Altium Designer Documentation

Direct ECAD-MCAD Design with Altium CoDesigner

Created: July 27, 2021 | Updated: September 28, 2021

Contents

All Contents

Parent page: ECAD-MCAD CoDesign

This CoDesigner documentation is for:

  • Altium Designer 21.3 or later, with the MCAD CoDesigner extension version 2.6.0 or later
  • Supported MCAD platforms, with CoDesigner Addin version 2.6.0, or later

If you prefer to learn by watching, then you might want to check out the MCAD CoDesign How-To Videos page.

An exciting evolution in the design and development of electronic products is the ability to print the electronic circuit directly onto a substrate, such as a plastic molding that becomes a part of a product.

Altium is building technology to support the design of Printed Electronics. At this stage, CoDesigner does not support the transfer of a printed electronics design between ECAD and MCAD because of the different design approaches needed. Development is ongoing, and support will be added in a future update.

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 have 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 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 an Altium Workspace. The Workspace 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 passing design changes through a Workspace is the update process becomes stateless. That means each side can continue to work independently, there is no need to worry about 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 Workspace. 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 Workspace 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 Workspace?

An Altium Workspace is a dedicated content storage and management system, that couples directly into your design software. Altium Designer works seamlessly with the Workspace, providing an elegant answer to the question of handling design data with secured integrity.

Altium Designer can connect to the following Workspaces:

  • Altium 365 Workspace - a Workspace hosted on the Altium 365 cloud-based infrastructure platform. The Workspace facilitates the seamless connectivity of, and the mechanics for moving data between, the design, manufacturing, and supply domains. A cloud-based Workspace 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.
  • Concord Pro Workspace - a Workspace provided through Concord Pro, a content management solution installed and managed by your own IT department. This variant of a Workspace 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 Workspace, only the creator and Administrators will have write permissions.

Learn more about sharing a project in an Altium 365 Workspace

Learn more about sharing a project in a Concord Pro Workspace

Supported MCAD Software

The following MCAD platforms and versions are currently supported:

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. 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

Each MCAD tool uses a different method of enabling panels (tabs), you'll find details on how to access the Altium CoDesigner panel in the relevant area of the Installing and Configuring CoDesigner in Your MCAD Software section.

CoDesigner MCAD Settings Menu

The CoDesigner settings menu is used to configure CoDesigner in your MCAD software. Click the down arrow at the top right of the Altium CoDesigner panel to open the menu.

Use the menu options to:

  • Check which Server/Workspace you are currently signed in to.
  • Sign out of the Server/Workspace you are currently signed in to.
  • Open the CoDesigner Settings dialog, where you can configure a central location to store models and enable true copper support.
  • Access a Custom Server. Clicking this option will sign you out of the current Workspace and return you to the sign-in mode of the Altium CoDesigner panel.

The panel image is from CoDesigner 2.3.0. From this version onward, the CoDesigner version number is displayed at the bottom of the panel. To check the version number in an older version, open Programs and Features in the Windows Control Panel.

MCAD CoDesigner Panel Tabs

With the release of CoDesigner 2.1.0, the MCAD Altium CoDesigner panel now has two tabs - labeled Activity, and PCB Definition.

  • Activity - displays the history of Push and Pull operations and the associated comments, as displayed in earlier versions of CoDesigner.
  • PCB Definition - displays Board Area definitions that exist on the board. Currently supported area definitions include Keepouts and Rooms, which can be created on both the MCAD and ECAD sides.
    • Click on a definition to configure Keepout settings, or to add a comment to a Room.
    • If the definition has been renamed in the MCAD feature tree, the change will not be immediately reflected in the PCB Definitions tab of the Altium CoDesigner panel. Switch to the Activity tab then back to the PCB Definitions tab to refresh the definitions.

The MCAD Altium CoDesigner panel now has a PCB Definition tab, use this to configure Rooms and Keepouts that have been added to the board.The MCAD Altium CoDesigner panel now has a PCB Definition tab, use this to configure Rooms and Keepouts that have been added to the board.

Not all of the images on this page have been updated to show the new tabbed Altium CoDesigner panel introduced in CoDesigner 2.1.0.

Support for Change History and Rejection Comments

This feature is currently only available if you use an Altium 365 Workspace. For Concord Pro users, it will be available in the next Concord Pro update.

With the release of CoDesigner 2.6.0, CoDesigner now displays the full history of accepted and rejected changes, along with any comments the engineer has entered if a change is rejected.

The history of changes is shown in the CoDesigner panel, making the interaction between the electrical and mechanical engineers more transparent. As soon as changes are applied/rejected on one side the engineer on the other side is notified, and any rejection comments that were entered, are displayed.

Change history makes it easy for the engineers on both sides to be aware of each other's responses to the changes being made. Change history makes it easy for the engineers on both sides to be aware of each other's responses to the changes being made.

A complete history of the changes that have been made in the project can also be viewed in your Workspace (using your browser), or in Altium Designer.

To view the history in your browser first open the project (it will open in a separate browser tab), then click on History in the panel on the left. To view the history in Altium Designer, select Project » History & Version Control » Show Project History from the menus.

The history of changes can be viewed in the Workspace.The history of changes can be viewed in the Workspace.

Note: This feature is not available under the Standard subscription plan on Altium 365.

The CoDesigner MCAD Ribbon

When the CoDesigner Add-In is installed in your MCAD software, it adds the Altium CoDesigner Ribbon to the interface. Click on the Altium CoDesigner tab to access the Ribbon, which provides an easy way of accessing the common PCB-specific design objects needed during the ECAD-MCAD CoDesign process. Using these buttons ensures that the correct MCAD object-type is used to create a compatible ECAD object.

Use the CoDesigner Ribbon to define objects on the PCB in an ECAD-ready way.Use the CoDesigner Ribbon to define objects on the PCB in an ECAD-ready way.

The Ribbon was added to SOLIDWORKS and Autodesk Inventor in the 2.1.0 CoDesigner update, and to PTC Creo in the 2.2.0 CoDesigner update.

Installing and Configuring CoDesigner in Your MCAD Software

The MCAD CoDesigner extension is included in the standard Altium Designer installation, so the 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 the Altium website download page.

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 Altium CoDesigner dialog will appear when the Add-In is not the latest version.The Altium CoDesigner dialog will appear when the Add-In is not the latest version.

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, to ensure that the Add-In version matches the Altium Designer extension version. Details of the Add-In and extension version numbers are included at the end of each new feature summary section in the New in CoDesigner page.

Installing and Configuring CoDesigner in SOLIDWORKS

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

In SOLIDWORKS, enable the Altium CoDesigner Add-In to access the CoDesigner panelInstall and enable the Add-In to access CoDesigner in your MCAD software.

To install the Add-In:

  1. Close SOLIDWORKS before installing.
  2. Download and install the SOLIDWORKS Add-In (AltiumCoDesignerSolidWorks_<VersionNo>.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.

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 CoDesigner is accessed through a SOLIDWORKS Taskpane Tab.

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 Workspace in SOLIDWORKS

SOLIDWORKS collaborates with Altium Designer through your Workspace, 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 an Altium 365 Workspace, the other for signing in to a Concord Pro Workspace.

Connecting to an Altium 365 Workspace

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 an Altium 365 Workspace.

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

Multiple Workspaces are supported - open the CoDesigner menu and select the required Workspace.

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

Connecting to a Concord Pro Workspace

The first step is to sign in to your managed content server, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner panelSigning in to a Concord Pro Workspace.

  1. Select the Use Custom Server option in the Altium CoDesigner Taskpane Tab.
  2. The first time you sign in you must specify the Server address (URL) to connect to the Concord Pro Workspace. The address will be provided by the Concord Pro administrator.
  3. Enter your User Name and Password, these will also be provided by the Concord Pro administrator.
  4. Enable the Sign in Automatically option to retain the details (including the password) and automatically connect to your Workspace each time SOLIDWORKS is started.

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

Once you have signed in to your managed content server you can open an existing board, or create a new board assemblyCoDesigner has been installed and is ready to use.

Configuring the SOLIDWORKS Collaboration Settings

Once you have signed in, CoDesigner settings can be configured in the Altium CoDesigner Settings dialog, opened via the Settings menu entry in the CoDesigner menu (show image).

Configuring the CoDesigner SOLIDWORKS settingsUse the Altium CoDesigner Settings dialog to configure the CoDesigner options.

  • Common folder for storing models that are coming from ECAD - All component models created by CoDesigner are stored in this location, regardless of the project they belong to (note that 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 pads. Note that enabling this option can create a large amount of data that can significantly impact performance.
    Note that this option is not available on a standard subscription plan.
  • Build Vias - enable this option to also include the Via barrels. (Build Vias option added in CoDesigner 2.2.0)
    Note that this option is not available on a standard subscription plan.
  • 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.
  • Participate in the product improvement program - enable this option to automatically share technical information with Altium about your use of CoDesigner.
    Learn more about the product improvement program.
  • 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.

Decal Storage in SOLIDWORKS (CoDesigner 2.3.0)

To better support designers who use SOLIDWORKS with a PDM system, CoDesigner saves the decals (image files that represent the copper, silkscreen and soldermask layers) directly into the board part file. This simplifies the management of the PCB-related files when a PDM system is used on the MCAD side.

Decals are now stored in the SOLIDWORKS prt file, simplifying the process of working with SOLIDWORKS and a PDM system.Decals are now stored in the SOLIDWORKS prt file, simplifying the process of working with SOLIDWORKS and a PDM system.

If you use SOLIDWORKS with a PDM and find that the Image file path continues to reference a location on the hard drive, close the design and remove the image files from that location. SOLIDWORKS will then use the decals stored within the board part the next time the design is opened.

Improved Display of Decals in SOLIDWORKS (CoDesigner 2.5.0)

CoDesigner now combines the copper, soldermask, and silkscreen decals into one top decal and one bottom decal in SOLIDWORKS, in order to prevent issues with rendering half-transparent solder mask decals which can happen with some graphics hardware.

The Top decal is a combination of the top copper layer, the top solder mask layer, and the top silkscreen layer.The Top decal is a combination of the top copper layer, the top solder mask layer, and the top silkscreen layer.

Notes:

  • The silkscreen decal is not generated when the Build 3D Copper mode is enabled.
  • The feature is not available under the Standard subscription plan on Altium 365, since the Build 3D Copper option is not available with this plan.

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.

Configure your preferred SOLIDWORKS templates.Configure your preferred SOLIDWORKS templates.

Installing and Configuring CoDesigner in AutoDesk Inventor

To interface to and from Autodesk Inventor 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 panelInstall and enable the Add-In to access CoDesigner in your MCAD software.

To install the Add-In:

  1. Close Autodesk Inventor before installing.
  2. Download and install the Inventor Add-In (AltiumCoDesignerInventor_<VersionNo>.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.

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 + menuCoDesigner is accessed through an Autodesk Inventor panel.

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 Workspace in AutoDesk Inventor

Autodesk Inventor collaborates with Altium Designer through your Workspace, 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 an Altium 365 Workspace, the other for signing in to a Concord Pro Workspace.

Connecting to an Altium 365 Workspace

The first step is to sign in to your managed content server, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner panelSigning in to an Altium 365 Workspace.

  1. Select the Use Altium 365 option in the Altium CoDesigner panel.
  2. Enter the email address you use to sign in to Altium Live as your User Name, and your Altium Live Password.
  3. 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.
  4. Click the Sign In button to connect.

Multiple Workspaces are supported - open the CoDesigner menu and select the required Workspace.

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

Connecting to a Concord Pro Workspace

The first step is to sign in to your managed content server, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner panelSigning in to a Concord Pro Workspace.

  1. Select the Use Custom Server option in the Altium CoDesigner panel.
  2. The first time you sign in you must specify the Server address (URL) to connect to the Concord Pro Workspace. The address will be provided by the Concord Pro administrator.
  3. Enter your User Name and Password, these will also be provided by the Concord Pro administrator.
  4. Enable the Sign in Automatically option to retain the details (including the password) and automatically connect to your Workspace 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 assemblyCoDesigner has been installed and is ready to use.

Configuring the AutoDesk Inventor Collaboration Settings

Once you have signed in, CoDesigner settings can be configured in the Altium CoDesigner Settings dialog, opened via the Settings menu entry in the CoDesigner menu (show image).

Configuring the CoDesigner Autodesk Inventor settingsUse the Altium CoDesigner Settings dialog to configure the CoDesigner options.

  • Common folder for storing models that are coming from ECAD - All component models created by CoDesigner are stored in this location, regardless of the project they belong to (note that 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 pads. Note that enabling this option can create a large amount of data that significantly impacts performance.
    Note that this option is not available on a standard subscription plan.
  • Build Vias - enable this option to also include the Via barrels. (Build Vias option added in CoDesigner 2.2.0)
    Note that this option is not available on a standard subscription plan.
  • Participate in the product improvement program - enable this option to automatically share technical information with Altium about your use of CoDesigner.
    Learn more about the product improvement program.
  • 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 and Configuring CoDesigner in AutoDesk Fusion 360

CoDesigner is not supported for the Fusion 360 Personal license, as that version of Fusion 360 does not support Parasolid models.

To interface to and from Autodesk Fusion 360 you need to install the Altium CoDesigner for Autodesk Fusion 360 Add-In. 

In Autodesk Fusion 360, select the Altium CoDesigner Add-In to access the CoDesigner panelInstall and enable the Add-In to access CoDesigner in your MCAD software.

To install the Add-In:

  1. Close Autodesk Fusion 360 before installing.
  2. Download and install the Fusion 360 Add-In (AltiumCoDesignerFusion360_<VersionNo>.exe).
  3. Launch Autodesk Fusion 360 and confirm that the Add-In is installed and available in the Add-Ins section of the Tools ribbon, as shown below.
  4. The CoDesigner Add-In adds the Altium CoDesigner panel to Autodesk Fusion 360. All collaboration activities are performed through this panel.

Displaying the CoDesigner Panel

The CoDesigner panel can be displayed/hidden using the button or menu entryCoDesigner is accessed through a Fusion 360 panel.

In Autodesk Fusion 360, the Altium CoDesigner panel can be enabled by clicking the Altium CoDesigner menu entry or button, as shown above.

Connecting to your Workspace in AutoDesk Fusion 360

Autodesk Fusion 360 collaborates with Altium Designer through your Workspace, 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 an Altium 365 Workspace, the other for signing in to a Concord Pro Workspace.

Connecting to an Altium 365 Workspace

The first step is to sign in to your Workspace, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner panelSigning in to an Altium 365 Workspace.

  1. Select the Use Altium 365 option in the Altium CoDesigner panel.
  2. Enter the email address you use to sign in to Altium Live as your User Name, and your Altium Live Password.
  3. 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 Fusion 360 is started.
  4. Click the Sign In button to connect.

Multiple Workspaces are supported - open the CoDesigner menu and select the required Workspace.

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

Connecting to a Concord Pro Workspace

The first step is to sign in to your Workspace, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner panelSigning in to a Concord Pro Workspace.

  1. Select the Use Custom Server option in the Altium CoDesigner panel.
  2. The first time you sign in you must specify the Server address (URL) to connect to the Concord Pro Workspace. The address will be provided by the Concord Pro administrator.
  3. Enter your User Name and Password, these will also be provided by the Concord Pro administrator.
  4. Enable the Sign in Automatically option to retain the details (including the password) and automatically connect to your Workspace each time Autodesk Fusion 360 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 assemblyCoDesigner has been installed and is ready to use.

Notes:

  • The initial support for Autodesk Fusion 360 only includes the feature-set available in a standard subscription plan, regardless of your current subscription level.
  • The representation of copper and silkscreen is different from what is implemented for other MCADs; in Fusion 360 they are represented by sketch-only based components within the bare board part. These components are hidden by default, you can make them visible and build 3D features such as an extrude or an extruded surface, if required.
  • With this version, users may experience performance issues with the initial pulling of a PCB into Fusion 360 with more than 500 components.

These limitations will be addressed in an upcoming release.

Configuring the Fusion 360 Collaboration Settings

Once you have signed in, CoDesigner settings can be configured in the Altium CoDesigner Settings dialog, opened via the Settings menu entry in the CoDesigner menu (show image).

Use the Altium CoDesigner Settings dialog to configure the CoDesigner options.Use the Altium CoDesigner Settings dialog to configure the CoDesigner options.

Ignore components smaller than <Value><Units> in height - the performance of Fusion 360 is affected by the number of components on the PCB. Use this option to exclude components less than <Value><Units> when a Pull is performed. Learn more about configuring Fusion 360 to ignore smaller components.

Participate in the product improvement program - enable this option to automatically share technical information with Altium about your use of CoDesigner.
Learn more about the product improvement program.

Installing and Configuring CoDesigner in 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 panelInstall and enable the Add-In to access CoDesigner in your MCAD software.

To install the Add-In:

  1. Close PTC Creo before installing.
  2. Download and install the PTC Creo Add-In (AltiumCoDesignerPtcCreo_<VersionNo>.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.

Displaying the Altium CoDesigner Panel

Once the Add-in has been enabled, the Altium CoDesigner panel can be turned on and off as required CoDesigner is accessed through a PTC Creo panel.

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 Workspace in PTC Creo

PTC Creo collaborates with Altium Designer through your Workspace, 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 an Altium 365 Workspace, the other for signing in to a Concord Pro Workspace.

Connecting to an Altium 365 Workspace

The first step is to sign in to your managed content server, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner panelSigning in to an Altium 365 Workspace.

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

Multiple Workspaces are supported - open the CoDesigner menu and select the required Workspace.

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

Connecting to a Concord Pro Workspace

The first step is to sign in to your managed content server, using the sign in fields in the Altium CoDesigner panelSigning in to a Concord Pro Workspace.

  1. Select the Use Custom Server option in the Altium CoDesigner panel.
  2. The first time you sign in you must specify the Server address (URL) to connect to the Concord Pro Workspace. The address will be provided by the Concord Pro administrator.
  3. Enter your User Name and Password, these will also be provided by the Concord Pro administrator.
  4. Enable the Sign in Automatically option to retain the details (including the password) and automatically connect to your Workspace 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 assemblyCoDesigner has been installed and is ready to use.

Configuring the PTC Creo Collaboration Settings

Once you have signed in, CoDesigner settings can be configured in the Altium CoDesigner Settings dialog, opened via the Settings menu entry in the CoDesigner menu (show image).

Configuring the CoDesigner PTC Creo settingsUse the Altium CoDesigner Settings dialog to configure the CoDesigner options.

  • Common folder for storing models that are coming from ECAD - All component models created by CoDesigner are stored in this location, regardless of the project they belong to (note that 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 pads. Note that enabling this option can create a large amount of data that can significantly impact performance.
    Note that this option is not available on a standard subscription plan.
  • Build Vias - enable this option to also include the Via barrels. (Build Vias option added in CoDesigner 2.2.0)
    Note that this option is not available on a standard subscription plan.
  • Type of accuracy to use while building PCB - Creo supports two types of accuracy, Absolute and Relative. Select the accuracy as required. Learn more about part accuracy in PTC Creo.
  • Custom coordinate system used for the placement of MCAD components - if the Creo components use a custom coordinate system, enter the name here. Note that on the ECAD side, the models used in the footprints of the corresponding components should be built on the same coordinate system (origin and orientation). If you are exporting the model from Creo to use in ECAD, enable the Customize Export option during export and select the correct Coordinate system. (show image)
  • Participate in the product improvement program - enable this option to automatically share technical information with Altium about your use of CoDesigner.
    Learn more about the product improvement program.
  • 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.

Confirm that the Altium (Custom) option is enabled.Confirm that the Altium (Custom) option is enabled.

  • 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.

CoDesigner installs as an Auxiliary Application, it may not have loaded correctly.CoDesigner installs as an Auxiliary Application, it may not have loaded correctly.

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

Check if Altium CoDesigner has successfully loaded.Check if Altium CoDesigner 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.

CoDesigner is registered through the Altium.dat file.CoDesigner is registered through the Altium.dat file.

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

A message will appear to let you know if CoDesigner has registered successfully.A message will appear to let you know if CoDesigner has registered successfully.

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

Configuring your Workspace Settings

Accessing your Workspace in your Browser

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

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

Visit 365.altium.com to sign in to your Altium 365 Workspace.Visit 365.altium.com to sign in to your Altium 365 Workspace.

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 Workspace Members 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 Concord Pro Workspace is provided through Concord Pro, a solution installed and managed by your own IT department. 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  (default port numbers, configured during installation)

 Sign into your self managed your managed content server via a web browserYou can sign in to your Concord Pro Workspace in your browser.

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

Configuring the Members 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 Workspace Members 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 an Altium 365 Workspace or a Concord Pro Workspace. These tasks are performed in the web interface.

You must have administrator privileges to configure the Users, Passwords, and Roles.

Adding New Members and Assigning Roles

The approach is to Invite Workspace Members. As part of adding the new member to the Workspace, 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 member to an Altium 365 Workspace.

Invite new members to your teamCheck your team members and assign their roles.

Learn more about Managing Your Team in an Altium 365 Workspace

Learn more about Adding Users and Assigning Roles in a Concord Pro Workspace

In an Altium 365 Workspace, you can also invite 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.

CoDesigner also supports linking between native MCAD and ECAD components, allowing both design teams to work with components that are designed and specified to the level required in their design domain. The links are defined in the Workspace, which acts as a bridge between the ECAD and MCAD domains.

Learn more about Linking Native ECAD and MCAD Design Components

Note that this option is not available on a standard subscription plan.

MCAD to ECAD, and ECAD to MCAD component linkage is enabled and configured in your Workspace. This image shows an Altium 365 Workspace.MCAD to ECAD, and ECAD to MCAD component linkage is enabled and configured in your Workspace. This image shows an Altium 365 Workspace.

  • MCAD to ECAD component linking is available for all supported MCAD platforms, except Autodesk Fusion 360.
  • ECAD to MCAD component linking is currently only supported in PTC Creo Parametric.
  • 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.

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 Workspace.

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 for you to be able to share it with an MCAD designer.

The Create Project dialog is used to create a managed project in your managed content serverThe first step is to create the ECAD PCB project.

To create a new managed project:

  1. Select File » New » Project to open the Create Project dialog.
  2. In the Locations column, select your Workspace.
  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 Workspace
    • 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)
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 projectA PCB must always be added to the project in Altium Designer.

Adding a new PCB:

  1. Select File » New » PCB, a new blank PCB will be added to the project and opened in the PCB editor.
  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 the PCB editor's Layer Stack Manager.

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

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. Click here to learn more about defining the layer stack.
  5. Save the PCB file and the Project (File » Save All). This saves the working copies of the project files.
  6. The last step is to save the project files to the Workspace. Right-click on the project name in the Projects panel and select Save to Server from the context menu. The Commit to Version Control dialog will appear, indicating which modified files need to be committed. Enter a comment if required, and click the Commit and Push button.

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 designerNow that the thickness has been defined in ECAD, the board can be pushed to MCAD for shape definition.

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 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 as a member in your Workspace, and the project will be shared with them.

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

  • 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.
  • Learn more about what happens when you click Push and Share.

Note that the PCB pushed to the Workspace 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 in the Altium CoDesigner panel - this creates an MCAD board assembly based on the board definition in your Workspace.

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 Workspace. To do this:

  1. Open your MCAD software.
  2. Display the Altium CoDesigner panel. Sign in to your Workspace if you are not currently signed in.
  3. Because there is no assembly currently open, the panel will display the Pull Board and New Board buttons. Click the Pull Board 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 if Creo is connected to Windchill, 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. When 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 Workspace.
  3. In ECAD, open the board and perform a Pull to load the updated board definition and component details from your Workspace.

The precision of changes that 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, using 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 through the CoDesigner panel.

  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 Workspace.
    • 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 Workspace 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 Workspace 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 new changes do not automatically appear, click the Pull button to force CoDesigner to check for changes.

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 Autodesk Fusion360, the board will import to MCAD as a single rigid structure. Rigid-flex boards are supported in SOLIDWORKS and PTC Creo, learn more about Synchronizing a Rigid-Flex Board.
  • 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 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 Workspace.
  6. The new board shape information does not exist in your Workspace 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 Workspace. 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 Workspace, 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.

MCAD-Coordinates Grid

CoDesigner uses the ECAD Absolute Origin as the reference when the board is pushed from ECAD to MCAD. The CoDesigner 2.4 release introduced a feature to create a new MCAD Coordinates grid on Pull into ECAD, including an MCAD Origin entity, when the MCAD origin differs from the default (absolute) ECAD origin. This helps the electrical engineer communicate with the mechanical engineer on the positioning of the different board entities.

The representation of the MCAD Coordinates grid can be customized in ECAD, double-click on the entry in the Properties panel to open the Grid Editor dialog. Learn more about the PCB Grids System.

The coordinate grid defined in MCAD can also be customized in ECAD.The coordinate grid defined in MCAD can also be customized in ECAD.

Note that changing the location of the board outline in MCAD should be performed before components and other objects are placed, to avoid having to manually restore the location of these objects.

MCAD Planes for Component Placement

From CoDesigner 2.2.0 onward, top and bottom side component planes are created in MCAD when the board is pulled, to simplify the process of placing components in MCAD. Components pushed from ECAD are placed in MCAD to ignore the thickness of the soldermask layer.

How CoDesigner Handles Copper, Mask and Overlay Layers

Along with the board shape and components, CoDesigner also transfers the top and bottom side; copper, solder mask, paste mask, and component overlay layers, from ECAD to MCAD.

These layers are Pushed to the Workspace as SVG images. When the board assembly is Pulled into MCAD, CoDesigner converts the SVG images to PNG images. From these PNG images, CoDesigner combines the top-side set of images into a single top-side decal, and the bottom-side set into a single bottom-side decal. These two decals are then applied to the top and bottom board surfaces during Pull into MCAD.

The top and bottom side decals are applied to each side of the board in MCAD.   The top and bottom side decals are applied to each side of the board in MCAD.The top and bottom side decals are applied to each side of the board in MCAD.

Advanced Copper Geometry in MCAD

Notes:

  • CoDesigner can transfer advanced copper geometry and 3D mask layers to PTC Creo, Autodesk Inventor, and SOLIDWORKS.
  • The copper can only be edited in ECAD, edits made in MCAD are not Pushed to ECAD.
  • Support for advanced copper geometry and 3D mask layers is not available on a standard subscription plan.

The copper layers can be transferred to MCAD if required. In the image above the board and components have been hidden, showing the six copper layers.The copper layers can be transferred to MCAD if required. In the image above the board and components have been hidden, showing the six copper layers.

As an alternative to displaying decals of the copper, mask and component overlay, the MCAD engineer can Pull the actual copper data into MCAD. To do this, enable the Build 3D geometry for Copper and Solder Mask option in the Altium CoDesigner Settings dialog (along with the Build Vias option if required). The Settings dialog is accessed from the CoDesigner menu in the Altium CoDesigner panel (show image).

Enable the Build 3D geometry for Copper and Solder Mask option to include these layers in the MCAD assembly (Autodesk Inventor dialog).Enable the Build 3D geometry for Copper and Solder Mask option to include these layers in the MCAD assembly (Autodesk Inventor dialog).

Notes about working with copper geometry and 3D mask layers:

  • Copper and mask layers are included as MCAD sub-assemblies.
  • Thruhole pad barrels are included when the Build 3D geometry for Copper option is enabled.
  • The via surface shapes are included when the Build 3D geometry for Copper option is enabled, enable the Build Vias option to include the via copper barrels.
  • All PCB copper layers that are present in the layerstack are included. Note that the copper layer thickness does not include plated layer data, such as Surface Finish. This will be added in a future update.
  • When the Build 3D geometry option is enabled the component overlay is not included. This will be added in a future update.
  • Depending on the complexity of the design, including the copper geometry and vias can significantly increase the file size and the time to Pull the design into MCAD.
  • Copper and mask data is always Pushed from ECAD. There is no need to Push again from ECAD if you enable the Build 3D Geometry and Build Vias options in MCAD, just close the board and Pull it again from the Workspace.

Accurate Representation of the Solder Mask

Introduced in Update 2.5, CoDesigner now builds a precise model of the solder mask, including the openings for the pads, as a separate entity in MCAD when the Build 3D Copper option is enabled. Because the mask fills the etched regions between the copper, the thickness of the mask layer in MCAD is the sum of the thicknesses of the top copper layer plus the solder mask layer, as defined in ECAD.

Since the soldermask fills the etched regions between the tracks, pads and vias, its total thickness in MCAD is the sum of the copper layer thickness plus the solder mask thickness, as defined in ECAD.Since the soldermask fills the etched regions between the tracks, pads and vias, its total thickness in MCAD is the sum of the copper layer thickness plus the solder mask thickness, as defined in ECAD.

Support for Keepouts and Rooms

In CoDesigner 2.1.0 a new Altium CoDesigner Ribbon was added to SOLIDWORKS and Autodesk Inventor, and in CoDesigner 2.2 it was added PTC Creo. The tab provides an easy way of accessing the common PCB-specific design objects, including Keepouts and Rooms. Using these buttons ensures that the correct MCAD object-type is used to create a compatible ECAD object.

Support for Keepouts

A PCB Keepout is a region or area of the board that has been configured to restrict the placement of specific ECAD objects. Keepouts can be defined for either side of the board, or to apply to all PCB layers. The objects that are to be kept out of this area are selected as Keepout Restriction properties.

Defining a Keepout in MCAD:

  • Click the Keep Out Area button on the Altium CoDesigner ribbon.
  • You will be prompted to choose a face, surface or plane, click on the side of the board that requires the keepout. If the keepout is to apply to all layers it can be drawn on either side.
  • Click on a suitable MCAD sketch tool, for example Rectangle, to define the keepout. Note that the sketch must only include one contour, internal contours are not supported.
  • Draw the shape required for the keepout.
  • Exit the Sketch mode.
  • The properties of the feature can now be edited. You can think of the keepout as a fence around the keepout area, edit the Depth to a small value, for example 1mm.
  • This keepout will become an Altium Designer layer-specific keepout, on the layer it has been drawn in MCAD. To define an all-layer keepout, in MCAD configure the keepout to extrude in both directions, setting the Depth in the second direction to a value that is large enough to extrude it through the board.
  • Click the MCAD Accept button  to finish the feature definition process. If required, the feature can be renamed in the Feature tree.
  • In the Altium CoDesigner panel, select the PCB Definition tab and configure the keepout restrictions as required. The keepout can now be pushed to Altium Designer, where it will be added as a Keepout Region. Depending on how it was configured in MCAD, it will become a Top Layer Keepout, a Bottom Layer Keepout, or a Keepout Layer Keepout. If required the keepout shape can be adjusted in Altium Designer, and pushed back to MCAD.

Support for Rooms

A PCB Room is a design rule that is used to define an area that specific components must be placed in, or excluded from. A common use for this rule is to define a component height restriction in the board area covered by the Room. Typically the Room rule will be applied to an individual component, or a class of components.

Defining a Room in MCAD:

  • Click the Text Note Room button on the Altium CoDesigner ribbon.
  • You will be prompted to choose a face, surface or plane, click on the side of board that requires the room.
  • Click on a suitable MCAD sketch tool, for example Rectangle, to define the room. Note that the sketch must only include one contour, internal contours are not supported.
  • Draw the shape required for the room.
  • Exit the Sketch mode.
  • Click the MCAD Accept button  to finish the feature definition process. If required, the feature can be renamed in the Feature tree.
  • In the Altium CoDesigner panel, select the PCB Definition tab and enter a comment for the room that explains its purpose to the ECAD engineer. The room can now be pushed to Altium Designer, where it will be added as an Altium Designer Placement Room design rule, on the layer it has been drawn in MCAD. The only property that can be transferred between MCAD and ECAD is the Comment, which becomes the Placement Room design rule comment.
  • The Placement Room design room can now be configured as required in Altium Designer.

Keepout areas and Rooms can be defined in MCAD and pushed to ECAD.

Notes about transferring Board Areas:

  • Fill and Solid Region ECAD Keepout Regions are supported.
  • CoDesigner detects the locked status of Keepouts and Rooms in ECAD, ensuring that these are not moved during a Pull from MCAD.
  • Because the ECAD Keepout objects do not include a unique identifier or an object name, ECAD to MCAD Keepout changes are made by removing the existing object and adding a new object (with a new MCAD name).
  • Changes made to ECAD Rooms are also marked as removed and added during an ECAD to MCAD change, but the Name and Comment are retained.

Important Note about Versions: If there is potential that the ECAD extension has been updated but the MCAD plugin has not, be careful when you are applying MCAD to ECAD changes. If you have Keepouts and Rooms defined on the PCB in ECAD, CoDesigner will suggest to delete them. The solution is simply to reject those changes in ECAD, so that the Keepouts and Rooms are retained.

Controlling the Number of Components Pulled to MCAD

Configure Fusion 360 to Ignore Small Components

To improve performance in Fusion 360 on boards with a large number of components, CoDesigner supports excluding components below a user-defined height during a Pull from ECAD. For the height threshold, CoDesigner uses the height defined as part of the component properties in ECAD (show image).

Define the threshold height in the Altium CoDesigner Settings dialog, as shown in the image below. The dialog is accessed via the Altium CoDesigner panel in Fusion 360, select Settings in the panel's menu to open the dialog.

Small components can be excluded during Pull by setting the Height threshold.Small components can be excluded during Pull by setting the Height threshold.

This feature was added in the CoDesigner 2.4 release.

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.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

When a board is pushed from ECAD, all variants are pushed. The required variant is selected during the pull into MCAD.

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

Support for Pushing all of the variants from ECAD with the corresponding variant selection during Pull into MCAD, was added in CoDesigner 2.3.0. In versions older than this, CoDesigner only supported Pushing and Pulling a specific variant of a board between ECAD and MCAD.

In versions of CoDesigner older than 2.3.0:

  • When you perform a Push from ECAD, you are pushing the variant you are currently looking at in the PCB editor.
  • Each time a board is Pushed from ECAD to the Workspace, 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 button in the Altium CoDesigner panel. If the project includes variants they will be listed in the dialog, as shown below. Select the required variant and click OK.

Support for pushing all variants from ECAD and the ability to select the required variant in MCAD was add in CoDesigner 2.3.0. If you are working with a version of CoDesigner older than this, you must push the required variant from ECAD.

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.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.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

Working with SOLIDWORKS PDM

The placement of native MCAD components from a data management system is supported when SOLIDWORKS is connected to a SOLIDWORKS PDM system.

Note that the MCAD component must be defined in the ECAD component as a parameter, in the form <vault>:folder\folder\component.sldprt, where <vault> is the name of the PDM vault.

Common Recommendations:

  1. It is recommended to set up a common component folder in the Altium CoDesigner Settings dialog, to put that folder under SW PDM control, and to synchronize that folder with the local storage before collaborating with ECAD. Learn more about Configuring CoDesigner in SOLIDWORKS.
  2. It is recommended to synchronize the component libraries with the local PDM storage before pulling the PCB into MCAD.
  3. It's recommended to disable the Prompt to check out file if opened in read-only mode option in the SOLIDWORKS PDM settings (accessible from the Tools menu in SOLIDWORKS) as shown below. This means existing components will not need to be checked out, which means there will be no inconvenience to the work of other mechanical engineers. However, in the situation where it is necessary to change component properties, the corresponding components should be checked out.
  4. After the changes are applied, it's recommended to check the new components into SOLIDWORKS PDM.

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 Workspace, such as an Altium 365 Workspace or a NEXUS Server Workspace. The changes Pushed/Pulled through the Workspace are directional - the PCB assembly Pushed from MCAD (and Pulled to ECAD) is stored separately in the Workspace 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 Workspace, 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 in the Workspace.ECAD and MCAD changes are stored separately in the Workspace.

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 Workspace. 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.

Automatic Micro-Segment Removal

CoDesigner 2.4 introduced an automatic feature to detect and resolve micro-segments in the board outline. If they are detected a dialog will appear, offering to resolve the issues, as shown below. If you click Yes the detected issues will be resolved automatically. If you click No and close the dialog, an error dialog will then appear detailing the location of any issues, which must then be resolved manually (as described below).

Note that this feature utilizes a new API, so is only available with Altium Designer 21.3.x or newer.

Note that the automatic feature does not resolve self-intersections detected in the board outline or in a board cutout. To resolve these you can use the manual techniques described below.

Manual Micro-Segment and Self-Intersection Removal

Micro-segments and self-intersections that have not been resolved automatically or are detected in a board cutout, must be resolved manually.

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.

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.
  • Do not create multiple profiles in the board outline sketch in Inventor, CoDesigner can interpret them in an unpredictable manner.

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. All entities included in a pattern will be transferred from MCAD to ECAD and back, however, if any entity within a pattern is changed in ECAD, the pattern will be broken.*
  • 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. All entities included in a pattern will be transferred from MCAD to ECAD and back, however, if any entity within a pattern is changed in ECAD, the pattern will be broken.*
  • 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.

Pushing the Enclosure from MCAD to ECAD

In CoDesigner 2.2.0 support was added for working at the device assembly level in MCAD, and then transferring the enclosure together with the board to ECAD. The video below demonstrates the process of including the board assembly in the device enclosure, and transferring the enclosure to Altium Designer.

Note that this option is not available on a standard subscription plan. Designers on a standard subscription plan can watch this video to see another approach to transferring the enclosure.

Tips for working with the enclosure:

  • After placing the board assembly in the enclosure, click the Refresh button in the Altium CoDesigner panel. CoDesigner will detect the relationship between the board and the enclosure, and detail the names of all board assemblies added to the device enclosure at the top of the panel.
  • Once the relationship has been detected, the last step is to add the enclosure to the board. To do this:
    • Select the enclosure in the model tree.
    • Display the Altium CoDesigner ribbon.
    • Click the Enclosure button on the ribbon.
    • Open/display the Altium CoDesigner panel, where you can confirm that the enclosure is associated with the board in the Board Enclosure section of the PCB Definition tab of the panel.
  • The enclosure with the board can now be pushed to ECAD.

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.

* 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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