Customer Success Stories

Pushing the Limits of Electronics Design with Quantel Laser

“The Merion C is a powerful laser system that incorporates a creative distributed processing architecture with modular circuitry unique in the laser world. This concept, coupled with CoDesigner and Altium 365, allows us to rapidly develop custom products for our customers that transform our lasers into nearly any shape or size imaginable at scaled energy levels and various wavelengths for extreme environments. We can do this now with high confidence that we will get it right the first time.”

Jeremie Waller 
Senior Electrical Engineer
Quantel Laser

Quantel Laser is a division of Lumibird, a global leader in laser technology. The company develops solid-state lasers, laser diodes, and fiber lasers, widely used throughout the industrial, scientific, medical, and defense industries. Their main offices are split between Bozeman, Montana and Lannion, France. 

Jeremie Waller, Senior Electrical Engineer, and Laine McNeil, Senior Mechanical Engineer, have both been with Quantel Laser in Bozeman for upwards of three decades. They’ve seen the company grow into a global organization of over 800 employees across two continents, with customer needs becoming progressively more intricate with each passing decade.

In his 31 years with Quantel, McNeil has seen the industry shift from a highly specialized technical field to one that powers a wealth of everyday essentials. “It used to be that lasers were these highly technical devices that had to be powered by specialized operators. People expect lasers to just work now inside devices independently.”

As Waller elaborates, “Our customers come up with some really neat applications for lasers, everything from Lidar applications that characterize the atmosphere and measure ocean depth to emerging medical technologies like laser ultrasound. Every new project now is a challenge that pushes our skills to the max—we’re designing for more energy in a smaller size at a lower cost.”

Waller and McNeil have relied on Altium technology for decades to ensure they can meet every customer demand.

Anyone can take on a simple board and whip out something in a few hours, but if you want to meet today’s customer demands to produce higher performance products in a smaller package at a lower cost you cannot easily do it without the capabilities provided by Altium Designer and CoDesigner,” Waller offers.

The advent of Altium 365, the world’s only cloud platform for printed circuit board (PCB) design and realization, and Altium CoDesigner, a unique capability that allows MCAD tools to integrate easily with Altium Designer, helped ensure that Quantel’s customers expectations could always be met—even during a global pandemic.

It’s almost like when people use email to communicate. The tone of the other person is missing, and critical information is missing with that. Before, we used 2D DXFs to exchange info, and were still missing so much key information – that’s been improved now, dramatically. We can work together and understand each other’s needs so much better now.”

Laine McNeil
Senior Mechanical Designer
Quantel Laser

The Changing Face of MCAD/ECAD Collaboration

As original beta testers for Altium 365, Waller and McNeil were able to solve one major collaboration challenge quickly—and just in the nick of time.

“With Covid-19 impacting our offices, first in France and next here in the States, Altium 365 gave our design team a way to continue working together, no matter where we were located,” Waller reports.

Altium’s CoDesigner, plus Altium 365, makes it easy for mechanical engineers to work alongside their PCB designer colleagues by simply downloading a license-free plug-in for their MCAD tool and then continuing to work with their native assemblies without ever leaving their MCAD environment. Once they’re ready to share their designs, mechanical designers can just push/pull changes from their MCAD tools into the Altium ECAD space.

 “CoDesigner gives our electrical and mechanical engineers a way to work together in 3D like we’re just sitting next to each other, sharing each other’s screens from anywhere in the world,” Waller adds. 

"With the CoDesigner capability, we can detect potential problems like we couldn’t before. We can see silkscreens, hidden vias, make sure polarities are correct, where copper traces are—our models are now 100% complete, including overlay and copper. I don’t have to worry about board shapes, or connector placements, even in very tight spaces. With the CoDesigner capability, we have the confidence that everything will fit exactly as planned when it goes to manufacturing,”

Jeremie Waller 
Senior Electrical Engineer
Quantel Laser

Improved Transparency Across a Global Design Team

Collaboration between MCAD and ECAD teams has been an evolving process at Quantel, often involving extra work and design iterations due to working with disparate design tools. CoDesigner eliminates the need for importing, exporting, or converting file formats—everything is built into Altium Designer and effortlessly accessible via Altium 365. 

“Up until pretty recently, we really didn’t collaborate much,” Waller begins. “A mechanical engineer using an MCAD tool would model a basic board and some of the bigger components based on some measured dimensions of our boards.  At some point, we were able to create STEP files of our boards. We would include only the bigger parts as extrusions and send them to the mechanical designer to import into their CAD for a sanity check. As we began adding more 3D models, mechanical designers would strip them off of the assembly model since the STEP models were large files and slowed down their design environment. It was extremely difficult and time consuming to design electrical assemblies and/or verify their fit in the enclosure using these methods.”

As McNeil elaborates, “Our process used to involve extensive importing, tracing, and adding in component heights manually. It was pretty normal to have at least six different design iterations that had to be done manually.”

McNeil continues, “Before we started using Altium’s CoDesigner, there was an element of “Us vs. Them.” It is a much more collaborative process now. We no longer lack context when working with our PCB design teams.”

“Using Altium 365 and CoDesigner has been a quantum leap in our design process. And CoDesigner’s right there inside Altium Designer—I can’t imagine not using it.”

Jeremie Waller 
Senior Electrical Engineer
Quantel Laser

Easier Prototyping, Regardless of Project Complexity

Prototyping, in particular, has become much easier for Waller, McNeil and their intercontinental team. “CoDesigner is such an invaluable tool for prototyping, because it really increases the likelihood we’re going to get it right the first time,” Waller explains. 

“With the CoDesigner capability, we can detect potential problems like we couldn’t before. We can see silkscreens, hidden vias, make sure polarities are correct, where copper traces are—our models are now 100% complete, including overlay and copper. I don’t have to worry about board shapes, or connector placements, even in very tight spaces. With the CoDesigner capability, we have the confidence that everything will fit exactly as planned when it goes to manufacturing,” Waller continues.

“And all I have to do is push other objects in the space over to the ECAD side so electrical engineers can allow for clearances to conductive surfaces, laser beam paths and other features. Mechanical fit errors on prototypes are incredibly rare—I feel infinitely better about designs now,” McNeil adds.

Even complex projects are easier with CoDesigner. “Being able to move components and place them in MCAD has really opened up a new world of design possibilities for us,” Waller reports, “Rigid-flex projects used to be a real challenge because I couldn’t see where the bends in the boards were on my end, but now Laine [McNeil] can use CoDesigner to show me a full, 3D model in his MCAD software. ”

McNeil concurs, “Jeremie [Waller] can easily see clearances and interferences. We can see even the tightest clearances, stacked boards, main power processing—I can scan through an entire design to ensure we don’t have any interferences and just push the whole thing over to him.”

"The Viron laser was one of the first designed at Quantel with true MCAD/ECAD collaboration. We worked together to define the use of the available space in a way that made sense electrically, mechanically and optically as opposed to taking finished boards of a typical rectangular dimension and placing them in a box."

Jeremie Waller 
Senior Electrical Engineer
Quantel Laser

Redefining What’s Possible

Waller, McNeil, and team have relied on the Altium CoDesigner capability for multiple projects, including several recent laser designs. 

CoDesigner was particularly vital in the development of the Falcon, Viron, and Merion C lasers. “The Falcon was one of the first systems which we used the CoDesigner tool.  We used it to design a new Q-Switch Driver (3kV switch) in the smallest form factor we have implemented to date and maintain clearances to all conductive surfaces in the enclosure, including the avoidance of the laser beam so that we did not inadvertently place a component in the beam path,” Waller explains. 

The ability to achieve higher densities of components on the boards, was paramount for the development of Viron and Merion C models, making the need for seamless MCAD-ECAD collaboration even more important. 

As Waller elaborates, “The Merion C is a powerful laser system that incorporates a creative distributed processing architecture with modular circuitry unique in the laser world. This concept, coupled with CoDesigner and Altium 365, allows us to rapidly develop custom products for our customers that transform our lasers into nearly any shape or size imaginable at scaled energy levels and various wavelengths for extreme environments. We can do this now with high confidence that we will get it right the first time.”

The success of using the CoDesigner capability to design the Viron set the stage for future developments at Quantel, particularly the Merion C. “While this laser product offering is not quite as densely packed as the Viron, we took what we learned previously and applied it throughout the entire system design to help provide rapid development of a completely new system, so that the first revision of every board (15+ new PCBAs) in the system worked right from first design. We were actually able to sell a fully-functioning prototype to a customer who required immediate testing. The innovative tools that Altium provides has changed how we design our laser systems and has enabled Quantel Laser to develop more sophisticated and higher performing products in less time,” continues Waller. 

It’s almost like when people use email to communicate. The tone of the other person is missing, and critical information is missing with that. Before, we used 2D DXFs to exchange info, and were still missing so much key information—that’s been improved now, dramatically.  We can work together and understand each other’s needs so much better now,” McNeil adds.

“Using Altium 365 and CoDesigner has been a quantum leap in our design process. And CoDesigner’s right there inside Altium Designer—I can’t imagine not using it,” Waller concludes.

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