Altium Designer Documentation

Altium Concord Pro

Modified by Jason Howie on Dec 4, 2019

Altium Concord Pro works seamlessly, and in harmony with Altium Designer to provide an elegant answer to the question of handling design data with secured integrity. Concord Pro not only provides rock-solid, secure storage of data, but also enables re-release of data as distinctly separate revisions - essentially tracking design changes over time, without overwriting any previously released data. It also caters for the lifecycle of the data to be managed, allowing people that need to use the data to see, at-a-glance, what stage the data has reached in its 'life' and therefore what it can be safely used for.

Altium Concord Pro is available in two hosting methods:

  • Hosted on Altium 365 - delivered as a Workspace through the Altium 365 cloud-based infrastructure platform. The Workspace is a dedicated, cloud-hosted server for all your managed content. It facilitates the seamless connectivity of, and the mechanics for moving data between, the design, manufacturing and supply domains. This variant of Concord Pro is recommended since it opens up a variety of global sharing and collaborative features that can only be experienced and enjoyed through the Altium 365 platform.
  • Self-managed - delivered as a traditional on-site server that you install, setup and manage on a server within your own network. This variant of Concord Pro is suited to those who cannot interface with their data through the cloud (for example, defense companies).

Altium 365 is a cloud-based infrastructure platform that connects all the key stakeholders and disciplines, from mechanical designers to parts procurement, to fabrication and assembly. In other words, Altium 365 connects electronics design to the manufacturing floor. Since it is cloud-based, there is nothing to install and no servers to configure. It’s just there with Altium Designer - or from a browser. The Altium 365 platform hosts a whole set of software-based services that run on Altium 365, each designed to simplify your design life and make it easy for everyone involved in the product creation process to collaborate. With Altium 365, you can effortlessly share your current design progress with management, or purchasing, or a potential manufacturer, in a way that is also easy for them - simplified, interactive collaboration, from any device. And it's an experience that doesn’t require you to change the tools you use everyday, regardless of your discipline. When hosted on the Altium 365 platform, finding parts, setting up, and using components is simple. No server installation required, and convenience features such as part import tools get you up and running in minutes. In an instant you have reliable parts data at your fingertips that can be yours alone, or shared. And in combination with a structured Release to Manufacturing process, you unlock powerful capabilities (e.g. where-used, part obsolescence, functional alternatives and substitutes) that ensure you have a bill of materials that can be manufactured - now and in the future.

With Altium 365, everyone can enjoy a true 21st century design experience. Free from the chains of isolation. Working together across the domains of electronics design, mechanical design, manufacturing, and parts - effortlessly.

Altium 365: It’s easy. It’s convenient. It just works.

Altium Concord Pro can accommodate all managed data, including components, domain models, schematic sheets of circuitry and design templates. Indeed, you can even create and manage your entire design projects directly within Concord Pro, with a CAD-centric management view that facilitates collaborative review and commenting of a design and revisions of its released BOM. Through a dedicated Manufacturing Portal you can view and navigate the released Assembly and Fabrication data, inspect the BOM, and ultimately download the data into a manufacturing Build Package. And when you have your Concord Pro hosted on Altium 365, a chosen release can also be shared - as a Manufacturing Package - directly with your manufacturer.

By furnishing a set of reusable design 'building blocks' within Concord Pro, you can embark on fresh projects safe in the knowledge that each model, component, and higher-order design element has been ratified and approved for use, with no having to reinvent the wheel as it were. Concord Pro becomes both the source and destination of design elements, with each new design utilizing elements released to, and managed through, the server. And by designing only with elements from Concord Pro, the integrity of those designs is inherently assured.

Altium Concord Pro also facilitates bi-directional design collaboration with various supported mechanical design platforms. This enables you to keep MCAD and ECAD design teams on the same page by sharing changes to board shape, component placement, and mounting holes, and intelligently link together 3D component bodies with your electrical component data - creating a unified component model that accurately reflects design intent from the respective domains.

The common set of documentation for Altium Concord Pro - common to using both cloud-hosted and self-managed offerings - is written from the perspective of having Concord Pro hosted on Altium 365. As such, you'll see the term Workspace used in place of Concord Pro, and links will be to pages associated with that hosted offering. Certain functionality enjoyed through this cloud-hosted offering will not be available in the self-managed variant (and to a lesser extent, vice-versa). Documentation that is specific to each can be found in the sections Concord pro - Hosted on Altium 365 and Concord Pro - Self-managed respectively.

Component Management

Altium Designer, with its unified design approach, has traditionally used a component model that extends across all aspects of the electronics design process. However, to seamlessly fit the process of electronics design into the encapsulating product development process as a whole, this model needs to evolve - extending to cover other aspects including other design processes (in particular MCAD and Industrial Design), as well as business processes (such as procurement and manufacturing) that intersect with the product development process.

This evolved object model is known as the Unified Component Model.

Under this modeling paradigm, the design component, as seen by the designer, is separated from the Manufacturer and/or Vendor parts. This information is not defined as part of the component. Instead, Part Choices are used to map the design component to one or more Manufacturer Parts, listed in a Part Catalog, which in turn can be mapped to one or more Vendor parts, allowing the designer to state up-front, what real parts can be used for any given design component used in a design.

These components, along with their part choices, are stored in Altium Concord Pro. A component is stored as a series of revisions of a uniquely-identifiable Component Item. Each revision is lifecycle-managed, providing collections of certified components, authorized to be re-instantiated into new design projects, manufactured into prototypes, or used for production runs. In short, a catalog of components implemented through server-based 'libraries'.

Altium Designer's Components panel provides a powerful interface with which to interact with all your components - both managed (server-based) and library (file-based). And for your managed components, the panel provides a filter-based parametric (faceted) search capability, for specifying target component parameters. In addition, the panel also offers options to edit a managed component through the Component Editor (in its Single Component Editing mode), view the component in its source server via the Explorer panel, and perform component management functions such as component creation and cloning, or editing the selected component's Part Choices and Type.
By using Altium Designer's Manufacturer Part Search panel, you can search for real-world manufactured parts, then acquire those parts into your Altium Concord Pro instance. Acquisition involves creating a new managed component - using the Component Editor in its Single Component Editing mode - and releasing to Concord Pro.

Design Management

Altium Concord Pro, in conjunction with Altium Designer, brings support for Managed Projects. Managed Projects target the development stage of the project lifecycle, simplifying the creation and ongoing workflow for version controlled projects. Centralized storage under the control of Concord Pro also enables this feature to be a foundation for other collaborative services.

Some key benefits to using Managed Projects are:

  • Simplified storage. No need to make decisions about storage locations. Backup and other basic services are taken care of.
  • Foundation for collaborative features.
  • Enforced version control.
  • Beneficiary of a dedicated commenting system.
  • Notifications and status. Document status including local modifications is visible to entire design teams.
  • Concurrent PCB design works without any complex setup.

Management is performed through the Projects page of Concord Pro's browser interface. New managed projects can be created through this interface, or through the Create Project dialog in Altium Designer.

With Altium Concord Pro hosted on Altium 365, you can also access a manufacturing orientated CAD-centric view of the project which offers Design, BOM and Manufacturing view options:

  • Design - display and navigate source project design documents, view design object properties and place review comments. This view uses the Web Review interface. This view is for the latest version of the source project data, rather than a specified release from that project, and so could be considered to be a work-in-progress (WIP) view. You can view the base design, or any defined variant thereof.
  • BOM - view the source project's Bill Of Materials information.
  • Manufacturing - view the releases for the project. Access is provided for opening a release, which will be presented on a separate tab through a Manufacturing Portal. From this portal you can view and navigate the released Assembly and Fabrication data, inspect the BOM, and ultimately download the data into a manufacturing Build Package. A chosen release can also be sent - as a Manufacturing Package - directly to your manufacturer. The Altium 365 platform provides a Global Sharing service. At the heart of this service is a dedicated Package Viewer, which allows others to view a manufacturing package from any web browser - anywhere in the world - but outside of your Workspace, so that your designs themselves, and other valuable IP, are kept off limits.
The beauty of Managed Projects is that they are version controlled by default, and can be collaboratively worked upon without having to worry about shared drives, servers, agreements etc. Version control is handled courtesy of the Workspace's built-in GIT version control service.
Alternatively, you can keep your project unmanaged (a regular, or VCS-based project), but make a synchronized copy of it available online - sending it to your cloud-based Workspace. This enables you to take advantage of the collaborative benefits offered through Altium 365.
Read about Managed Projects.

Global Sharing of Manufacturing Package Data - only with Concord Pro on Altium 365

A key aspect of design projects managed within a Workspace is the ability to create and share a release Build Package with others. When shared directly with your manufacturer, it can then be thought of as a Manufacturing Package, since it is the package that the manufacturer can browse, download and use to fabricate and assemble the board.

Supporting the ability to share such a package with others, and with your manufacturer (who is typically outside of your organization), the Altium 365 Platform provides a dedicated Manufacturing Package Viewer - an element of the platform's Global Sharing support - which allows others to view a manufacturing package from any web browser - anywhere in the world - but outside of your Workspace, so that your designs themselves, and other valuable IP, are kept off limits.

Each shared user will receive an email invite with a link to view a manufacturing package through the Manufacturing Package Viewer. Shared manufacturing packages are presented on the Home page of the browser-based Altium 365 Platform Interface (those shared with you, along with any packages you have shared with others).

The Manufacturing Package Viewer itself allows key stakeholders - and primarily the manufacturing personnel - to see a summary overview of the design, with key board data, along with the ability to browse the structure of the source, fabrication and assembly data (and to download any individual file thereof as needed). Fabrication, Assembly and BOM data sub-pages of the viewer are also provided, with the Fabrication page presenting a Gerber Viewer and allowing for comments to be added by any and all.

Ultimately, the manufacturing personnel can download a Build Package of the release they have viewed - and from any page of the Viewer - with which to get that revision of the board physically realized.


ECAD-MCAD CoDesign

Most electronic products that are designed are fixed to some kind of mechanical structure - either a chassis, or an enclosure. Finding a mechanical conflict between board (ECAD) and chassis/enclosure (MCAD) late in the design process can be a costly experience. And while you could get a 3D model exported from Altium Designer, it is a manual process that needs conscious decision and action to do so. In reality, this is performed very infrequently, with the result being that the MCAD designer is never quite sure if what they've got is the latest and greatest. It really shouldn’t be so hard to ensure you’re not about to waste a pile of money just because your tools don’t talk.

Altium Concord Pro provides native ECAD to MCAD collaboration where data flows seamlessly between domains. No more polling for updates, and no more uncertainty. Data is pushed between domains as the design evolves, ensuring design coherence.

The following MCAD platforms and versions are currently supported:

Use of the ECAD-MCAD capability requires no additional licensing when working with Autodesk Inventor or PTC Creo. To work with SOLIDWORKS, you will need to obtain the relevant licensing through your SOLIDWORKS Channel. Note that this is a matter of compliance - reflected through Altium Concord Pro's EULA. It is your responsibility to obtain the relevant licensing from SOLIDWORKS, in order to satisfy this compliance.
An additional page - MCAD Plugins - will be available through your Workspace's browser interface. From here, you can acquire the plugin required to add this co-design functionality to your MCAD design software installation. Both Altium Designer and the MCAD software Push and Pull design changes back and forth via a panel in the software. The panel (MCAD CoDesigner panel) is always available in Altium Designer's PCB editor, for the MCAD software (where it's called the Altium CoDesigner panel, or Tab) it requires the installation of the corresponding plugin.
Read about ECAD-MCAD CoDesign.

Component Synchronization - only with self-managed Concord Pro

Altium Concord Pro facilitates the uni- or bi-directional synchronization of component data with your enterprise systems. A configuration file allows you to specify the direction of synchronization and therefore which parameters are mastered in which system. Component data synchronization between Concord Pro and the target enterprise system uses a built-in synchronization process. which may be manually triggered or set as timed repeating event.

An Altium Concord Pro installation includes a CSV Component database importer tool that can be used to bring component data into Concord Pro from a file exported from another system (PLM, ERP, or otherwise). Implemented as a configurable batch (*.bat) file, the desktop tool imports component data from a target spreadsheet file (*.csv) into the server as determined by existing server templates or a dedicated configuration file.

In addition, direct support is provided for the following enterprise systems:

  • PTC Windchill® PLM (11.0 M030)
  • Arena® PLM
  • Oracle® Agile™ PLM

Interface configuration is performed through Concord Pro's browser interface, with the connection setup and parameter mapping defined within an XML-based configuration file (uploaded to the server). A smart configuration generator is also included to help in creating custom connection to enterprise systems.

When the synchronization process first adds a component's data in the target system, the generated item number is passed back to the component in Concord Pro as a PlmPartNumber parameter.  This acts as the key parameter when synchronizing data between Concord Pro and the enterprise system instance. In addition, the configuration can be arranged so that item parameters/attributes on the enterprise system side will update properties in the Concord Pro server (configurable per field), without having to formally release a new revision of that Component Item.

Note that synchronization of Part Choice data is unidirectional - from the enterprise system to Altium Concord Pro only.

 

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