Altium Designer Documentation

Direct ECAD-MCAD Design with Altium CoDesigner

Modified by Phil Loughhead on Sep 22, 2020

This CoDesigner documentation is for:

  • Altium Designer 20.2 or later, with the MCAD CoDesigner extension version 2.0.4 or later
  • Supported MCAD platforms, with CoDesigner Addin version 2.0.4, or later

CoDesigner documentation for Altium Designer 19 is available here.

Parent page: More about ECAD-MCAD CoDesign

Working between the electronic and mechanical design domains brings unique challenges. ECAD and MCAD tools have different design objectives and have evolved down different paths, and so has the way they store and manage their data.

But today's designs demand that this challenge be solved - small and complex product enclosures that house multiple, irregular shaped printed circuit boards - to successfully design these products the designers must be able to fluidly pass design changes back and forth between the ECAD and MCAD domains.

Passing complex and detailed design changes between different design software is much more than just being able to save data in another format. The electronic and mechanical design teams work independently and need to be able to transfer changes at any point in their design process. The issue is, how do you manage the flow of changes back and forth between the teams, without impacting on either team's day-to-day design work? The last thing the design teams need is for one team to have to stop work until the other team has accepted their latest change before both teams can proceed.

How it Works

This challenge is solved by Altium CoDesigner, an interface for transferring printed circuit board designs between the ECAD and MCAD design domains. Once the CoDesigner plug-in has been added to the ECAD and MCAD software, CoDesigner can pass design changes back and forth through a managed content server. Altium's managed content server acts as a bridge between the ECAD and MCAD domains, as shown below.

PCB design data can be transferred in both directions between ECAD and MCAD through an Altium Managed Content Server

The advantage of working through a managed content server is the update process becomes stateless. That means each side can continue to work independently, there is no need to worry where the other team is up to in the design process.

For example, when the MCAD designer has defined the board shape, they can Push the assembly to the managed content server. The ECAD designer will automatically be notified that there is a change pending. When they click Pull, their board is compared to the MCAD board definition in the managed content server and a list of changes required to synchronize them is generated. The ECAD designer can then enable the changes they want, and Apply them to their board. The ECAD designer might then configure the various copper and other fabrication layers required in the layer stack, defining the board thickness, and Push the updated board back to the MCAD designer, ready for placement of the location-critical mechatronic components.

What is a Managed Content Server?

Altium's managed content servers are secure data storage servers that couple directly into your design software. A managed content server works seamlessly, and in harmony with Altium Designer to provide an elegant answer to the question of handling design data with secured integrity.

Altium Designer can work with a managed content server in either of the two following hosting methods:

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

When a new project is created in a managed content server, only the creator and Administrators will have write permissions.

Learn more about sharing a project in a Workspace hosted on Altium 365

Learn more about sharing a project in a self-managed content server

As well as connecting the ECAD and MCAD domains for CoDesign, a managed content server delivers a host of other design data management features.

Learn more about an Altium 365 Workspace

Supported MCAD Software

The following MCAD platforms and versions are currently supported:

Use of the ECAD-MCAD capability requires no additional licensing when your managed content server is hosted on Altium 365. For a self-managed content server to work with SOLIDWORKS, you will need to obtain the relevant licensing through your SOLIDWORKS Channel. Note that this is a matter of compliance - as reflected in the EULA. It is your responsibility to obtain the relevant licensing from SOLIDWORKS, in order to satisfy this compliance.

The Collaborative Design Interface

Both Altium Designer and your MCAD software interface to each other through a panel (tab) in the software. In Altium Designer it's the MCAD CoDesigner panel, in your MCAD software, it's called the Altium CoDesigner panel , or tab.

Design changes are Pushed and Pulled between the ECAD and MCAD domains through a dedicated panel.

  • In Altium Designer, the MCAD CoDesigner panel is used to Push and Pull design changes back and forth, and display messages.
  • In the MCAD software, the Altium CoDesigner panel is used to:
    • Create new collaboration projects
    • Open an existing collaboration project
    • Configure collaboration options
    • Push and Pull design changes back and forth
    • Display messages

Installing and Configuring CoDesigner in Your MCAD Software

The MCAD CoDesigner extension is included in the standard Altium Designer installation, so MCAD CoDesigner panel is always available in the PCB editor.

To access the Altium CoDesigner panel in your MCAD software you must install an Add-In, as detailed in the relevant collapsible section below. You can download the MCAD CoDesigner plugin for your MCAD software from:

Updating the MCAD Add-In

An Auto-Update feature was included in the MCAD Add-In, at version 2.0.1. From this version on, the following dialog will automatically appear whenever a newer version of the Add-In is available for your MCAD software.

The MCAD Add-In can also be updated by downloading a new version from the Altium website download page, and installing it over the top of the current Add-In.

It’s strongly recommended that you update the MCAD Add-In every time you update your Altium design software.

Installing the CoDesigner Add-In for SOLIDWORKS

To interface from SOLIDWORKS to Altium Designer you need to install the Altium CoDesigner for SOLIDWORKS Add-In. 

In SOLIDWORKS, enable the Altium CoDesigner Add-In to access the CoDesigner panel

To install the Add-In:

  1. Close SOLIDWORKS before installing.
  2. Download and install the SOLIDWORKS Add-In (AltiumCoDesignerSolidWorks_Installer.exe).
  3. Launch SOLIDWORKS and enable the Add-In via the Add-Ins dialog, as shown above.
  4. Once the Add-In has been enabled, the Altium CoDesigner Tab can be added to the Taskpane Tabs in the usual way. All collaboration activities are performed through this Tab.

If you are using a Workspace hosted on Altium 365, you can also download the add-in installer from the Workspace's browser interface. From the MCAD Plugins page click on the SOLIDWORKS tile. On the subsequent page, click the Click the Download Installer button to download the CoDesigner add-in button to download the installer.

Remember that to use the ECAD-MCAD capabilities with SOLIDWORKS, you will need to obtain the relevant licensing through your SOLIDWORKS Channel. Note that this is a matter of compliance - as reflected in the EULA. It is your responsibility to obtain the relevant licensing from SOLIDWORKS, in order to satisfy this compliance.

Displaying the CoDesigner Taskpane Tab

In SOLIDWORKS, Taskpane Tabs can be enabled/disabled in the Customize Taskpane Tabs dialog.

Once the Add-in has been enabled, the CoDesigner Taskpane Tab can be turned on and off as required

If the Altium CoDesigner Taskpane Tab ( Taskpane Tab icon used to select the Altium CoDesigner Tab ) does not appear in SOLIDWORKS:

  1. Click the Setup cog at the top of the Taskpane, as shown above. The Customize Taskpane Tabs dialog will open.
  2. In the dialog, enable the Altium CoDesigner Tab.

Connecting to your Managed Content Server in SOLIDWORKS

SOLIDWORKS collaborates with Altium Designer through a managed content server, which you must sign in to the first time you use it.

When you are not signed in, the Altium CoDesigner Tab will include sign-in fields, as shown below. There are two sign-in modes, one for signing into a workspace on Altium 365, the other for signing in to your self-managed content server. Click the Use Custom Server / Use Altium 365 link towards the bottom of the Tab to switch between the two sign-in modes.

Below are separate descriptions for signing in when the managed content server is hosted, or self-managed.

Connecting to a WOrkspace hosted on Altium 365

The first step is to sign in to your managed content server, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner Taskpane TabSigning in to a workspace hosted on Altium 365.

  1. Enter the email address you use to sign in to Altium Live as your User Name, and your Altium Live Password.
  2. Enable the Sign in Automatically option to retain the details (including the password) and automatically connect to your workspace (through the Altium 365 platform) each time SOLIDWORKS is started.
  3. Click the Sign In button to connect.

Multiple Workspaces are supported - click the Button to access the workspace management options button at the top of the Altium CoDesigner Tab and select the required Workspace.

Menu used to select the active workspace, to change to a custom server, or sign out

Connecting to a self-managed Content Server

The first step is to sign in to your managed content server, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner Taskpane TabSigning in to a self-managed content server.

  1. The first time you sign in you must specify the Server address (URL) to connect to your self-managed content server. The address will be provided by the administrator of your managed content server.
  2. Enter your User Name and Password, these will also be provided by the administrator of your managed content server.
  3. Enable the Sign in Automatically option to retain the details (including the password) and automatically connect to your self-managed content server each time SOLIDWORKS is started.

Once you have signed in, you are ready to start collaborating through Altium CoDesigner.

Once you have signed in to your managed content server you can open an existing board, or create a new board assembly

Configuring the SOLIDWORKS Collaboration Settings

Once you have signed in, collaboration settings can be configured via the lower settings button ( CoDesigner settings button ) at the top of the Altium CoDesigner Taskpane Tab.

Configuring the CoDesigner SOLIDWORKS settings

  • Common folder for storing models that are coming from ECAD - All component models created by CoDesigner are stored in this location, regardless of project. The board part and board assembly are created by CoDesigner in the project folder specified during the initial pull into Solidworks. If no location is specified, all component models will be created in the project folder and will be unavailable for reuse in other projects.
  • Build 3D geometry for copper - Top and bottom layer copper layers are always represented as decals on surfaces of the board part. When this option is enabled, CoDesigner will also create extruded features to represent all copper layers, as well as thruhole plating. Note that enabling this option can create a large amount of data that significantly impacts performance.
  • Transfer board sketch holes that are bigger than <Size><Units> to ECAD as cutouts - Any hole included in the board profile sketch that can be interpreted as a pad in ECAD (including circular, square, or slotted holes), with a hole size (or slot width) equal to or less than this value, will be converted into a free pad in ECAD. Holes with a size larger than this value will be converted to a board cutout. Non-circular holes which do not correspond to a square or slot shape are always converted to a board cutout, regardless of size.
  • Use a common folder for storing models if you work with multiple PCB designs with a percentage of reused components, as it will save time and storage space when loading a new project.
  • If a component is fixed or constrained in MCAD, it becomes locked in ECAD (regardless of if that constraint allows any movements within the PCB assembly or not). If a component is locked in ECAD, it becomes fixed in MCAD unless it is already constrained there. Changes in the locked/fixed state are synchronized between MCAD and ECAD.

SOLIDWORKS Default Templates

To avoid being prompted for a component template each time a new component is created, it is recommended to configure and use default templates for parts, as shown below. These can be the supplied SOLIDWORKS templates, or your own company templates. Define the location of the templates for Parts, Assemblies and Drawings, and select the Always use these default document templates, as shown below.

Installing the CoDesigner Add-In for AutoDesk Inventor

To interface from Autodesk Inventor to Altium Designer you need to install the Altium CoDesigner for Autodesk Inventor Add-In. 

In Autodesk Inventor, enable the Altium CoDesigner Add-In to access the CoDesigner panel

To install the Add-In:

  1. Close Autodesk Inventor before installing.
  2. Download and install the Inventor Add-In (AltiumCoDesignerInventor_Installer.exe).
  3. Launch Autodesk Inventor and confirm that the Add-In is installed and enabled for loading in the Add-In Manager dialog, as shown above.
  4. Once the Add-In has been enabled, the Altium CoDesigner panel can be added to the Autodesk Inventor panel in the usual way. All collaboration activities are performed through this panel.

If you are using a Workspace hosted on Altium 365, you can also download the add-in installer from the Workspace's browser interface. From the MCAD Plugins page click on the Autodesk Inventor tile. On the subsequent page, click the Click the Download Installer button to download the CoDesigner add-in button to download the installer.

Displaying the CoDesigner Panel

In Autodesk Inventor, panels can be enabled by clicking the + button at the top of the panel.

The CoDesigner panel can be displayed/hidden using the + menu

If the Altium CoDesigner panel does not appear in Autodesk Inventor:

  1. Click the + button at the top of the panel, as shown above.
  2. A menu listing all available panels will display, select Altium CoDesigner from the list.

Connecting to your Managed Content Server in AutoDesk Inventor

Autodesk Inventor collaborates with Altium Designer through a managed content server, which you must sign in to the first time you use it.

When you are not signed in, the Altium CoDesigner panel will include sign-in fields, as shown below. There are two sign-in modes, one for signing into a workspace on Altium 365, the other for signing in to your self-managed content server. Click the Use Custom Server / Use Altium 365 link towards the bottom of the panel to switch between the two sign-in modes.

Below are separate descriptions for signing in when the managed content server is hosted, or self-managed.

Connecting to a WOrkspace hosted on Altium 365

The first step is to sign in to your managed content server, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner panel

  1. Enter the email address you use to sign in to Altium Live as your User Name, and your Altium Live Password.
  2. Enable the Sign in Automatically option to retain the details (including the password) and automatically connect to your workspace (through the Altium 365 platform) each time Autodesk Inventor is started.
  3. Click the Sign In button to connect.

Multiple Workspaces are supported - click the Button to access the workspace management options button at the top of the Altium CoDesigner panel and select the required Workspace.

Menu used to select the active workspace, to change to a custom server, or sign out

Connecting to a self-managed Content Server

The first step is to sign in to your managed content server, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner panel

  1. The first time you sign in you must specify the Server address (URL) to connect to your self-managed content server. The address will be provided by the administrator of your managed content server.
  2. Enter your User Name and Password, these will also be provided by the administrator of your managed content server.
  3. Enable the Sign in Automatically option to retain the details (including the password) and automatically connect to your self-managed content server each time Autodesk Inventor is started.

Once you have signed in, you are ready to start collaborating through Altium CoDesigner.

Once you have signed in to your managed content server you can open an existing board, or create a new board assembly

Configuring the AutoDesk Inventor Collaboration Settings

Once you have signed in, collaboration settings can be configured via the settings button ( CoDesigner settings button ) at the top of the Altium CoDesigner panel.

Configuring the CoDesigner Autodesk Inventor settings

  • Common folder for storing models that are coming from ECAD - All component models created by CoDesigner are stored in this location, regardless of project. The board part and board assembly are created by CoDesigner in the project folder specified during the initial pull into Autodesk Inventor. If no location is specified, all component models will be created in the project folder and will be unavailable for reuse in other projects.
  • Build 3D geometry for copper - Top and bottom layer copper layers are always represented as decals on surfaces of the board part. When this option is enabled, CoDesigner will also create extruded features to represent all copper layers, as well as thruhole plating. Note that enabling this option can create a large amount of data that significantly impacts performance.
  • Use a common folder for storing models if you work with multiple PCB designs with a percentage of reused components, as it will save time and storage space when loading a new project.
  • If a component is fixed or constrained in MCAD, it becomes locked in ECAD (regardless of if that constraint allows any movements within the PCB assembly or not). If a component is locked in ECAD, it becomes fixed in MCAD unless it is already constrained there. Changes in the locked/fixed state are synchronized between MCAD and ECAD.

Installing the CoDesigner Add-In for PTC Creo

To interface from PTC Creo to Altium Designer you need to install the Altium CoDesigner for PTC Creo Add-In. 

Click the CoDesigner button to access the Altium CoDesigner panel

To install the Add-In:

  1. Close PTC Creo before installing.
  2. Download and install the PTC Creo Add-In (AltiumCoDesignerPtcCreo_Installer.exe).
  3. Launch PTC Creo, the application Ribbon will include an Altium section with a CoDesigner button, click this to show/hide the Altium CoDesigner panel. All collaboration activities are performed through this panel.

If you are using a Workspace hosted on Altium 365, you can also download the add-in installer from the Workspace's browser interface. From the MCAD Plugins page click on the PTC Creo tile. On the subsequent page, click the Click the Download Installer button to download the CoDesigner add-in button to download the installer.

Displaying the Collaboration Panel

Once the Add-in has been enabled, the Altium CoDesigner panel can be turned on and off as required

If the Altium CoDesigner panel does not appear in PTC Creo:

  1. Click the CoDesigner button in the Altium section of the Ribbon, as shown above.
  2. The Altium CoDesigner panel will display, click the button a second time to hide the panel.

If the CoDesigner button does not appear on the ribbon, follow the steps detailed here.

Connecting to your Managed Content Server in PTC Creo

PTC Creo collaborates with Altium Designer through a managed content server, which you must sign in to the first time you use it.

When you are not signed in, the Altium CoDesigner panel will include sign-in fields, as shown above. There are two sign-in modes, one for signing into a Workspace on Altium 365, the other for signing in to your self-managed content server. Click the Use Custom Server / Use Altium 365 link towards the bottom of the panel to switch between the two sign-in modes.

Below are separate descriptions for signing in when the managed content server is hosted, or self-managed.

Connecting to a WOrkspace hosted on Altium 365

The first step is to sign in to your managed content server, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner panel

  1. Enter the email address you use to sign in to Altium Live as your User Name, and your Altium Live Password.
  2. Enable the Sign in Automatically option to retain the details (including the password) and automatically connect to your workspace (through the Altium 365 platform) each time PTC Creo is started.
  3. Click the Sign In button to connect.

Multiple Workspaces are supported - click the Button to access the workspace management options button at the top of the Altium CoDesigner panel and select the required Workspace.

Menu used to select the active workspace, to change to a custom server, or sign out

Connecting to a self-managed Content Server

The first step is to sign in to your managed content server, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner panel

  1. The first time you sign in you must specify the Server address (URL) to connect to your self-managed content server. The address will be provided by the administrator of your managed content server.
  2. Enter your User Name and Password, these will also be provided by the administrator of your managed content server.
  3. Enable the Sign in Automatically option to retain the details (including the password) and automatically connect to your self-managed Altium content server each time PTC Creo is started.

Once you have signed in, you are ready to start collaborating through Altium CoDesigner.

Once you have signed in to your managed content server you can open an existing board, or create a new board assembly

Configuring the PTC Creo Collaboration Settings

Once you have signed in, collaboration settings can be configured via the settings button ( CoDesigner settings button ) at the top of the Altium CoDesigner panel.

Configuring the CoDesigner PTC Creo settings

  • Common folder for storing models that are coming from ECAD - All component models created by CoDesigner are stored in this location, regardless of project. The board part and board assembly are created by CoDesigner in the project folder specified during the initial pull into PTC Creo. If no location is specified, all component models will be created in the project folder and will be unavailable for reuse in other projects.
  • Build 3D geometry for copper - Top and bottom layer copper layers are always represented as decals on surfaces of the board part. When this option is enabled, CoDesigner will also create extruded features to represent all copper layers, as well as thruhole plating. Note that enabling this option can create a large amount of data that significantly impacts performance.
  • Use a common folder for storing models if you work with multiple PCB designs with a percentage of reused components, as it will save time and storage space when loading a new project.
  • If a component is fixed or constrained in MCAD, it becomes locked in ECAD (regardless of if that constraint allows any movements within the PCB assembly or not). If a component is locked in ECAD, it becomes fixed in MCAD unless it is already constrained there. Changes in the locked/fixed state are synchronized between MCAD and ECAD.

If the CoDesigner Panel does not appear in Creo

There are certain situations when the button that is used to display/hide the CoDesigner panel does not appear in Creo. Use the following steps to resolve this.

Check if the CoDesigner panel Display Button is Hidden

The visibility of the button that you click on to display the CoDesigner panel is configured in the Creo Parametric Options dialog. The dialog can be accessed by right-clicking on the Ribbon in Creo and selecting the Customize the Ribbon command from the context menu.

  • Confirm that the Altium (Custom) option is enabled, as shown below.

  • If the Altium (Custom) option is enabled and the CoDesigner button is still not visible in the Creo Ribbon, click the Reset button in the dialog and run the Reset only selected Ribbon tab command, as shown above.

Add-In has Failed to Initialize

If the CoDesigner Add-In does not appear in the Creo Parametric Options dialog, it may have failed to initialize. The best way to resolve this is to reinstall the Add-In.

Add-In has Failed to Load

If the Add-In does not appear after completing the steps just described, it may have failed to register correctly in Creo. In this situation:

  • Open the Auxilary Applications dialog, as shown below.

  • Click the Info button in the dialog to display an information window, which will include Altium CoDesigner if it has successfully loaded.

  • If Altium CoDesigner is not listed, close the information dialog and click the Register button in the Auxilary Applications dialog.
  • The Register Auxiliary Applications dialog will appear, navigate to the location where the Add-In installation files are located for your version of Creo. The image below shows this for Creo 5.0.

  • Select the Altium.dat file and click Open. If the Add-In has already been sucessfully registered the following dialog will appear:

  • If none of these steps have resolved the issue, contact Altium support.

Configuring your Managed Content Server Settings

Accessing your Managed Content Server in your Browser

Altium CoDesigner transfers PCB design changes through a managed content server. To check and change your project and team settings you can log in to your managed content server via a web browser. The approach you use to log in depends on how your managed content server is hosted.

Your managed content server can be configured and managed through a web browserYour managed content server can be configured and managed through a web browser.

The easiest way to access a hosted Workspace is to log in to https://365.altium.com/.

The first time you sign in an overview page will display, use this if you would like to familiarize yourself more with your Workspace. Otherwise, click on the Team label on the left to configure the team members that have access to your Workspace.

If you have multiple Workspaces available, click on your login name at the top right to display a menu where you can select the required Workspace.

A self-managed content server will be hosted on a company server. Your system administrator can provide the server address and login details, the URL will be in the form:

http://<HostingServerName>:9780 

or 

https://<HostingServerName>:9785  (showing the default port numbers, these are assigned during installation)

 Sign into your self managed your managed content server via a web browser

Your system administrator configures the Users, Passwords, and Roles.

Configuring the Team and MCAD Settings in the Workspace

Each person who needs access to your shared Workspace (directly, or from a design open in their ECAD or MCAD software) must be added to the Team and assigned a Role that gives them the appropriate permissions to access the files stored on the Workspace. Although their interfaces are different, the process for adding a team member and assigning a role is essentially the same for a Workspace hosted on Altium 365, or a self-managed content server.

Adding Team Members and Assigning Roles

The approach is to Add or Invite a new Team Member. As part of adding the team member, they can be assigned a Role; such as Mechanical Engineer, Librarian, Engineer, and so on. New Roles can also be defined. The image below shows where you add a new team member in a Workspace hosted on Altium 365, hover the cursor over the image to see the settings in Concord Pro.

Invite new members to your team from within your managed content serverCheck your team members and assign their roles.

Learn more about Managing Your Team in a Workspace hosted on Altium 365

Learn more about Adding Users and Assigning Roles in a self-managed content server

In a Workspace hosted on Altium 365, you can also invite team members who are not part of your organization.
Learn more about Inviting Other Users to Your Team

Configuring the ECAD-MCAD Component Linkage

One of the challenges of transferring design data between the MCAD and ECAD environments is managing how the components are transferred. In many companies, the ECAD and MCAD teams create and manage their own separate component libraries and need to be able to link between the MCAD and ECAD versions of that component.

The default behavior is when a design is Pushed from either the MCAD or ECAD domains, CoDesigner converts the components to Parasolid format models and stores them in the workspace. When that design is Pulled, CoDesigner then builds a model of each component in the format required by the target tool. The disadvantage of this approach is that the model does not fully represent the component as it needs to be represented in that tool. For example, when a design is Pulled in to Altium Designer the component will not include the pads, silkscreen and other entities typically included in a PCB component. Nor will it be linked to a schematic symbol, or into the supply chain.

To manage the requirement for each design tool to be able to use native components, CoDesigner supports linking between the MCAD and ECAD components. The links are defined in the Altium 365 Workspace, which acts as a bridge between the ECAD and domains.

  • MCAD to ECAD component linking is available for all supported MCAD platforms.
  • ECAD to MCAD component linking is currently only supported in PTC Creo Parametric.

MCAD to ECAD, and ECAD to MCAD component linkage is enabled and configured in your content management server. This image shows a workspace hosted on Altium 365.

  • CoDesigner checks these settings on start up (from Altium Designer and from the MCAD tools). Restart your design software if the settings have been changed.
  • Support for ECAD to MCAD component linking via a self-managed Concord Pro server is coming soon.

Learn more about Linking Native ECAD and MCAD Design Components

Recommendations on the Collaboration Workflow

ECAD-MCAD CoDesign is a flexible process, there is no prescriptive approach that must be followed. While it is common for the board shape to be designed in MCAD, the board thickness must be defined in ECAD because that is where the various PCB layer materials are selected and configured. This requirement leads to a recommended design flow, as outlined below.

Starting the Collaboration Process

  1. In ECAD, create the project, add a PCB, and define the layer stack to set the board thickness. The saved project and board become the ECAD designer's working files.
  2. In ECAD, open the MCAD CoDesigner panel and Push the board - this saves the project and the current board definition to your managed content server.

In Altium Designer, the CoDesign project must be a managed project. It is not necessary to start with a managed project though, if the project has been created as a local project it is automatically converted when you first attempt to Push.

Create the Project

The PCB must be part of a project to be shared with an MCAD designer.

The Create Project dialog is used to create a managed project in your managed content server

To create a new managed project:

  1. Select File » New » Project to open the Create Project dialog.
  2. In the Locations column, select your managed content server.
  3. Set the Project Type to PCB <Default>
  4. Set the remaining dialog options to:
    • Project Name - the name of the Altium Designer project
    • Description - optional description of the project
    • Folder - the folder where the project is stored in your managed content server
    • Local Storage - folder on your hard disk, below which the working copy of the project will be stored (a project folder, named the same as your project, is automatically created)
When the Workspace is hosted on Altium 365, the Folder and Local Storage fields are accessed by clicking the Advanced control.

Add a PCB to the Project

Regardless of where the project is first created, a PCB must be added to the project in Altium Designer.

Add a PCB to the managed project

Adding a new PCB:

  1. Select File » New » PCB, a new blank PCB will be added to the project and opened in the workspace.
  2. Save the PCB with a suitable name (File » Save).

Define the PCB Layer Stack

The Layer Stack, or Z-plane properties of the CoDesign board, are defined in Altium Designer's Layer Stack Manager.

It is important to define the layer stack so that the overall board thickness is defined for the MCAD designer

Defining the Layer Stack:

  1. Select Design » Layer Stack Manager, the Layer Stack Manager editor will open on a separate document tab, as shown above.
  2. Use the right-click menu to add the required new layers to the layer stack.
  3. For each layer, click the ellipsis button ( Click the ellipsis button to configure the material for that layer ) in the Material column to select the correct layer material from the Material Library.
  4. Save the Layer Stack to update the PCB with these changes.
  5. Save the PCB file.

Learn more about defining the layer stack

Push the Board to the MCAD Designer

Assuming that the X-Y shape of the board is being defined in the MCAD software, the board can now be Pushed.

Once the layer stack has been defined the board can be pushed to the MCAD designer

Pushing the board to the MCAD software:
  1. If the MCAD CoDesigner panel is not open, click the Click the Panels button to open the MCAD CoDesigner panel button (lower right of the software) and select it from the menu.
  2. Click the Push button in the panel. The button may also say Push and Share, more on this below.
  3. A message window will appear, enter a message for the MCAD designer that describes what you are pushing to them.
  4. Click Post to complete the Push process. A message dialog will appear, reporting the status of the process.
  5. When the Push is complete, the panel will display the Activity thread, as shown above.

Push and Share to Invite a Mechanical Engineer (Workspace hosted on Altium 365)

If the project is already shared in your hosted Workspace with a user who has the Mechanical Engineers role assigned, you will see Push as the only option on MCAD CoDesigner panel. If the project has not been shared yet, the button will display Push and Share. When this is clicked you will be able to send an invitation to the mechanical engineer, they will be added to the team in your managed content server, and the project will be shared with them.

A new project can be shared with an MCAD Designer when the board is first pushed

Learn more about what happens when you click Push and Share

  • All Administrators for the Workspace will receive a notification email that the Mechanical Engineer (presenting their email address) was invited and added to the Workspace.
  • The non-AltiumLive Mechanical Engineer, upon signing up, will be treated by AltiumLive as if they were their own personal organization. They will not be added to your organization.

Note that the PCB pushed to the managed content server is identified by the project name, not the board's filename. If you push a second PCB from the same project, it will overwrite the first PCB.

  1. In MCAD, Pull the Board From Server in the Altium CoDesigner panel - this creates an MCAD board assembly based on the board definition in your managed content server.

If the project and the board have already been created in Altium Designer but not yet opened in your MCAD software, the project must be Pulled from your managed content server. To do this:

  1. Open your MCAD software.
  2. Display the Altium CoDesigner panel. Sign in to your managed content server if you are not currently signed in.
  3. Because there is no assembly currently open, the panel will display the New Board Assembly and Pull Board from Server buttons. Click the Pull Board From Server button.
  4. The Select Project dialog will open, select the required project and click Open.

If the board has not been opened in the MCAD software, click the Pull Board from Server button

  1. In SOLIDWORKS and Autodesk Inventor, the Windows Save As dialog will appear; save the MCAD assembly in a suitable location.
    In PTC Creo the Checkout Project dialog will appear, where the MCAD Project assembly can be renamed if required. It also details the current Working Directory and the Models Library Folder locations. Click Checkout to create the MCAD assembly.

Use the Checkout Project dialog to rename the assembly, and confirm the locations of the Working Directory and models

  1. The board assembly will display in the MCAD workspace, ready to be worked on. Save the MCAD design changes in the MCAD assembly.

Modify the board shape as required, and save the changes as an MCAD assembly

  1. Whenever required, design changes can be passed to the ECAD environment by clicking the Push button in the Altium CoDesigner panel.
  1. In MCAD, configure the board shape, define the mounting holes, and position location-critical mechatronic components. Save the MCAD assembly.
  2. In MCAD, Push the board - this saves the board definition, holes and placed component details to your managed content server.
  3. In ECAD, open the board and perform a Pull to load the updated board definition and component details from your managed content server.

The precision of changes which CoDesigner currently detects are: 0.5 mils (0.0127 mm) for linear dimensions, and 0.5 degrees for angular dimensions. This precision will be increased in a future CoDesigner update.

At any point in the design process, changes can be transferred between the MCAD and ECAD tools in the CoDesigner panel.

Changes to the board and component detail are Pushed to ECAD in the Altium CoDesigner panel  Changes to the board and component detail are Pulled from MCAD in the MCAD CoDesigner panel Changes are pushed and pulled between the MCAD and ECAD tools.

  1. To transfer design changes, click the Push button in the corresponding panel.
  2. When the Push button has been clicked, an editing window appears at the top of the source editor's panel. Enter a message about the design change then click Post.
  3. When Post is clicked:
    • The working copy of the modified PCB file is automatically saved if it is currently unsaved.
    • The changes are written to your managed content server.
    • The Posted message is displayed in the message thread of the source editor's CoDesigner panel.
    • The target editor's panel will display a message that there is a change pending the next time they open their working copy of the design file, as shown in the image above on the right.
  4. Click View Changes in the target editor's panel, a list detailing each change needed to re-synchronize the designs will be displayed.

Working with the Change List

When the View Changes button is clicked, each change that needs to be made to the working file to synchronize it with the snapshot on your managed content server is listed, as shown below.

Incoming changes are detailed in the CoDesigner panel, these can be selectively enabled as required

  • Each difference detected between the current design and the snapshot stored in your managed content server is detailed as a Change in the Change List.
  • A Change does not have to be accepted. If a change is ignored it will appear in the Change List again, the next time an update is performed in that direction. Be aware that if you choose to ignore a change, for example moving a mounting hole, and you then perform a Push of your design changes, the ignored change may be overwritten since in your version the mounting hole still has the old location. The MCAD designer can avoid losing their change by not accepting your mounting hole move.
  • A single design change, such as changing the location of a component, can become multiple changes in the Change List. When a PCB component is moved there are MCAD changes to the location of: the component, the shapes that component makes on the Component Overlay, and the shapes that component makes in the top and bottom copper layers. Related changes should all be applied together.
  • The list may include changes that cannot be applied in the target environment. In this situation, the change will be displayed but the checkbox will be unavailable, indicating that this difference cannot be resolved.
  • Where possible, the selected change is highlighted in the workspace when you click on it in the Change List.
  • Click Apply to apply the changes that are ticked.

Components are placed by coordinates within a PCB assembly, if the board part sketch is moved in MCAD the components will not move with the board. Make sure the entire assembly is selected before moving it within the workspace, or constrain the components to the board to ensure the components move with the board. Note that modifications to the board shape in ECAD can break MCAD constraints that reference the board shape.

Refer to the Recommendations for the Mechanical Engineer section for more detailed information on defining the board shape, adding holes, and positioning components.

  1. In MCAD or ECAD, reopen the assembly or PCB file to continue working on the design.

To continue working on an existing board design (either ECAD or MCAD), simply re-open your working copy of the Assembly (MCAD), or project and board file (ECAD). If there are any updates pending the CoDesigner panel will display a warning that New changes have been detected! 

If there are changes pending a message will automatically appear in the panelIf the mechanical assembly already exists, reopen it to continue working on the design.

The following types of PCBs will not be transferred from ECAD to MCAD:

  • Rigid-flex boards are not supported in Autodesk Inventor or PTC Creo, the board will import to MCAD as a single rigid structure. Rigid-flex boards are supported in SOLIDWORKS, learn more about Synchronizing a Rigid-Flex Board in SOLIDWORKS.
  • Multi-board assemblies

You can also start the design process in your MCAD software. The process is the same in all of the supported MCAD environments.

You start the design process in your MCAD software in the Altium CoDesigner panel.

If the ECAD project does not exist it can be created in the MCAD software, along with the board assembly. Keep in mind that any constraints and dimensions you create before the board thickness is defined on the ECAD side may be lost when the ECAD designer edits the board thickness and pushes this to MCAD.

The board project can be started in the MCAD software, if required

  1. Sign in to to CoDesigner, as described in the Installing and Configuring CoDesigner in Your MCAD Software section.
  2. Click the New Board button in the Altium CoDesigner panel (also referred to as a tab in some MCAD tools).
  3. The Select Project dialog will open, click the New Project button in the dialog, as shown above.
  4. The Create New Server Project dialog will open. In the dialog, enter a suitable Name and optional Description for the project, and click OK. The Windows Save As dialog will open.
  5. A default board assembly is now being created in the MCAD software, which you need to save in a suitable location. Enter a name, select a location to store the assembly, and click Save in the Windows Save As dialog. The MCAD workspace will display the new, default board shape. As part of this step an Altium Designer project is also created in your managed content server.
  6. The new board shape information does not exist in your managed content server yet. To add it, click the Push button on the Altium CoDesigner panel. A message window will appear on the Altium CoDesigner panel, this message will be displayed in the ECAD software.
  7. Enter a brief description in the message window and click the Post button. A message dialog will appear while the changes made to the board shape are being saved to your managed content server. When that process is complete your Push message will appear in the Altium CoDesigner panel.
  • When you click the Push button you are saving a list of push-able changes into your managed content server, not the complete board file. A board file must also be created in Altium Designer, any pending MCAD changes can then be Pulled into Altium Designer and applied to it. Refer to the Add a PCB to the Project section to learn how to create the board file in Altium Designer.
  • You can continue to edit the board shape in your MCAD software but it can not be considered functional until the board thickness has been defined in Altium Designer. The board thickness is determined by defining the Layer Stack in Altium Designer. This should be done before placing 3D Models and mounting holes in the MCAD software because a change to the board thickness can affect clearances between 3D Models and the board assembly.
  • The working copy of the MCAD design is a standard mechanical design file, stored in the default format of your MCAD software. The MCAD software remains aware that the assembly is part of a CoDesign, and will automatically check the synchronization status whenever the assembly is opened, and update the Altium CoDesign panel to display the message history and details of any pending changes.

CoDesigning a PCB with Variants

Altium Designer allows the electronics designer to create variations of the product they are designing. Supported variations include: flagging a component as not fitted; modifying a component's parameters, including the component value that is silkscreened on the board; or replacing a component with an alternate component (which may or may not use a different footprint).

In Altium Designer, there is only one board design. Variant information, such as details about an alternate component, is stored in the project file and applied to the board when the variant is selected in the Projects panel. The [No Variations] version of the board is saved as the PcbDoc.

Altium Designer can be used to create variations of a board design, select the variant in the Projects panel then Push to MCAD in the CoDesigner panel.

Pushing a Variant from ECAD

CoDesigner supports Pushing and Pulling a specific variant of a board between ECAD and MCAD. When you perform a Push from ECAD, you are pushing the variant you are currently looking at in the PCB editor.

Double-click in the Projects panel to select the required variant to be Pushed.

Each time a board is Pushed from Altium Designer to the managed content server, it overwrites the data saved during the previous Push. If multiple variants need to be pushed, each variant must be Pulled to MCAD and saved before the next variant is Pushed from Altium Designer.

Pulling a Variant in to MCAD

A PCB variant is Pulled to MCAD in the same way as a non-variant PCB, by clicking Pull Board from Server button in the Altium CoDesigner panel. If the board is a variant, additional information detailing the variant name is displayed at the top of the Altium CoDesigner panel, as shown below.

Each component that is varied is identified by including the variant name in the designator, as detailed below.

  • Non-varied component: <EcadDesignator>
  • Varied component: <EcadDesignator>_VARIANT_<VariantName>

Varied components are identifed by their MCAD part name and their designator.

Because the default name for the MCAD board assembly is the project name, it is recommended to save each variant assembly with a variant-related name.

Pushing a Variant from MCAD

In MCAD, CoDesigner is aware if a component is part of the base design [No Variations], or belongs to a specific variant. Changes made to a component in the base design [No Variations] will impact all variants of the board in Altium Designer, while changes made in a specific variant will only be applied to that variant in Altium Designer.

Modifications made to a variant are pushed from MCAD to ECAD in the usual way, by clicking Push in the Altium CoDesigner panel.

Pulling a Variant in to ECAD

If you attempt to perform a Pull in to Altium Designer and the wrong variant is currently active, you will receive the following error message. The applicable variant name is displayed in the Error dialog, switch to that variant and Pull again.

The Pull cannot be completed as the wrong variant is active in Altium Designer.

If there have been changes made to a component in the base design, they can be applied in any variant in Altium Designer. Those changes will then be present in all variants in Altium Designer.

Learn more about Variants in Altium Designer

Recommendations for the Mechanical Engineer

This section details functionality and behaviors that the mechanical engineer should be aware of when using CoDesigner.

Synchronizing Changes Between Mechanical Engineers

  1. CoDesigner transfers the mechanical PCB assembly to ECAD through an Altium managed content server, such as an Altium 365 Workspace. The changes Pushed/Pulled through the server are directional - the PCB assembly Pushed from MCAD (and Pulled to ECAD) is stored separately on the server from the PCB assembly Pushed from ECAD (and Pulled to MCAD). That means a second mechanical engineer cannot Pull the modified board that a mechanical engineer just Pushed to the server, instead they will be Pulling the last-pushed ECAD data. Note that MCAD constraints exist only in the MCAD assembly in which they were created.  When the board is pushed from MCAD to ECAD, the component positions resulting from the constraints are pushed, but not the constraints themselves.  Therefore if the board is pulled into a new MCAD assembly, none of the constraints created by a previous MCAD engineer will be included.

ECAD and MCAD changes are stored separately on the server.

To allow other mechanical engineers to see your changes, save your PCB assembly in the same way as you do for any other assembly - to common storage available for both. This method will preserve any MCAD constraints. Alternatively, get the ECAD designer to Pull the data into Altium Designer, save it, and then Push the updated design back to MCAD. However, as explained above, no MCAD constraints will be included by using this method.

  1. Another important point is that changes made to the same PCB assembly by different mechanical engineers are not merged when they are Pushed, the latest change Pushed by any mechanical engineer will overwrite previous changes Pushed by other mechanical engineers.

Pictorial Demonstration of the Synchronization Process

ECAD and MCAD push their changes to different storage locations on the managed content server. That means each engineer can only pull changes that have been pushed by the other engineer. Those changes will only include their own changes if they’ve already been accepted by the other engineer, before the other engineer has pushed.

For example, a board is created in ECAD, Pushed to the Workspace, and Pulled to MCAD:

Javascript

If the ECAD engineer then adds components AND the MCAD engineer adds holes, AND if each Pushes their board then Pulls the other’s board, CoDesigner will try to remove the holes in the MCAD engineer's board, and remove the components on the ECAD engineer's board:

Javascript

Each engineer does have the option to reject specific proposed changes, for example the ECAD engineer could accept the addition of the holes but reject the deletion of the removed components. However working in this way can be hard to manage with complex boards and/or changes. Another point is that all changes to the decals are only seen by CoDesigner as a single change, so can only be accepted or rejected as a whole, not individually.

A better approach is for one engineer to make their changes and push the board, then for the other engineer to pull the board before making their changes, as shown below.

Javascript

Use a circular approach to passing design changes between ECAD and MCAD.

Initial Definition of the Board Shape

Traditionally, the board outline is often initially created in MCAD and then sent to ECAD in the form of a DXF drawing or a STEP model.  This file is then used to recreate the outline in ECAD.

However, in some cases, the ECAD transformation and approximation process brings some issues with the contours because of precision, micro-segments, and self-intersecting contours. Those issues might be not noticeable in ECAD, however, they may cause problems with the creation of the board in MCAD by CoDesigner.

In order to avoid such issues, if you already have a board part geometry defined in MCAD, instead of exporting it to DXF/STEP, use CoDesigner to directly synchronize the board with ECAD.

Resolving Issues with the Board Contour in ECAD

When the board is Pushed from ECAD, CoDesigner checks the board contour and warns the user if there are issues with micro-segments, or if self-intersecting contours have been found. When the board is Pulled to MCAD, CoDesigner will attempt to resolve these issues. If they cannot be resolved, they must be resolved in ECAD.

To fix the issues in ECAD:

  1. Copy the error information from the dialog into a text editor so the coordinates for the issues are available.
  2. Set the snap grid (Gtrl+G shortcut) to a small value (eg 0.001 mil) so you can make small changes to the location of vertices.
  3. Switch to View » Board Planning Mode.
  4. Zoom in to the location of the issue. Alternatively, use the Jump Location command (Edit » Jump » New Location, or J, L shortcut) and type the coordinates into the Jump to Location dialog. Note that you can include the units (mm or mil) with the value if they are different from the current board units. If the issue is due to an arc, the issue location could be the arc center point. In this situation visually check the board outline for short, shallow arcs.
  5. Run the Design » Edit Board Shape command (D, D shortcut). The board outline will display vertices at the ends and center of each edge. Check for multiple vertices that are very close together, and very shallow arcs. Use the following tips to help you resolve issues:
    1. Click and drag on an edge or a vertex to modify the shape. There are three shape modification modes available during editing: Break edge, Move (slide) edge, Incurvate (bend) edge; press Shift+Space during editing to cycle through the modes. The current mode is displayed on the Status bar.
    2. Move the vertex at the end of a short edge slightly, then release the mouse button. Often this will be sufficient for the software to resolve and remove the short edge.
    3. A short shallow arc can be converted to a straight edge by dragging the center vertex in Incurvate mode to flatten the arc (it will be replaced by a straight edge when you release).
    4. Green alignment guides will display when the moving edge or arc chord aligns with an existing edge.
    5. Click and hold on a vertex then press Delete to remove it; to add a vertex hold Ctrl as you click on the edge, then position the cursor and release.
  6. Push the board again.

Board contour self intersections and micro-segments must be resolved before the board can be pushed to MCAD.

Learn more about the Vertex Editing Modes

Learn more about Defining the Board Shape

Fixing one issue forces ECAD to recalculate the entire contour of the board or cutout and that recalculation might solve other issues automatically, so it is recommended to do a Push after each fix action.

Visibility of Changes Made on the ECAD side

It is important to open the PCB assembly itself in your MCAD software, not the parent device/assembly that the PCB assembly is being designed to fit in. If the PCB assembly is opened, changes made and pushed from the ECAD side will be detailed in the Altium CoDesigner panel. Changes will not be detailed in the panel if the parent device/assembly is opened.

Getting Changes to your PCB Assembly from ECAD

  1. Open your PCB assembly as a separate file (as a root assembly) in MCAD.
  2. Open the Altium CoDesigner panel.
  3. Click Pull.
  4. Review the changes in the table, enable the ones you want to be applied, and click the Apply button.

Before being transferred from ECAD to MCAD, the 3D component models are transformed to the Parasolid format. There may be situations where some of the models can not be transformed. Such models are replaced with their bounding box in MCAD, and CoDesigner shows a warning message about this.

Alternatively, you can replace such a model with a single-body parasolid model in ECAD, as these are transferred directly between ECAD and MCAD without transformation. Learn more about Resolving Problematic Models.

When you have a PCB Assembly Open in MCAD for the First Time

  1. Add the PCB assembly to your device’s assembly.
  2. Secure it by applying suitable mates/constraints.

If a contour of the PCB does not correspond to the shape of your enclosure:

  1. Start editing the Board part.
  2. Edit the sketch of the board’s extrusion and adjust its shape to the enclosure.

Notes:

  • One approach to changing the PCB shape is to delete the whole outline and to create it from scratch using an offset from the corresponding contour of your enclosure.
  • Do not change the quadrant in the XY plane where the initial board sketch was located. Otherwise, issues with shifting some board entities may appear.*
  • After editing the board outline sketch it is important to check if the board sketch refers to a part of your device, and if it does, break those references. Otherwise, it may cause CoDesigner errors when interpreting the board outline.*
    • In Creo, if you have created the board outline sketch using an Offset that refers to the enclosure, it is advised that you break that reference to avoid causing CoDesigner errors when interpreting the board outline.

Making Changes to the PCB Design in MCAD

Below are some tips for ensuring the design shapes and objects used in MCAD will be supported when the board is pushed to ECAD.

Editing the board outline shape:

  1. Start editing the Board part.
  2. Edit the sketch of the board’s extrusion.

Notes:

  • Do not include any internal contours in the board outline sketch in Creo and Inventor, or in the rigid-flex board outline sketch in SolidWorks. For cutouts and holes, use the Extruded Cut or the Hole feature, accordingly.
  • Bear in mind that after confirming the sketch changes, the components, holes, and other features will remain in the same position relative to the datum planes of the assembly (which, by default, coincide with the datum planes of the board part).

Changing the MCAD Board Origin:

  1. If necessary, the mechanical engineer can change the MCAD origin of a bare board in the early stages of the board definition. To do that, the mechanical engineer can simply move or redraw the entire sketch of the board outline, within the board part. Note that the board part is constrained as “fixed” within the board assembly, with its origin coincident with that of the assembly (therefore “MCAD origin” relates to both the board part origin and the board assembly origin). It’s strongly recommended that this constraint is NOT modified or broken, because it may cause unpredictable changes.

Notes:

  • If components are already placed, they should be moved within the board assembly, accordingly.
  • The “electrical” board origin in ECAD will not be changed, as it is handled separately.

Creating/editing Mounting Holes:

  1. Start editing the Board part.
  2. Create/edit a Hole feature on the top or the bottom surface of the board part.

Notes:

  • Feature patterns are not supported.*
  • If the hole locations are defined in relation to the board edge, these relations will be destroyed if the board outline is subsequently modified in ECAD and brought back into MCAD. See the section Working with Constraints and Dimensions below, for more information on working with holes.

Creating/editing Cutouts:

  1. Start editing the Board part.
  2. Create/edit an Extruded Cut feature based on the top or the bottom surface of the board part.

Notes:

  • Sketches with multiple contours are not supported in PTC Creo or Autodesk Inventor, they should not be used.*
  • Feature patterns are not supported.*
  • If the sketch of the extruded cut is defined in relation to the board edge, these relations will be destroyed if the board outline is subsequently modified in ECAD and brought back into MCAD.

Editing the placement of components:

  1. Start editing the Board assembly.
  2. Move/rotate/flip, or mate/constrain a component.

Notes:

  • Component holes and the silkscreen do not follow component moves in MCAD. To reflect component-dependent changes like these; Push the board to ECAD, apply the changes there, then Push the board from ECAD back to MCAD to update the component holes and silkscreen.
  • MCAD mates/constraints that reference a board edge can be destroyed if the board shape is modified in ECAD.

Synchronizing Fixed or Constrained in MCAD to Locked in ECAD

If a component is fixed or constrained in MCAD, it becomes locked in ECAD (regardless of if that constraint allows any movements within the PCB assembly or not). If a component is locked in ECAD, it becomes fixed in MCAD unless it is already constrained there. Changes in the locked/fixed state are synchronized between MCAD and ECAD.

Transferring ECAD Component Parameters to MCAD

ECAD PCB component parameters are transferred to the corresponding models created in MCAD. Note that this does not include components that were originally placed in MCAD.

Working with Constraints and Dimensions in MCAD

Constraints applied to the board outline:

  1. The mechanical engineer can apply a constraint from an element of the board outline: to another board outline element; to a datum/reference feature; to a part in a higher level assembly; or to a component. CoDesigner does not modify these constraints. However, if the board outline is changed on the ECAD side, the sketch of the board part will be redrawn in MCAD and all of the edge IDs will be changed. Note that any change to any part of the board outline in ECAD will result in the entire board being redrawn in MCAD, and all board edge IDs changing.  If there was a constraint applied to those edges or to the derived surfaces, those constraints will be broken. The board will stay in place in MCAD, and if necessary, the constraints can be manually restored. But considering that this will take some time, it is better to make changes to the board outline on the MCAD side only.

Note: Keep in mind that CoDesigner can not be used for transferring changes between Mechanical Engineers (see Synchronizing changes between Mechanical Engineers).

Constraints applied to the components:

  1. The mechanical engineer can apply a constraint from a component: to the board; to an enclosure; or to another component. These constraints will stay healthy if the model of that component can be found locally (if the PCB assembly is not built from scratch in a different folder, or if a common folder is set up for storing models). However, if a component is moved on the ECAD side, the placement change on the MCAD side may not correspond to that movement and should be checked manually (CoDesigner will notify you in this situation). For components with an ECAD footprint, the component standoff (location relative to the board surface in the Z direction) will always be defined by the position of the STEP model in the footprint.  CoDesigner will always attempt to override any conflicting MCAD constraints on a Pull into MCAD.

Note: Be careful with where the mates/constraints are applied. For example, if you have not secured the PCB assembly within the device assembly and then applied a constraint/mate between a PCB component and the enclosure, it may cause unpredictable changes in your design.

Changes that will Not be Transferred from MCAD to ECAD

  • Bare Board thickness - defined by the Layer Stack in ECAD.

Note: the changes made to the board thickness in MCAD will be shown as a non-applicable change in ECAD, so the ECAD designer will be aware of the change being proposed.

  • Any additional geometric features applied to the board part (eg. 3D chamfers/fillets), except for holes and extruded cuts in the board's z-axis direction.
  • Any additional geometric features created in the context of the board assembly (eg. holes created in the context of an assembly), unless these features are propagated to parts.
  • The location of component holes if they are moved separately from the component.
  • The size of component holes.
  • Feature Patterns.
  • Sketches of cutouts with multiple contours (in PTC Creo and Autodesk Inventor).
  • Changes made to the extruded copper.
  • Changes made to the silkscreen.

Sending Elements of an Enclosure to ECAD

CoDesigner works with the PCB assembly only, whereas elements of an enclosure are a part of the higher-level assembly (the device assembly). Including these elements into the PCB assembly is wrong from the point of view of the overall product structure management.

  • If you want to send enclosure elements to ECAD you can temporarily include them into the PCB assembly for pushing to ECAD, and then remove them immediately after Push. After the board is Pulled in ECAD, such elements will appear as Free 3D Bodies in the PCB editor workspace.

Note that if those enclosure elements are moved back to the device level in MCAD and the board is Pushed again from MCAD and Pulled in to ECAD, CoDesigner will show a delete change in the table. There are two options for how to avoid that deletion, either: do not accept that specific change in ECAD, or move those elements to the board assembly in MCAD before each push.

  • For a Rigid-flex board, the elements of an enclosure should be included in the first level of the PCB assembly, not into an assembly related to a rigid region.

Altium Designer automatically associates the models with the region they are placed in, according to the location of the center of the model (not the origin) - when the board in the unbent state. Keep in mind that if the centers of your parts are located outside of the static region of the board, there is a chance that they will be associated with the wrong (non-static) region of the board.

Sending the PCB Assembly with your Changes to ECAD

  • Make sure your PCB assembly is opened as a separate doc (as a root assembly) in MCAD.
  • Go to the Altium CoDesigner panel.
  • Click Push.

Avoiding Duplication of Components in the MCAD PDM System

CoDesigner creates a part to represent each component in MCAD, with the name taken from the ECAD component footprint. If your PDM is used for managing electrical components, and if the product structure is synchronized between PDM and the structure of the MCAD assembly automatically, it can cause the duplication of parts in your PDM. This situation can be handled manually, for example by setting the “do not include this instance into BOM” flag for PCB components on MCAD side.*

* This behavior is planned to be improved in a future update.

Differences in Object and Feature Support

The table below summarizes the differences between the available MCAD tools. The capabilities continue to be developed, additional feature support will be added over time, where possible.

Feature

SOLIDWORKS

Inventor

PTC Creo

Spline for cutouts and board shape

yes

no

yes

Support of assemblies as Mechanical parts

yes

no

yes

Windchill integration

no

no

yes

 

 

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Valid students can get their very own 6-month Altium Designer Student License for FREE! Just fill out the form below to request your Student License today.

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Got it. You can download a free Altium Designer Viewer license which is valid for a 6 months.

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That’s great! Making things is awesome. We have the perfect program for you.

Upverter is a free community-driven platform designed specifically to meet the needs of makers like you.

Click here to give it a try!

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Got it. You can download a free Altium Designer Viewer license which is valid for a 6 months.

Please fill out the form below to request one.

By clicking “Get Your Free Trial”, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy.
You may receive communications from Altium and can change your notification preferences at any time.