Setting Up & Running a Design Rule Check for Your PCB in Altium NEXUS

Created: April 12, 2022 | Updated: June 3, 2022
All Contents

Parent page: Design Rule Check (DRC)

Configuring the DRC

Configuration for design rule checking is performed in the Design Rule Checker dialog accessed through the Tools » Design Rule Check command from a PCB document.

The Design Rule Checker dialog showing defaults with certain Online DRC checks disabled to improve PCB Editor

performance. Use the associated options to include a design rule type for checking as part of Online DRC and/or Batch DRC.The Design Rule Checker dialog showing defaults with certain Online DRC checks disabled to improve PCB Editor
performance. Use the associated options to include a design rule type for checking as part of Online DRC and/or Batch DRC.

In the folder-tree pane on the left side of the dialog, each of the design rule categories whose rule types can be checked are listed under the Rules To Check folder. Click on this top-level folder to list all checkable rule types on the right side of the dialog. Alternatively, click on a specific category to list only those design rule types associated to that category. Use the dialog to enable/disable Online (where available) and/or Batch Mode checking for each rule type you want to check.

Use the right-click menu to access commands for quickly enabling/disabling all rule types for Online or Batch DRC, or only those rule types that are used (defined and enabled for use in the design).

Using Online DRC

Online Design Rule Checking runs in the background, in real-time, flagging and/or automatically preventing design rule violations. This is especially helpful when interactively routing your board to immediately highlight clearance, width and parallel segment violations. For a rule to be subject to the Online DRC, the following three requirements must be met:

  1. The rule must be enabled. This can be done in either the PCB Rules and Constraints Editor dialog by ensuring the Enabled option for the rule is checked, or in the PCB Rules and Violations panel by ensuring the On option for the rule is checked.

Ensure that design rules you wish to have monitored by the Online DRC are actually enabled for use in the design.Ensure that design rules you wish to have monitored by the Online DRC are actually enabled for use in the design.

  1. The rule type must be enabled for online checking in the Design Rule Checker dialog.

Ensure that the rule type is enabled for Online DRC.Ensure that the rule type is enabled for Online DRC.

  1. The Online DRC feature must be turned on. Do this by enabling the Online DRC option on the PCB Editor - General page of the Preferences dialog.

Ensure that the Online DRC feature is enabled.Ensure that the Online DRC feature is enabled.

If any objects are found to be in violation of an applicable design rule that is enabled for online checking, they will be highlighted in the design space in accordance with defined violation display options.

Using Batch DRC

Whereas Online DRC only detects new violations - violations that are created after the feature is enabled - Batch DRC allows a check to be manually run at any time during the board design process. So while good designers know the value of Online DRC, they also know that board design should begin and end with a Batch DRC.

Enable rule types for batch checking in the Design Rule Checker dialog as required (refer back to the Configuring the DRC section). Various additional options are available when running a Batch DRC, including the ability to generate a report file. These options are accessed by clicking on the Report Options folder in the folder-tree pane of the dialog. Two key options (highlighted in the following image) are:

  • Create Report File - enable this option to generate a DRC report. Enable the Report PCB Health Issues sub-option to include the issues detected by the PCB Health Check Monitor into the generated report.
  • Create Violations - enable this option to have violations highlighted in the design space in accordance with defined violation display options. This option is also required to have violations appear listed in the Violations region of the PCB Rules And Violations panel.

Accessing options applicable to running a Batch DRC, and generating a DRC report.Accessing options applicable to running a Batch DRC, and generating a DRC report.

A batch-mode DRC is initiated by clicking the Run Design Rule Check button at the bottom-left of the dialog. After the check has completed, all violations are listed as messages in the Messages panel. If you opted to do so, a DRC report will be created and automatically opened (if configured to do so) as the active document in the main design window. The report lists each rule that was tested as specified in the Design Rule Checker dialog. Rules that are not present in the design are not tested.

DRC Reports

Enabling the Create Report File option in the Design Rule Checker dialog will generate a DRC report upon execution of a Batch DRC. Options available on the PCB Editor - Reports page of the Preferences dialog allow specification of report format, and whether the report is automatically displayed after generation.

Generate a DRC report as part of the Batch DRC process.
Generate a DRC report as part of the Batch DRC process.

Supported formats are:

  • TXT - generates the file Design Rule Check - <PCBDocumentName>.drc.
  • HTML - generates the file Design Rule Check - <PCBDocumentName>.html.
  • XML - generates the file <PCBDocumentName>.xml .
TXT and HTML format reports are generated into the folder specified in the Output Path field on the Project Options - Options dialog. The XML format file is generated into the same location as the parent project file.

The report lists each rule that was tested during the batch checking process as specified in the Design Rule Checker dialog. Each violation that was located is listed with full details of any reference information, such as the layer, net name, component designator, and pad number, as well as the location of the object.

In the HTML format report, click on the entry for an offending object to cross probe directly to that object in the design space.

Violation Display Options

Checking the design against specified design rules is one thing, but what happens when one or more of those rule are violated? Whether running Online DRC during design or manually running a Batch DRC, there needs to be some visual indication of where such rule violations are occurring. The PCB Editor includes powerful violation display options to indicate where violations exist in a clear, visual way.

Custom Violation Graphics

Most design rules that can be included in either Online and/or Batch design rule checking have associated custom violation graphics - appearing within the design space when a particular rule is violated. These graphics provide a visually cleaner DRC landscape. When a particular design rule is violated, the associated custom violation graphics (where applicable) are only drawn on the layer(s) involved with that violation.

In some cases, the graphic shows not only where the violation is occurring, but also why - displaying the constraint value defined for the rule and indicating how the offending primitive(s) are either below or above this value.

Example illustrating the custom graphics used for width and minimum annular ring rule violations.Example illustrating the custom graphics used for width and minimum annular ring rule violations.

Other graphics, including those used to represent violations of Net Antennae, Short-Circuit, Un-Routed Net, Room Definition, Layer Pairs and Vias Under SMD rules will be a graphic, as there is no definable constraint value to be displayed.

Additional examples of custom violation graphics. From left to right: Net Antennae violation; Short-Circuit violation; Un-Routed Net violation.Additional examples of custom violation graphics. From left to right: Net Antennae violation; Short-Circuit violation; Un-Routed Net violation.

Violation Overlay

In addition to the custom violation graphics, a violations 'overlay' is available for setup and use. The overlay draws over design primitives. You have a choice of what pattern to display on the primitives from a selection of styles.

Use a violation overlay as an alternative to the custom violation graphics when displaying DRC violations.Use a violation overlay as an alternative to the custom violation graphics when displaying DRC violations.

Using a combination of the two violation display types can prove useful in terms of providing a 'coarse' and 'fine' indication of violations. When zoomed out, the violation overlay can flag where a violation exists, then zoom in to view the detail delivered by the associated custom violation graphic.

Configuring Violation Display Preferences

Control over how DRC violations are displayed - using the custom violation graphics and/or a defined violation overlay - is specified on the PCB Editor - DRC Violations Display page of the Preferences dialog.

Configure how DRC violations are displayed in the design space - using custom graphics and/or a defined violation overlay - as part of your software preferences.
Configure how DRC violations are displayed in the design space - using custom graphics and/or a defined violation overlay - as part of your software preferences.

Options available allow you to:

  • Choose the style of violation overlay used using the Violation Overlay Style - error markers can be shown in one of the four following ways. Click to select your preferred style:
    • None (Layer Color) - error markers are displayed in the layer color, and therefore, are not visible.
    • Solid (Override Color) - error markers are displayed in the Error Marker layer color.
    • Style A - error markers are displayed as a warning triangle.
    • Style B - error markers are displayed as a dot with a cross inside.
  • Determine violation overlay display behavior when zooming out using the Overlay Zoom Out Behavior - error markers will do the following as you zoom out:
    • Base Pattern Scales - the error markers are scaled regardless of the zoom level (the type of marker is determined by the Violation Overlay Style selected above).
    • Layer Color Dominates - as you zoom out the error markers become a solid area of color in the layer color.
    • Override Color Dominates - as you zoom out the error markers become a solid area of color in the Error Marker layer color.
  • Choose the display style used, on a per-rule basis, in the Choose DRC Violations Display Style region. Enabling the Violation Details option for a rule type will use the associated custom violation graphics to display the DRC violations of that rule. Enabling the Violation Overlay option will display the violations using the specified overlay style.

    Right-click within the grid to access a menu of commands to quickly enable or disable use of a violation display type for all rule types. Commands are also available to quickly enable the display of violations - detailed graphics or overlay styles - for only those rules currently being used in the design.

Defining Violation Coloring

To give further flexibility when displaying rule violations in the design space, the two violation display types - violation details (custom violation graphics) and violation overlay - have separate associated system colors. This allows you to differentiate between the two using different, distinct colors. Color assignment is performed in the System Colors section on the Layers & Colors tab of the View Configuration panel:

  • Violation Details – uses the Violation Markers system color (for waived violations using this display style, uses the Waived Violation Markers system color).
  • Violation Overlay – uses the DRC Error Markers system color (for waived violations using this display style, uses the Waived DRC Error Markers system color).

Specify different coloring for the two violation display types, and enable/disable their display as required.Specify different coloring for the two violation display types, and enable/disable their display as required.

For the violation display type to be used, ensure that the visibility icon (to the left of the color swatches) is enabled (), otherwise, the associated violation details or violation overlay will not be displayed.
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