Harness Design in Altium Designer

Created: September 20, 2022 | Updated: December 16, 2022
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The Harness Design functionality allows engineers of various types (involved in the Product Design process) to work in Altium Designer. It brings comprehensive harness design support into the same environment as PCB and system design, removing the previous heavy reliance on third-party software.

The Harness Design functionality allows you to create a full wiring harness design, from the individual pin-to-pin connections right through to manufacturing documentation. A harness design can be created as a standalone project, or as part of a Multi-board project. In the latter case, the logical connections between PCBs in the Multi-board project are used to define the connectivity within the harness.

Note that Harness Design functionality is not supported with the Altium Designer Standard Subscription.

Creating a Harness Design Project

A harness design project (*.PrjHar) supports the following documents:

  • Harness Wiring Diagram (*.WirDoc) – individual wires and cables are placed to create the required physical connections within the harness.
  • Harness Layout Drawing (*.LdrDoc) – the wires and cables are arranged to represent the physical construction of the harness.
  • ActiveBOM (*.BomDoc) – contains the following entities:

    • Connectors and their associated parts
    • Associated parts of splices
    • Associated parts of connection points
    • Crimps
    • Layout labels
    • Wire and cables, as well as their length values
    The source for BOM data of a harness design project is the project's Layout Drawing. So if the Wiring Diagram of your harness design was changed and this change should be reflected in the BOM, the Layout Drawing must be updated first.
  • Draftsman Document (*.HarDwf) – read-only views of the wiring diagram, layout drawing and BOM are imported, and any additional information required for the manufacturing of the harness is added.
The set of Altium Designer's example projects includes a sample harness design project (Harness_Demo_Prj.PrjHar in the C:\Users\Public\Documents\Altium\AD<version>\Examples\Harness Demo MB\Harness_Demo_Prj folder by default), which is associated with a multi-board demo project (\Examples\Harness Demo MB\Harness_Demo_MB\Harness_Demo_MB.PrjMbd), so you can take harnesses for a test drive straight out of the box.

In the same way as a PCB or Multi-board design project, a new Harness Design project can be created using the Create Project dialog. Select the File » New » Project command from the main menus, and in the Locations list of the Create Project dialog that opens, select a required location where the project will be stored. In the Project Type list, choose an entry under the Harness type of project.

Create a new harness project using the Create Project dialog.
Create a new harness project using the Create Project dialog.

An existing harness design project can be saved as a template to your Workspace. Open the existing harness project within Altium Designer, ensuring that one of its source documents is open as the active design document then choose the File » Save Project As Template to Server command from the main menus. A confirmation dialog will appear, letting you know where in the connected Workspace's folder structure, and with what name (that of the original project), the project template will be saved. Then you will be able to choose the saved project template in the Create Project dialog.

Enter a Project Name and optionally, a project Description, and configure other options in the dialog as required, then click Create. The new project structure will be created, and the project will be opened in the Projects panel.

A new empty harness project has been created.
A new empty harness project has been created.

To learn more, refer to the Creating a Project page.

Note that default properties of Wiring Diagram and Layout Drawing objects can be configured on the Harness Design – Defaults page of the Preferences dialog. These properties will be applied when placing subsequent objects.

Adding a Harness Design Project to a Multi-board Project

A harness design project can (but does not need to be) be included as part of a Multi-board project. To do this, open a Multi-board project with a schematic document that contains at least one harness connection object. Ensure that the harness definition has been completed: harness connector parts assigned, harness connector ↔ PCB pin connections specified, and harness connector ↔ harness connector connections specified.

Add the harness project to the Multi-board project by right-clicking on the Multi-board project entry in the Projects panel and selecting Add Existing to Project and then browsing to and selecting the local .PrjHar file. The harness project will appear in the Projects panel within the Multi-board project structure.

Add a created harness project to the related Multi-board project.
Add a created harness project to the related Multi-board project.

If a Harness Design project is already open, it can be added to the Multi-board project using the drag-and-drop action. Drag the entry of the harness project to the Multi-board project structure in the Project panel to include the harness design in this Multi-board project.

Harness projects can be saved to a Workspace and opened on another PC. However, adding an existing harness project directly from a Workspace to a Multi-board project is not currently supported – only a local harness project (or the local copy of a harness project opened from a Workspace) can be added. Support for selection directly from a Workspace is planned for a future update.

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