Harness Design in Altium Designer

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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.

Structure of a Harness Design Project

A new harness design project (*.PrjHar) can be created in the same way as a PCB or Multi-board design project. Select the File » New » Project command from the main menus to open the Create Project dialog. Select the <Empty> entry or an available project template in the Harness list.

A harness design project 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.
  • Output Job File (*.OutJob) – a set of required outputs for your harness design can be pre-configured using an Output Job file. Each output is configured with its own settings and its own output format, for example, output to a file or to a printer. The same Output Job file configured for a harness design project can then be reused between designs, saving time and effort in preparing outputs for each new design.

    While Output Job files facilitate streamlined preparation and generation of outputs, your harness design outputs can also be generated directly from the project documents (e.g., using the File » Print command for a Harness Wiring Diagram or Harness Layout Drawing document or Reports » Bill of Materials command for an ActiveBOM document).
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.

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.

To add an existing harness project saved to a Workspace to a Multi-board project, open this harness project from the Workspace first (File » Open Project) to create its local working copy and then add it to the Multi-board project as described above.

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.

Creating a Harness Design – Example Guide

The collapsible sections below provide step-by-step instructions that will allow you to create a simple three-component harness design from scratch.

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