Altium NEXUS Documentation

Designing for Reuse in Altium NEXUS

Created: January 24, 2022 | Updated: July 20, 2022
Applies to Altium NEXUS Client version: 5
This documentation page references Altium NEXUS/NEXUS Client (part of the deployed NEXUS solution), which has been discontinued. All your PCB design, data management and collaboration needs can now be delivered by Altium Designer (with Altium Designer Enterprise Subscription) and a connected Altium 365 Workspace. Check out the FAQs page for more information.

Parent page: Capturing Your Design Idea as a Schematic

The term 'Design Reuse' has become something of a cliche in the marketing of engineering products, perhaps primarily driven by how little of this actually happens. The same design task is performed over and over. However in electronics design, design reuse is practiced every day by every engineer using off-the-shelf integrated circuits. These devices are a package of electronics that someone, somewhere has designed, tested, documented, and sold to the world at large. Every customer of this device is reusing this design in a very rigorous way.

In comparison, the real practice of design reuse in the rest of the design process is generally very poor and most likely consists of a variety of glorified copy and paste tools. Altium NEXUS offers a variety of solutions in support of design reuse, facilitating streamlined design without the need to reinvent the wheel.

Reuse Blocks and Design Snippets

Related page: Reuse Blocks & Snippets

If your designs often include common 'sections' of circuitry, Altium NEXUS provides a simple and easy way to save and reuse sections of design circuitry, both Workspace-based and local, file-based. Such sections can be added to any PCB design without having to start from scratch each time. This is a great feature for those often-used fragments and smaller sections of circuitry that you want to reuse. The system lets you save any selection of:

  • Circuitry on a single schematic sheet (a schematic snippet).
  • Circuitry in a PCB design, including the components and the routing (a PCB snippet).

When connected to an Altium 365 Workspace, you can create a single entity – a Reuse Block – that can contain both schematic circuitry and its physical representation for the PCB. When such a reuse block is placed on a schematic sheet, its physical representation will be placed automatically in the PCB document during the ECO process.

The Design Reuse panel is the central point for creating, managing, and placing reuse blocks and snippets of design circuitry.
The Design Reuse panel is the central point for creating, managing, and placing reuse blocks and snippets of design circuitry.

Reuse blocks and design snippets are great for those often-used fragments and smaller sections of circuitry that you want to reuse. For larger, more standalone circuits that you wish to reuse in multiple designs – for example, power regulation circuits, USB interface circuitry, and so on – take a look at Altium NEXUS's support for Device Sheets, and Managed Schematic Sheets.

Managed Schematic Sheets

Related page: Managed Schematic Sheets

Being able to re-use design content is something that all product development companies want, and can greatly benefit from. Not only does reuse save time, being able to easily re-use a section of a previous design means that all the qualification and testing of that part of the design is done. Design reuse is much more than copy and paste though, true reuse requires the content to be locked down so you're guaranteed that it is the same as before. No quick edits to change the color of a component or a tweak to a resistor value, working with reusable content must be like working with off-the-shelf components; place the content, wire it in, and it works just like it did last time.

Altium NEXUS, in conjunction with your Workspace, caters for the ability to create Managed Schematic Sheet Items in that Workspace. Such Items are created directly from within the Workspace. Once a Managed Schematic Sheet Item has been created (and data released into a revision of it), and its lifecycle state set to a level that the organization views as ready for use at the design level, it can be reused in future board-level design projects.

Managed Sheet ConceptFormally release a sheet of design circuitry that can then be re-used - as a revision of a Managed Schematic Sheet Item - in other design projects requiring that same functionality.

A Managed Sheet is a standard Altium NEXUS schematic sheet containing components and wiring, that has been stored in a Workspace, so it can be re-used in other designs. It is edited like any other schematic sheet. The Managed Sheet concept is not limited to a single schematic sheet, you can place a Managed Sheet in your design that is at the top of a tree of other Managed Sheets.

Managed Sheets differ from Device Sheets in that they are stored in a Workspace, where Device Sheets are stored in a folder on a hard drive. As such, they enjoy the benefits attributed to managed content, including revision and lifecycle management, and of course, secured integrity.

The decision to move from Device Sheets to Managed Sheets comes when there is a desire to make the transition from re-useable content to managed re-useable content - that is, when there is a desire or need to be able to control the release, revision status and lifecycle state of that design content.

By making it managed content you can be sure that the revision of a Managed Sheet that you use in a design can be easily identified and traced back to its source whenever needed. And because it is managed content it can be revised and updated when needed; and the usage relationships can all be traced, both down to the components on that sheet, and up to the designs that use that sheet. This ensures you have all the information needed to decide if that revised sheet must be pushed through to existing designs, or if a particular design must continue to use the previous revision.

Device Sheets

Related page: Device Sheets

Device Sheets simplify the design process by providing modularized and consistent building blocks which can be reused between projects. Device Sheet Symbols are placed and referenced similarly to components. They function in the same way as Sheet Symbols and Schematic Documents but are not explicitly added to projects.

Device Sheets are building blocks developed with the intent of being reused in different designs. They usually contain predefined circuits which are commonly used between projects.

Device Sheets are stored as normal Schematic Documents in special Device Sheet Folders. They are placed and referenced in your project, similarly to a simple component. Device Sheets are included in the project hierarchy and are distinguished from standard Schematic Documents by a different icon in the Projects panel.

Read-only Device SheetExample of a Read-only Device Sheet. There is also a Read-Only watermark with a Device Sheet (recycle) watermark. The sheet itself is resident in a Device Sheet folder on the local (or network) drive, and is included into a project (referenced) through placement and definition of a Device Sheet symbol on the parent sheet above.

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