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Interactive routing is a critical part of the design process, with many designs requiring careful attention to avoid potential signal integrity issues. To meet these demands the designer needs features such as controlled impedance routing, arcs in corners, and tuned net lengths. This release introduces a number of new features that significantly improve the process of Interactive Routing, particularly for boards with potential signal integrity issues.
One of the strengths of the updated Interactive Router is the improved support for cornering. Corners can be defined using short, straight track segments, or they can be created using one or more arcs.
To ensure that it is not possible to inadvertently create acute corners during routing, both interactive routing and interactive sliding now include a Miter Ratio option. The Miter Ratio multiplied by the current track width equals the separation between walls of the tightest U-shape that can be routed for that miter ratio, as shown below. Enter a positive value equal to or greater than zero. Set the Miter Ratio to zero to create a right-angle corner.
Many designers require curved corners. Previously arc-in-corner routing was only supported during interactive routing, but not in Push and Shove mode or during track sliding. The new Push and Shove engine solves this, adding arcs during push and shove, and also during track sliding. Switch to any angle corner mode with Strong routing gloss effort to perform Snake routing.
T-junctions have also received attention as part of this release. Click and drag on the junction point to modify a T-junction.
Whenever the cursor is moved as you define a new interactive route path, all of the new routing is automatically glossed. Glossing will attempt to reduce the path length and also improve the shape of corners and reduce their number, generally resulting in neater routing created from fewer segments.
With this release Glossing has additional options that control its behavior. Along with the current Gloss Effort setting, Glossing now obeys the new Hugging Style, the Miter Ratio and the Min Arc Ratio settings. Using these options Glossing controls how tightly a corner is created, and how the curved shape is formed in the route around a mounting hole.
Existing routing is glossed by running the Route » Gloss Selected command - this command now also obeys the current Gloss Effort, Hugging Style and Miter/Min Arc Ratio settings. Use this to your advantage to perform design changes such as converting mitered corners to arcs.
Glossing is a core feature for interactive routing and sliding, but there will be situations where it prevents you from achieving the route shape you desire. Glossing can be temporarily inhibited by holding the Ctrl+Shift shortcut keys, when they are released glossing will be re-enabled at the current level.
One of the most common tasks in routing is to modify the existing routing. This can be done by clicking and holding on an existing segment, and sliding it to a new location. This feature, known as Interactive Sliding because it maintains the orthogonal/diagonal patterns defined in the original routing, can now call on the same set of routing technologies that are available during interactive routing. To provide better visibility and control of the sliding process, the Properties panel now includes an Interactive Sliding mode - press Tab during sliding to access the options in the panel.
Below is a summary of the new Interactive Sliding options.
During a route event, such as interactive routing, interactive sliding, or ActiveRoute, the software runs a glossing engine. The glossing engine constantly reviews all of the segments placed or impacted by the current route event, attempting to improve the quality of the results. Measures of quality include: reducing the number of corners, reducing the number of segments, removing acute angles and reducing the overall route length.
Glossing has three settings; Off, Weak and Strong, use the Ctrl+Shift+G shortcut to cycle through the settings during routing or sliding.
This option controls how corner shapes are to be managed during interactive sliding and will affect both the tracks being slid and the tracks being pushed. During sliding use the Shift+Spacebar shortcut to cycle through the three modes.
This option determines how you want the sliding objects to react when they encounter an existing object. Use the Shift+R shortcut to cycle through the available modes during sliding.
These are the same modes that are referred to as the Routing Conflict Resolution modes during interactive routing.
To better support the designer's need to easily manipulate and re-shape the existing routing, there are specific options that are applied when you click and drag on a vertex rather than a track or arc (the vertex is the corner location where two segments meet). Use the Spacebar shortcut to cycle through the available modes during sliding.
The Pad Entry Stability slider protects centered pad entries. Use the slider bar to configure the level of protection:
Off =no protection
Max =maximum protection
This option also affects the behavior of the Interactive Router.
Use the Miter Ratio to control the minimum corner tightness. The Miter Ratio multiplied by the current track width equals the separation between walls of the tightest U-shape that can be routed for that ratio, as shown in the Mitered Corners description, earlier on this page. Enter a positive value equal to or greater than zero (the x multiplier is added automatically).
The Min Arc Ratio is applied during any angle interactive routing and also during interactive sliding with Mixed Hugging Style. The ratio is used to determine the minimum radius arc allowed, when the arc radius falls below this minimum the arc is replaced by track segments, where:
Min Arc Radius = Min Arc Ratio x Arc Width
A critical high-speed design capability is to be able to match route lengths. This is usually done by tuning the lengths of shorter nets, adding accordion sections along the route path. As with interactive routing, Altium Designer's length tuning functionality is also undergoing extensive development work to improve both the functionality and ease of use.
Improvements in this release include:
Rather than measuring a route as a physical length, it can be more useful to think of it in terms of the time it takes for a signal to propagate along that route.
Propagation delay-based net information can be worked with in the following ways:
This release does not support automatic delay calculations for vias, this is planned for a future release. In this release the via delay value can be entered manually as a via property.
Signal timing is a critical design aspect for many boards, where both the signal propagation delay and the skew must be carefully managed. The Length design rule can be used to monitor the propagation delay, and the Matched Length design rule used to manage the skew between signals. To make them more flexible, both of these rules can now be constrained in either Length Units or Delay Units.
If the applicable design rule is constrained using Delay Units, then the Length Tuning Gauge and the accordion information in the Properties panel will display the constraint Limits as a delay instead of a distance.
The Propagation Delay can be defined for pads and vias in the Properties panel. The calculated value can also be examined for a selected track or arc object.
The calculated propagation delay of a Net or xSignal can be displayed in the PCB panel, right-click on the panel to configure the display of columns.
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