire components from your local Altium Vault, into an Integrated Library (*.IntLib). And when placing components from such an Integrated Library, the actual links are back to the Component Items in the vault. This gives you the ability to effectively use your company's vault components in an offline fashion, while ensuring the design still maintains a true connection to those components in the source vault.

Item Manager Enhancements

Altium Designer 17.0, in conjunction with the Altium Vault (3.0 and later), offers the ability to update board design components to Vault-sourced Managed Components using advanced Parameter matching in the Item Manager. The ‘automatching’ process uses a highly configurable Rule system to target suitable Component Item Revisions in the Vault, which are then updated to the board via an Engineering Change Order. The Item Manager provides a fast and effective way to convert a PCB project to one that uses fully managed library components from a centralized Altium Vault.

Checking for Outdated Components as Part of Project Compilation

Altium Designer 17.0 brings the ability to check whether the revisions of placed vault components are the latest available. This ability - essentially validating that vault components in a design are all up-to-date and using the latest revisions of their parent Component Items - can be checked as part of project compilation. At the heart of this checking is the Component revision is Out of Date violation type, part of the category: Violations Associated with Components. Configure the reporting mode for this check on the Error Reporting tab of the Project Options dialog.

Additional Enhancements & Improvements

Altium Designer 17.0 delivers a number of additional performance-related enhancements and improvements, related to working with an Altium Vault, including:

  • Streamlined access to an Altium Vault.
  • The ability to sign in to an Altium Vault using the same credentials, on different computers.
  • The ability to export grid data, from the Vaults panel, to a csv- or Excel-formatted file.
  • The ability to create a shell component from a Part Request.
  • Vault folder naming scheme inheritance.
  • The ability to search for components using footprint data.

 

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