Altium Designer Documentation

Concord Pro - Self-managed

Modified by Jason Howie on May 6, 2020

A distinct self-managed, server-based design solution, Altium Concord Pro works in harmony with Altium Designer to provide an elegant answer to the question of handling design data with secured integrity. Altium 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 used to store and manage components, domain models, schematic sheets of circuitry and design templates. Indeed, you can even create and manage your entire design projects directly within the server, with the additional benefit of collaboration support, meaning an entire team can work concurrently on the same board design - even annotating the design with comments.

By furnishing a set of reusable design 'building blocks' within Altium 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. The server 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 Altium Concord Pro, the integrity of those designs is inherently assured.

And Altium Concord Pro 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.


Server Items

Within Altium Concord Pro, each design entity that can be stored, managed, and reused, is represented as a specific type of Item. An Item is uniquely identified within the Server and can contain any number of Revisions, where a revision contains the data for that Item. Each time a change is made to the data contained within a revision - which for most Item types can be edited directly within an associated temporary editor - it is committed (or re-released) into a new revision of that Item, ensuring that no existing revision can ever be overwritten, and thereby ensuring the highest integrity.

An Item can have any number of revisions, which are essentially an evolution of that Item over time. A change is made and the new data content is committed/uploaded/released into a new revision. The data stored in each revision of an Item is therefore typically different. To identify between these different revisions of an Item, a revision identifier (ID) is used, which in combination with the Item ID creates a unique identifier for each release of an Item. This gives us the Item-Revision.

Another important aspect of an Item Revision is its Lifecycle State. This is another identifier that can be used to quickly assess what stage that revision has currently reached in its life, and what designers are therefore authorized to do with it. Where the Revision reflects design changes made to the Item, the Lifecycle State reflects the state of the item from a business perspective, such as Planned, New From Design, For Production, Obsolete, and so on.

Read about Server Items.

The Explorer Panel

From within Altium Designer, component management is streamlined through use of the Components panel and Manufacturer Part Search panel. However, another interface to your Altium Concord Pro installation is the Explorer panel. From this panel you can perform many activities, including:

  • Creating and managing the organizational structure used in the Server.
  • Creating any number of Items, each representative of a design object.
  • Direct editing and placement of Item Revisions.
  • Reviewing and managing the lifecycle of Item revisions.
  • Interrogating the usage of a particular Item revision (Where-Used).
  • Browsing and managing supply chain information for Component Items.
  • Downloading stored data, including data generated through the managed release of board design projects.
While the majority of your day-to-day working with Altium Concord Pro will be through the Components panel, there will also be occasion when you need to interact with the Server through its browser interface - especially for administrative purposes. For more information, see Exploring the Browser-based Interface.

Direct Editing

Altium Concord Pro provides a flexible and secure method of centralizing the storage and management of all types of design data used in Altium Designer. From the schematic model to the component, from managed sheets through to completed PCB designs, Concord Pro delivers an ideal method of storing and managing your electronic design data.

Many design entities can be edited and released into the initial revision of a corresponding, and newly-created server Item, courtesy of Concord Pro'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 server 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. Concord Pro handles it all, with the same great integrity you've come to expect, and in a manner that greatly expedites changes to your data.

And at any stage, you can come back to any revision of a supported Item in Concord Pro, 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 entity 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.


Managed Components

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 Workspace. 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 Altium 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 the Concord Pro's browser interface. New Managed Projects can be created through this interface, or through the Create Project dialog in Altium Designer. Alternatively, an existing, non-managed project, can be quickly made available to Concord Pro.

You can also access a manufacturing orientated CAD-centric view of the project, which offers Design, Manufacturing and BOM 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.
  • 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.
  • BOM - view the source project's Bill Of Materials information.
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 Altium Concord Pro's local Version Control service.
Read about Managed Projects.

ECAD-MCAD Co-Design

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.
The plugin required to add this co-design functionality to your MCAD design software installation can be acquired from the Downloads page of the altium.com site (look for the MCAD CODESIGNER PLUGINS section). 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

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.

Part Source Configuration

Altium Concord Pro has its own dedicated Part Catalog. This is a managed part catalog database, dedicated to the management and tracking of manufacturer parts and their associated supplier parts. The catalog works only with Concord Pro.

The Part Catalog stores items representative of actual Manufacturer Parts, along with one or more items representative of Supplier Parts - the incarnations of those Manufacturer Parts, as sold by the Suppliers/Vendors. Each Supplier Part is a reference to an item in the aggregate parts database of the Altium Parts Provider (which itself interfaces to, and gathers the parts from, enabled Suppliers).

Which Suppliers are actually used - a list of Approved Suppliers - is managed by Concord Pro, through the Part Providers page of its browser-based interface. This facilitates centralized supply chain management, with designers across the entire organization using the same approved list of Suppliers, with which to source supply chain intelligence for parts used in their designs.


Data Acquisition

Altium facilitates the ability for an organization to copy the content they need from a source Server, and deliver it to a second target Server - a process referred to simply as Server Data Acquisition. By acquiring design content, ownership is placed firmly in the hands of the receiving organization, who are free to make local modifications and maintain the content as they desire moving forward. And by keeping a link between the acquired data and its original source, intelligent handling of the data can be performed, including notification when the source of any copied content is updated. And no matter if additional releases have been made to an item locally, there is always the possibility to revert to a previous revision from the original source Server - all by keeping a link back to the item's original source, or Origin.

Acquisition is performed using the Content Cart dialog. Access to this dialog is made from within the Explorer panel. While browsing the source server from which you wish to obtain data, simply right-click on the revision of a supported Item type that you wish to acquire (or a folder of components, for example), and choose the Add to Content Cart command from the context menu.


Private License Service

For organizations that require their Altium Designer installations to remain offline - isolated from the internet - the convenience and flexibility of on-demand software licensing can be provided by a localized Private License Server, rather than from the internet-based Altium Licensing Service. The Altium Concord Pro installation provides just the ticket, through its local Private License Service. It can be configured as a central, or local License Server, and can serve both Altium Designer and Altium Concord Pro licenses over a local network. In addition, a server administrator is able to take full control over the offline leasing of license seats, configure licensing for use by specific roles, and configure a license for Roaming, and much more.

The server's PLS can be configured and used in different modes of operation, as summarized below:

  • No PLS mode - the Server's standard configuration, where its acquired licenses are not made available (served) on the network.
  • Local PLS mode - both Altium Designer and Altium Concord Pro licenses that have been acquired by the Server are served over a network by the Server's (local) PLS service.
  • External PLS mode - the Server connects to, and uses, an external PLS service (such as a remote Server PLS that has been set up as a central license server) in place of its own PLS service.

Local Version Control Service

The Altium Concord Pro installation provides localized (and centralized ) version control, courtesy of its Version Control service. This service provides version control possibilities right there where you need them, locally, without searching, or paying for, external VCS management software.

A new installation of Altium Concord Pro provides a single Git-based design repository for accommodating all of your managed design projects - and that's it! This avoids any setup and complexity regarding the Server's local Version Control service. You have a single design repository - Versioned Storage - for all your designers to access and release into. As such, the VCS page of the Server's browser interface becomes purely informational - you cannot add a new repository, and the single Git repository cannot be modified in any way, nor deleted. If you have upgraded to Altium Concord Pro from Altium NEXUS Server 1.0 (or Altium Vault 3.0) then use of SVN repositories will also be enabled, so that you can continue to use your previous (and established) design flow. In this case, you can continue to create repositories through the local Version Control service (SVN-only), or connect to external repositories (SVN or Git).

By defining design repositories in this centralized fashion, an organization can fully control which repositories its designers can access and use.


Backup and Recovery

Over time, your Altium Concord Pro instance will accommodate a growing, and impressive amount of data. The value of this data cannot be overstated, for it is a mixture of source data that can be re-used in future design projects, as well as data from which past, current, and future products are fabricated and assembled. It is data that has been released and ratified under the highest scrutiny, and stored securely with the upmost integrity. And as with all valuable data, longevity of its integrity is ensured by being able to perform a backup.

The Altium Concord Pro installation caters for the archival of your Server data through the provision of a command-line-driven Backup & Restore tool. The tool's executable - avbackup.exe - is located in the \Program Files (x86)\Altium\Altium Concord Pro\Tools\BackupTool folder, for a default installation of Altium Concord Pro.

Restoring a backup is only possible to the same version of server from which that backup was made. In this respect, it can be a good idea to keep the installer for that server, and corresponding license files, with the backup Zip archive.

 

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