Altium Designer Documentation

Mechanical CAD Collaboration

Modified by Tiffany Cullen on Oct 15, 2019

Parent Page: PCB Panels


The Mechanical CAD Collaboration panel

Summary

The Mechanical CAD Collaboration panel allows you to incrementally exchange data between Altium and Mechanical CAD applications (such as SolidWorks) using the ProStep EDMD exchange format. Functionality includes support for change requests as well as the transfer of copper geometry.

The panel supports the IDX file format for use in collaboration between Altium and MCAD applications. The IDX (Incremental Design Exchange) format is based on XML protocol and allows an electrical designer to export only changes to the board design that are needed (and of value) by the mechanical designer. Conversely, the mechanical designer can float change proposals back to the electrical designer who can then import those changes back into their design.

Altium supports IDX format version 2.0 only.

Access

In the PCB Editor, click the Panels button at the bottom-right corner of the workspace then select Mechanical CAD Collaboration from the context menu. Alternatively, you can access the panel through the View » Panels » Mechanical CAD Collaboration command.

The panel can also be accessed using the Mechanical CAD Collaboration command from the main Tools menu.

This panel becomes available and functional once the MCAD IDX Exchange software extension is installed. The MCAD IDX Exchange extension can be found on the Purchased tab of the Extensions & Updates page. Altium must be restarted once the extension has been successfully downloaded and installed.

Panels can be configured to be floating in the editor space or docked to sides of the screen. If the panel is currently in a group of panels, use the Mechanical CAD Collaboration tab located at the bottom of the panels to bring it to the front.

Initiating the Baseline EDMD File for Collaboration

Collaboration can be kicked off from either direction, by either the electrical designer creating the initial ProStep EDMD file or the mechanical designer can initiate the collaboration. If the electrical designer does so, the file created is called the ECAD Baseline file (ECAD Baseline.idx), which is subsequently made available to the mechanical designer. If the mechanical designer does so, it is called the MCAD Baseline file (MCAD Baseline.idx), which is subsequently made available to the electrical designer.

Exporting from Altium (ECAD Creation of Baseline)

To initiate collaboration, click the Export Baseline button. You will be presented with the Export EDMD Baseline dialog, which offers options including the export of copper objects.

Exporting copper makes the IDX files much larger and slower to process on the MCAD side. In addition, the EDMD technology does not support change detection for copper objects.


Initiate collaboration from within Altium by creating the ECAD Baseline.

Importing to Altium (MCAD Creation of Baseline)

If the baseline file has been created on the MCAD side, it can be imported into Altium Designer using the File » Import » MCAD IDX Baseline command. The Import MCAD Baseline dialog opens. Use this dialog to browse to and specify the MCAD Baseline file (MCAD Baseline.idx) and the PCB document into which proposed changes are to be synchronized.

Accept collaboration from within Altium by importing the MCAD Baseline.

Once the MCAD Baseline EDMD file has been imported, collaboration proceeds through the Mechanical CAD Collaboration panel.

Collaboration Folder

When initiating collaboration from Altium (creating the EDMD Baseline file), a collaboration folder will be created under the original board design project. The folder is named using the PCB document name in the format PCBDocumentName.PcbDoc_EDMD. The folder will contain two files:

  • AD_EDMD_State.xml
  • ECAD Baseline.idx
Quickly access the generated folder from the Mechanical CAD Collaboration panel by clicking the Show In Explorer control.


Creation of the EDMD folder and baseline file.

Synchronizing Changes

The Mechanical CAD Collaboration panel provides controls for keeping changes synchronized between the ECAD and MCAD domains. Changes are proposed through EDMD Changes files:

  • If the mechanical designer has proposed some changes and sent them across in a new EDMD Changes file, the panel allows those changes to be received (imported) into the PCB design for consideration.
  • If some changes have been made to the board, the panel can detect these changes (except copper changes) and list them, ready for export to an EDMD Changes file that is subsequently made available to the mechanical designer.

Detecting Board Changes

If you make a change to the PCB document, such as removing a component, that change can be detected by clicking the Detect Board Changes button at the top of the Mechanical CAD Collaboration panel. The detectable changes will be listed in the Board Changes region of the panel, in terms of:

  • Object - for example, the component designator.
  • Change - for example, Removed for a component that has been removed from the design, or Added for one that has been added.
  • Status - will be Proposed since the change is originating on the ECAD side.
  • Proposition Comment - a note to explain the change to the mechanical designer.


Detecting changes to the board.

As you click on a listed board change, a flashing highlight will be used to indicate the location of that change within the PCB document.

Once all changes have been made, detected and proposition comments added, those changes can be exported using the Export Changes button. This will create an EDMD Changes file (ECAD Changes n.idx).

To abandon the proposed changes, click the Abandon Changes button - the Board Changes list will be cleared.


With proposed changes to the board made, export to create an EDMD Changes file and send those proposed changes to the mechanical designer.

It is now up to the mechanical designer to import and view the change proposals on their side. They will then either accept or reject each proposed change in turn and send back their response in an EDMD Response file (MCAD Response n.idx). Once this is received, they will import the response using the Import Response button. To apply the changes in the response file, click the Apply Changes and Respond button, which will generate an EDMD Response file from the ECAD side back to the mechanical designer (ECAD Response n.idx).

This function ensures that both parties are synchronized with the changes made.

Importing Changes

If the mechanical designer is proposing changes, those changes will be proposed in an EDMD Changes file (MCAD Changes n.idx). Import the changes using the panel's Import Changes button. The changes will be listed in the Board Changes region of the panel in terms of:

  • Object - provides the name of the object that was altered. For example, the component designator.
  • Change - provides the means in which the object has changed. For example, Moved for a component that has been moved within the design.
  • Status - provides the current status regarding the proposed change of the object. will be Proposed since the change is originating on the MCAD side.
  • Proposition Comment - provides a note to explain the change to the electrical designer.

It is now up to you as the electrical designer to view and either accept or reject each proposed change. As you click on a listed board change, a flashing highlight will be used to indicate the location of that change within the PCB document. To accept a proposed change, check its associated Accept check box. To reject, leave this unchecked. Once all proposed changes have been accepted/rejected, click the Apply Changes and Respond button. The accepted changes will be applied to the PCB document and an EDMD Response file (ECAD Response n.idx) will be sent back to the mechanical designer.

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