Beyond the core design process of conceiving and creating the electronic definitions of a PCB design in Altium Designer – essentially captured in Schematic and PCB design documents – the high-level structure and concept that unifies the documents, data and processes together is an Altium Designer Project.
By providing the foundation and centralized management point for all designs, an Altium Designer Project acts as a design data interface for advanced project-level functions that process multiple design documents and their encompassing data.
The system intelligence built in to Altium Designer Projects helps to remove the complication and risk associated with handling (and processing) collections of design document data, which in turn allows designers to focus on the key task of bringing innovative designs to market.
An Altium Designer Project is the collective structure for all designs created in Altium Designer. It defines the storage, relationships and navigation of the full set of design documents that make up an Altium Designer project – each design process, from schematic capture through to the board production output, is completed within the context of its Project.
Within that project structure, Altium Designer provides functional access to the design content and documents through a range of dedicated interface Panels.
The dockable panels provide sophisticated access to and control of the central aspects of a design project, such as project file structure, document navigation, file storage and version control management.
Altium Designer provides a comprehensive suite of integrated functions that allow designers to easily track, store and access design files both during the product design process and through its post production lifespan.
Workflow design data management includes local change history and autosave systems for design documents, and a range of version control system options to suit individual designers through to company network-based requirements.
Industry standard Subversion (SVN) is built in to Altium Designer, along with intelligent VCS interface systems that vastly simplify the task of accessing, comparing and managing design documents under version control. Further options include the ability to interface with other version control systems and design data repositories located on local or remote network systems.
Read about Version Control and Design Repositories.
Along with a host of data, user collaboration, design reuse and configuration management features, the Altium Vault offers a fully-managed data storage and access platform that directly integrates with Altium Designer. This allows designs to be saved and retrieved in Altium Designer as Vault-based Managed Projects, which transparently benefit from the Vault’s built in version control, lifecycle management and robust data storage technology.
When it comes to releasing a PCB design to the board fabrication and assembly production world, the Altium Vault also provides a high-integrity target for Altium Designer’s release process. Board designs released to the Vault are verified, tracked, version controlled and fully lifecycle managed, and can be shared on a secure permissions basis.
Read about Managed Projects and releasing a design.
An electronic product design that needs to be produced in a number of styles or variations of that product would normally require that individual designs be created for each of those variations – one design for the basic version of the product, another for an enhanced model, and so on.
The Design Variants functionality available in Altium Designer vastly simplifies and streamlines this process by allowing the components in a single, base design to be concurrently varied as required.
This capability is tightly integrated with Altium Designer’s schematic/PCB editors, and the production of output data. It’s therefore a straightforward task to create any number of different sub-products at design time – based on component variations – then produce the individual sets of output data required for the manufacturing and production stages.
Read about Design Variations in Altium Designer.