Altium Designer Documentation

Managed Layer Stacks in an Altium Vault

Modified by Jason Howie on Apr 11, 2017

Parent page: Vault Items

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. Once a Layerstack 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.

In addition, a managed Layerstack Item can be used as a configuration data item in one or more defined Environment Configurations. An environment configuration is used to constrain a designer's Altium Designer working environment to only use company-ratified design elements. Environment configurations are defined and stored within the Team Configuration Center - a service provided through an appropriately licensed Altium Vault installation, and the facilitator of this concept of Environment Configuration Management.

Folder Type

When creating the folder in which to store a Layerstack Item, you can specify the folder's type. This has no bearing on the content of the folder - releasing a layer stack will always result in a Layerstack Item. It simply provides a visual 'clue' as to what is stored in a folder and can be beneficial when browsing a vault for particular content. To nominate a folder's use as a container for Layerstack Items, set its Folder Type as Layerstacks, when defining the folder properties in the Edit Folder dialog.

A layer stack can be released into the next planned revision of a new/existing Layerstack Item, irrespective of whether that Item resides in a Layerstacks-type folder, or any other folder type.


Specifying the folder type - its intended use - gives a visual indication of the content of that folder when browsing the vault!

Another important aspect of the parent folder is the Item Naming Scheme employed for it. This defines the format of the unique ID for each Item created in that particular folder. Several default example schemes are available, utilizing the short-form code for either the folder type (ALS - Altium Layerstacks) or the content type (ALS - Altium Layer Stack):

  • $CONTENT_TYPE_CODE-001-{0000} - for example, ALS-001-0001.
  • $CONTENT_TYPE_CODE-001-{A00} - for example, ALS-001-A01.
  • $FOLDER_TYPE_CODE-001-{0000} - for example, ALS-001-0001.
  • $FOLDER_TYPE_CODE-001-{A000} - for example, ALS-001-A001.

Using a default naming scheme, the software will automatically assign the next available unique ID, based on that scheme, having scanned the entire vault and identifiers of existing Items. This can be a great time-saver when manually creating Layerstack Items prior to release.

A custom scheme can also be defined for a folder, simply by typing it within the field, ensuring that the variable portion is enclosed in curly braces (e.g. STACK-001-{0000}).


The Item Naming Scheme of the parent folder is applied to the Unique ID for each Item
created within that folder.

The Item Naming Scheme employed for the parent folder can be changed at any time. The modified scheme will then be applied to any subsequent newly-created Items within that folder.

Item Type

When creating the target Layerstack Item in which to store your layer stack definition, ensure that its Content Type is set to Layerstack, in the Item Properties dialog. If you are creating the Item in a Layerstacks type folder, this Item type will be available from the right-click context menu when creating the Item.


Creating a Layerstack Item within a Layerstacks folder - the correct Content Type is available on the context menu.

When defining the Layerstack Item, in whose revisions layer stack data is released, be sure to specify the type of lifecycle management to be used for the Item, and the naming scheme employed for its revisions, respectively.

Control over which Item types can use a particular lifecycle definition or revision naming scheme, can be defined and enabled at a global level from within the Content Types dialog, when defining each schema. For a newly-installed vault, the default schemes assigned for use by a Layerstack Item are: Basic Lifecycle and 1-Level Revision Scheme, respectively.

Once a layer stack definition has been released into the initial revision of a Layerstack Item, these schemes cannot be changed for that particular Item.

Specify the required schemes in the Item Properties dialog, using the Lifecycle Definition and Revision Naming Scheme fields respectively.

If the option to control use of lifecycle definitions and revision naming schemes per content type is enabled for any definitions/schemes, and the Layerstack Item type is not set to use a particular definition/scheme, then that definition/scheme will not be available in the applicable drop-down list.


Selecting the Lifecycle Definition and Revision Naming schemes for a manually created Item.

Observing standard revision naming schemes and lifecycle definitions, across the various types of design item in a vault ensures smooth, consistent management of those items.
It is a good idea to add a comment and description as part of the Item's definition. This information is used when searching the vault and enables quick identification of what a Layerstack Item offers.

Releasing a Layer Stack Definition

So far, we've discussed the support for a Layerstack Item in the vault, in terms of related folder and item types. Releasing an actual layer stack definition into the revision of such an item can be performed in a couple of ways.

Direct Editing

A layer stack definition can be edited and released into the initial revision of a newly-created Layerstack Item, courtesy of the vault's support for direct editing. Direct editing frees you from the shackles of separate version-controlled source data. You can simply edit a supported Item type using a temporary editor loaded with the latest source direct from the vault itself. And once editing is complete, the entity is released (or re-released) into a subsequent planned revision of its parent Item, and the temporary editor closed. There are no files on your hard drive, no questioning whether you are working with the correct or latest source, and no having to maintain separate version control software. The Altium Vault handles it all, with the same great integrity you've come to expect, and in a manner that greatly expedites changes to your data.

When you create a Layerstack Item, you have the option to edit and release a layer stack definition into the initial revision of that item, after creation. To do so, simply enable the option Open for editing after creation, at the bottom of the Create Item dialog (which is enabled by default). The Item will be created and the temporary AltiumLayerStackup Editor will open, presenting a .stackup document as the active document in the main design window. This document will be name according to the Item-Revision, in the format <Item><Revision>.stackup (e.g. ALS-001-0002-1.stackup).


Example of editing the initial revision of a Layerstack Item, directly from the vault - the temporary AltiumLayerStackup Editor provides the stackup document with which to define
your layer stack.

Use the document to define the layer stack as required. The Layer Stack Document Standard toolbar provides three relevant controls when direct editing:

  •  - Save Active Document. Use this button to save the changes made to the document. This is required before you can release the document back to the vault.
  •  - Release Document. Use this button to release the defined layer stack document to the vault, storing it within the initial (planned) revision of the target Layerstack Item. The document and editor will close after the release. The layer stack document, *.stackup, will be stored in the revision of the Item.
  •  - Cancel Editing. Use this button if you wish to cancel editing. The document and editor will close, and nothing will be released to the target Layerstack Item.

The released data stored in the vault consists of the layer stack definition, defined in the Layer Stackup file (*.stackup). In the Vaults panel, switch to the Preview aspect view to see the layer stack.


Preview of the layer stack definition, available in the released revision of the target Layerstack Item.

Saving the Current Layer Stack

You can also save the current layer stack defined for the active board design, to the vault, directly from within the PCB Editor's Layer Stack Manager dialog (Design » Layer Stack Manager). Simply click the Save button at the top-left of the dialog, and choose the Save to Vault command from the associated menu. The Choose Planned Item Revision dialog will appear - use this to choose the next planned revision of an existing Layerstack Item, or create a new Layerstack Item on-the-fly.


Saving the layer stack currently defined for the active board design, to a planned revision of a target Layerstack Item, in a target Altium Vault.

After clicking OK, the release will proceed, with the resulting layer stack definition - stored in the revision of the target Layerstack Item - available for preview through the Vaults panel.

Reusing a Managed Layerstack Item

Once a layer stack has been released to an Altium Vault, and its lifecycle state set to a level that the organization views as ready for use at the design level, that layer stack can be reused in future board-level design projects.

When you are signed in to your Altium Vault, use of available Layerstack Items is automatic. If there are released revisions of Layerstack Items, then only those available stackup definitions - shared with you - will be presented in the applicable area of the software where a layerstack can be chosen. If there are no released revisions of Layerstack Items in the vault, or if you sign out of your vault, then you will be able to use local, file-based layerstacks.

If you do not sign in to your Altium Vault you can still work with Altium Designer (under your valid Altium Designer License), but you will not be able to access your organization's Altium Vault, or any other services provided through its installation. You will therefore not be able to reuse any vault-based Layerstack Items. You will only be able to use file-based stackup definitions defined locally.
A released layer stack definition can also be used as a configuration data item in one or more defined Environment Configurations. An environment configuration is used to constrain a designer's Altium Designer working environment to only use company-ratified design elements. Environment configurations are defined and stored within the Team Configuration Center - a service provided through the Altium Vault installation. Once you have signed in to the Altium Vault, and chosen (if applicable) from the selection of environment configurations available to you, Altium Designer will be configured, with respect to use of Layerstacks. If the chosen environment configuration has one or more defined Layerstack Items, then only those defined definitions can be used. If the chosen environment configuration applicable to you does not have any Layerstack Items specified/added, or is set to Do Not Control, then these will remain manually definable. In other words, you are free to use local stackup files, or manually reuse a vault-based layer stack. For more information, see Environment Configuration Management.

Manual Reuse

When signed in to an Altium Vault and using an environment configuration that does not control the use of layer stacks, or working as an administrator, you are free to manually choose a revision of a Layerstack Item. Choose a managed layer stack to use from within the PCB Editor's Layer Stack Manager dialog. Simply click the Load button at the top-left of the dialog, and choose the Load from Vault command from the associated menu. The Choose Item Revision dialog will appear - use this to load layer stack data from a revision of a target Layerstack Item in a connected Altium Vault.


Access commands to load a desired revision of a Layerstack Item, into the Layer Stack Manager.

Automatic Reuse

When under automatic control, or control of an environment configuration, Altium Designer will be configured with respect to use of Layerstack Items. In the Layer Stack Manager dialog, only those Layerstack Item Revisions made available to you will be available to use through the dialog's Load menu. The Load from File and Load from Vault commands will be unavailable.

Re-releasing a Layerstack Item

At any stage, you can come back to any revision of a Layerstack Item in the vault, and edit it directly. Simply right-click on the revision and choose the Edit command from the context menu. Once again, the temporary editor will open, with the layer stack definition contained in the revision, opened for editing. Make changes as required, then commit the release of the document into the next revision of the item.

Right-clicking on the top-level entry for an Item itself, will edit the latest revision of that Item.


Accessing the command to launch direct editing of an existing revision of a Layerstack Item.

Downloading a Layer Stackup File

Download the Layer Stackup file (*.stackup) stored in a revision of a Layerstack Item, by right-clicking on that revision and choosing the Operations » Download command from the context menu. The file will be downloaded into a sub-folder under the chosen directory, named using the Item Revision name. The file can be found in the Released folder therein.

Access the Download command from the top-level entry for a Layerstack Item itself, to download the layer stackup file stored in the latest revision of that Item.
Click the Explore button in the Download from Vault dialog, to quickly explore to the download folder.

 

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