Altium Designer Documentation

Additional Features and Enhancements

Modified by Phil Loughhead on Apr 26, 2021
NOTE: This page is a work in progress and will continue to be updated.

Component Editor

Component Pin to Multiple Pad Mapping

This new release introduces flexible pin to pad mapping capabilities for managed components. Enhancements to the Single Component Editor and the introduction of a new Pins panel allow component symbol pins to be mapped to any component footprint pad, or any number of footprint pads.

This functionality is currently only available when connected to an Altium 365 Workspace. It is not supported when connecting to an instance of Altium Concord Pro.

The Pins panel, opened from the editor's button, allows the default one-to-one pin-pad mapping to be changed to a custom relationship, such as one pin being connected to multiple footprint pads – or any other non-aligned pin to pad number relationship. When mapping a pin to multiple pads, the mapping entries are entered using a comma-delimited numeric format (1,2,3,4 etc). Pin-to-pad cross-probe highlighting is supported for multiple common footprint pads, and a custom footprint mapping configuration is indicated by its associated icon.

A placed component with custom pin-to-pad mapping is fully supported during design schematic-PCB synchronization, for pin and part swapping, and by the Component Pin Editor dialog. Note that schematic components now show pad designators rather than pin designators, and where custom mapping has been applied the pin designator is shown in gray. The latter can be disabled by unchecking the Show Pin Designators option on the Schematic - Graphical Editing page of the Preferences dialog.

Schematic Library Editor

Custom Alternate Symbols Name

The Altium Designer Schematic Library Editor offers the option to add alternative symbol graphics to a component part, which when the part is placed in a design, can be selected through the Mode option in the Graphical section of the Properties panel.

The Tools » Mode menu used to add and remove alternative symbols in the Library Editor now offers a Rename option, which allows the name of the currently selected symbol graphic to be changed via the Rename Alternate Representation dialog.


PCB Editor Enhancements

New Options for the Component Clearance Design Rule

The PCB Component Clearance design rule includes two new options:

  • Do not check components without 3D body – when this option is enabled, components without a 3D Body are excluded from being clearance checked by this rule.
  • Check clearance by component boundary – use the component boundary (the area that highlights when the component is selected) for component clearance checking.

Adding and Removing Coverlay Regions

New coverlay regions can now be added/removed in the Board Planning Mode of the PCB editor. To add a new coverlay region, right-click over a Flex region then choose Coverlay Actions » Add Coverlay. A coverlay layer (bikini coverlay) must first be added in the Layer Stack and must be the active layer. After launching the Add Coverlay command, a coverlay region will be added. 

A coverlay can also be added/removed in the Actions region of the Board Region mode of the Properties panel.

Perform Polygon Update Actions from the Panel

Polygon update actions, such as Repour, Shelve and Modify can now be invoked from buttons in the Properties panel.

Using Polygons on Power Planes

To use the new polygons on planes feature, enable the Legacy.PCB.SplitPlanes option in the Advanced Settings dialog (accessed by clicking the Advanced button on the System - General page of the Preferences dialog). Note that in Altium Designer 21 Update 3, this option was renamed to PCB.SplitPlanes.Pouring.

Traditionally, a PCB power plane is designed as a negative, that is, the objects placed on a power plane layer become voids in the copper when the board is fabricated. This approach is used because it is more efficient to generate the output data this way, as the bulk of a plane layer is normally copper; voids in the copper are only needed in specific locations such as around non-connected pads, or as separation voids when the plane is divided into different voltage regions.

As part of improving support for more complex power plane design, this release sees the addition of support for defining power planes as polygons. This change does not affect the approach to designing a power plane; they are still defined in the negative - so placing an object creates a void in the copper, and they continue to be split into separate regions by placing a split line.

By using polygons, copper islands, narrow necks and dead copper can automatically be detected and removed.

Notes about the new Polygons on Plane mode:

  • After enabling the option, review each plane layer and repour the plane polygon(s) with the polygon options configured to suit your design needs.
  • Connections and Clearances for plane layers are defined by the PlaneConnect and PlaneClearance design rules.
  • After modifying a plane (connect or clearance) design rule, repour at least one polygon on each plane layer, to update the connections/clearances on that layer.
  • Edits made on a plane layer, such as modifying the location of a split line, cause an automatic repour of polygons on that plane layer.

Outline Vertices for Region & Polygon Objects

Region and Polygon objects now include their Outline Vertices in the Properties panel and their object dialog.

Embedded Board Arrays at Any Angle

Embedded board arrays can now be placed at any angle within a PCB fabrication panel, which offers improved flexibility in how unusually shaped PCBs in particular can be arranged to maximize the available board panel real-estate.

Display of Polar Grid Coordinates

Polar grid coordinates (Radial distance and Angle) are now displayed in the Heads Up Display and the Properties panel, whenever the cursor is over a polar grid.

Snap to Arc Center Option

The PCB editor now supports snapping to the center of a placed arc. Configure the snap behavior in the Objects for Snapping settings in the Board mode of the Properties panel (displayed when there are no objects selected in the workspace), or configure it as you work by pressing the Ctrl+E shortcuts.

New PCB Special Strings For Layer Thickness

The new .Total_Thickness special string can be used to display the overall thickness of the board. If the board includes multiple layer stacks, use the .Total_Thickness(<SubstackName>) special string to display the thickness of the chosen substack.

Quick Routing and Quick Differential Pair Routing Tools

New Quick Routing and Quick Differential Pair Routing commands have been added to the PCB editor Route menu. These commands offer lighter routing with less settings and capabilities, suitable for simpler designs.

These routers are referred to as Quick because they offer a reduced feature-set. Features that are not included in the Quick Router/Quick Differential Pair Router:

  • No turn smoothing
  • Little support for Any Angle routing
  • No pushing of T-junctions
  • Simple Push&Shove support
  • No Miter Ratio, Min Arc, or Pad Entry Stability
  • Simple Gloss Effort, with no support for Gloss Neighbor
  • No differential pair convergence when exiting the start pins laterally (Quick Differential Pair Router command)
  • No hugging by routed differential pairs (Quick Differential Pair Router command)
  • No differential pair maintenance when a neighbor differential pair is pushed (Quick Differential Pair Router command)

Updated ODBᐩᐩ Setup Dialog

The ODB++ Setup dialog has been redesigned to support customization of layers. The layer groups generated by the ODB++ output can be modified by the addition of layers from the mechanical group, resulting in a specified set of merged layers.

Layers are selected for addition in the Select Layer dialog accessed from the ellipsis menu associated with each layer group (). In the example shown here, the layers holding the component designators are added to the Silkscreen overlay so these will be merged with the ODB++ overlay output. Other usage examples might be when including solderable mechanical components, where solder and paste mask layers for those components are added (merged with) the existing mask layer outputs.

Place a Rectangle

A new rectangle object has been added to the Place menu. The rectangle is created from four track segments, and is placed and sized as a single object. Press Tab during placement to define the default width used for the border of the rectangle.

Placing a Graphic on the PCB

Use the new Place » Graphics command to place a JPG, BMP, PNG or SVG format graphic on your PCB.

After launching the command, you will be prompted to provide two clicks to define a rectangular area for the image to be placed in. You will then be prompted to select the graphic file, once it has been selected the Import Image dialog will open. Configure the image settings as required and click OK to create the graphic on the active PCB layer.

The image will be imported and scaled to fit in the largest available vertical or horizontal distance within the defined area, maintaining its original aspect ratio. if the graphic was placed as a Union then it can be moved (click and drag) or resized (right-click » Unions » Resize Union) as a single object.

3D View Move and Rotate using Numpad

A range of additional shortcut keys for manipulating the PCB 3D view is now available on the keyboard number pad. The new shortcuts provide preset levels of rotation or panning in all directions – up, down, left, right – along with an additional set of predefined views – left, right, top, bottom, front, back. The existing 3D view shortcuts (0,5,8,9) are maintained – note that the main 8 key and the NumPad 8 key have different functions.

  • Rotate 3D scene:
    4, 6 – Left, Right
    8, 2 – Up, Down
  • Pan (move):
    Ctrl+4, Ctrl+6 – Left, Right
    Ctrl+8, Ctrl+2 – Up, Down
  • Predefined views:
    1, 3, 7 – Top, Left, Front.
    Ctrl+1, Ctrl+3, Ctrl+7 – Bottom, Right, Back.

The rotation angle step is set to 30° by default, and the pan distance step is set to 500mils (12.7mm) by default. These settings can be accessed and edited in the Other section of the PCB Editor - General page of the Preferences dialog.

Include Mechanical Layers in the 3D View Mode

Mechanical layers can now be included in the 3D display, when the 3D Settings are using Colors - By Layer. The mechanical layers that are currently configured to be visible, will be displayed .

Separate Visibility Controls for 3D Model Reference and Snap Points

3D Body Reference Point and Custom Snap Points now have separate visibility controls in the System Colors region of the View Configuration panel.

Export the 3D PCB as an Image

It's common to need an image of the 3D PCB; perhaps for a product brochure, the cover of the handbook, or for the website. While it is possible to copy an image of the board from the PCB editor to the clipboard using the Ctrl+C shortcut, that approach requires that you paste the clipboard contents into an image editor and save it.

This release sees the introduction of a new export command, File » Export » PCB 3D Print. After selecting the location to save the image file, the PCB 3D Print Settings dialog will open, where you can set the Render Resolution, how you would like the board to be viewed, and the image format.

The ability to generate a PCB 3D Print was previously available in an OutputJob file, where it could be used to generate a PDF or be sent directly to a printer. With this update, you can now generate an image file directly, by connecting the Output Job to a Folder Structure Output Container.


System

Improved Template Management

The management of Altium Designer document templates now can be performed in one location using a simple list interface that encompasses both local file-based templates and managed templates hosted on an Altium Server.

Accessed on the Data Management – Templates page of the Preferences dialog, the interface includes entries for all available templates for all document types – Schematic, BOM, Draftsman, Layerstack, etc. Templates can be added, edited, removed, or where applicable, specified as the document type default.

  • Use the button menu to choose a new template type to be added, or loaded – templates are created and edited in their corresponding document type editor.
  • An existing or created Footprint can be specified as the template for creating new Footprints.
  • Select the Defaults tab to see, edit or remove any of the default templates that have been specified.

Local file-based templates can be migrated to the connected server from the Migrate to Server option on the right-click context menu. Once the migration is complete, the template will be available as a server-based Managed Template of the same name, while the existing local template will be archived as a zip file in its source folder (that shown in the Local Templates Folder field). The archive is named original_template_n.zip, where the numeral n is incremented with each archived template.

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