Designing Embedded Systems in Aircraft with Altium Designer
Anyone that has spent time working in the aerospace industry can appreciate the complexity of the mechanical, electrical, and electronic systems that bring an aircraft together. Synchronizing all the data and controlling important components in an aircraft takes rugged embedded electronic systems. Each embedded system provides specific functionality and must be designed to exacting standards. Only Altium Designer gives you the best tools for designing embedded systems for aerospace, avionics, and military applications.
TOPICS IN THIS SOLUTION
A unified PCB design package for embedded electronics systems for aerospace applications.
Embedded systems encompass a broad range of electronic control systems and data processing units that perform critical functions in a number of applications. Some examples include industrial control units, sensor arrays, vehicle control modules, and a host of other mission critical systems. No matter your definition of an embedded system, they are distinct from most PCBs in that they provide specific functionality within a larger system. Overall, these systems must provide critical functions with perpetual uptime and little to no maintenance.
No matter the application, a PCB will set the stage for your embedded system. The performance of these systems hinges on implementing the best PCB design practices and using the best tools to validate design choices. Whether you’re designing safety-critical software for an embedded system, designing a single board computer for an unmanned aircraft, or designing complex control systems to keep mechanical components running at the proper specifications, you’ll need the right design software with the best layout and validation tools.
With technology advancing at breakneck speed, embedded systems designers need adaptable PCB design software that incorporates their schematic, layout, verification, simulation, and documentation tools within a single environment. Working with software that is built on an underlying unified design engine makes these tasks much easier as all the required features work in a single design environment. Altium Designer is the only design software that integrates these critical tools within a single environment, giving you full control over your design.
Some key applications of embedded systems in aircraft and other avionics applications include critical control systems, data processing for sensor arrays, in-flight guidance and navigation, and communications systems. Each application requires implementing particular PCB design techniques, specialized components, and consideration of the embedded system’s overall place within an aircraft. No two embedded systems are exactly alike, and designers and engineers will need to collaborate on design, programming, and production of these systems.
Embedded systems in aircraft almost always include components for on-board data acquisition and processing from other embedded systems, sensor arrays, mechanical systems, or wireless systems. Signal processing, on-board memory, and inter-board communications capabilities will need to be included in these boards, and some of these functions may appear in separate boards or on a computer. No matter the specific capabilities in an embedded system, these systems must be designed to operate in rugged environments, have a long lifecycle, and require little to no maintenance.
Standards for Embedded Systems in Aircrafts
Compared to PCBs for use in consumer electronics or off-the-shelf single board computers, embedded systems in aircrafts tend to include advanced components and must meet specific layout requirements. They must also meet important standards, including ISO, IPC, SAE, and RTCA DO standards. Military aircraft must also be designed to MIL standards. These standards specify important performance and reliability requirements that are directly related to circuit board layout.
Working with the right design software can help you design directly to these important performance standards. These aforementioned standards also place requirements on manufacturability of an embedded system for use in civilian or military aircraft. Working with rules-driven design software allows you to incorporate these layout requirements directly into your design rules. The right design tools will help engineers and designers keep track of their layouts, components, and sourcing, ensuring their boards meet reliability and quality standards.
- Designing embedded systems in aircraft is a complicated affair, but the right board layout software gives you the power to design to important industry standards for mission critical systems.Learn more about working with the best board layout software for embedded systems.
- From avionics to spaceflight, embedded systems are just one piece of the aerospace puzzle. Powerful PCB design software helps engineers to create these systems with ease.
- Any mission critical embedded system must be precisely designed to exacting standards. Many of these important standards apply at the component level. Using the right design software can help ensure your component models are IPC compliant, as well as help you meet important reliability, manufacturability, and performance standards.Learn more about creating IPC compliant component models for your embedded system.
3D ECAD/MCAD integration in Altium Designer
If you start digging deep into design practices for embedded systems for use in aerospace applications, you’ll find that designs for these PCBs borrow elements from computer architecture and peripherals, wireless devices, mixed signal systems, and high speed digital systems. Finding the right mix of design practices is crucial to ensuring your embedded system works as intended.
Any embedded system is likely to contain high speed data processing capabilities, especially in aerospace applications. Embedded systems that provide control over electromechanical systems and electronic peripherals must continuously gather and process a large amount of data from other devices. They might also require gathering analog signals from sensors and use these to provide critical control and safety functions in real time. Designers must implement firmware for their central processing units to control these external systems and memory to store data as required.
Another critical aspect is communications capabilities. Embedded communications systems are typically mixed signal devices as they must send, receive, and process data over the air at RF or mm-wave frequencies. They must also communicate with other digital systems elsewhere in an aircraft, thus designers must implement the right digital communication protocol to pass information between boards. The right design software makes it easy to incorporate all these elements into an embedded system and check your design against appropriate standards.
DFM, DFA, and Compliance with Standards
Any embedded system for civilian and military applications must be created with design for manufacturability and design for assembly. PCB manufacturing requirements as specified by fabricators and assemblers must be compared with critical ISO, IPC, SAE, and MIL standards in order to ensure that your system will be compliant from the moment it enters service.
Embedded systems also carry standards on software development for embedded systems. ISO standards should be followed by developers creating firmware for avionics systems. When combined with mechanical and electronic dependability requirements and standards for embedded systems in aircraft, software and electronic design teams will need to work together to ensure that their systems are compliant with standards and can pass any reliability test.
- Embedded systems in aircraft continue their advance towards higher data processing requirements, integrated communications capabilities, and the ability to interface with networks of analog sensors. Getting the layer stack is crucial to ensuring that PCBs for these embedded systems will function as intended.
- The strict design, manufacturability, and sourcing requirements for embedded systems in aircraft makes automated compliance reports essential for any design team, especially for military aircraft. The last thing anyone needs is an audit, and automated reports can ease the headaches that come with compliance.
- Military and civilian embedded systems in aircraft must meet strict design for manufacturability and design for assembly standards. Learn some of the best DFM and DFA tips for any PCB.
Defining rules and constraints in Altium Designer to ensure manufacturability
With embedded systems being so vital in aerospace, and as they become more vital in industrial control systems in support of greater automation, where is the intrepid designer to look for the critical design tools required to support continued innovation in this area? Most design platforms create different tools for each capability that might appear in an embedded system, forcing designers to switch between design modules, use inconsistent workflows, and risk data formatting errors when moving between systems.
Instead of placing your success in the hands on an electronics design platform with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, the design tools you need for embedded systems design and development should be built to work together. Building design features on top a unified, rules-driven design interface ensures that your tools always communicate in the same language, preventing data errors and productivity bottlenecks that plague other design platforms.
Best of all, unified design tools can be placed in a single environment, allowing you and your team to collaborate on embedded avionics systems with ease. Building a design environment on the back of a rules-driven design allows you to incorporate critical electronic, mechanical, quality, reliability, and manufacturability standards as design rules that interface directly with your design tools.
Embedded Systems Design in Altium Designer
Designers that want to stay at the forefront of embedded systems development need tools that work together and create a unified workflow. Layer stackup design, arrangement of power and ground planes, management of components, routing for high speed/high frequency design, and model-based design are just some of the aspects to consider when choosing PCB design software.
With Altium Designer, you’ll have access to all of this and so much more. You won’t have to buy your design features piecemeal or force incompatible tools to work together in a fragmented workflow. Altium Designer is the only integrated design platform that includes important design, layout, management, collaboration, documentation, and production planning features in a single program. You can customize all aspects of your next embedded system to meet mission critical operating requirements.
- Applications for embedded systems are broadening, and so are the operating requirements. Alternative materials for PCBs can expand available capabilities to meet these new demands. Your PCB design software needs to include a comprehensive materials library for use in any embedded system.Learn more about the stackup materials library in Altium Designer.
- Other design software platforms force you to use external programs to write embedded applications for FPGAs or MCUs, creating a productivity bottleneck. Altium Designer allows you develop a complete embedded FPGA application from scratch.See how you can develop embedded FPGA applications in Altium Designer.
- Manufacturability is always a major concern surrounding embedded aerospace systems, both for military and civilian aircraft. Using the automated documentation tools in Altium Designer will help you generate and deliver high quality, consistent documentation to your manufacturer and assembler.Learn more about creating the right manufacturing documentation in Altium Designer.
Any mission critical system for use in civilian or military aircraft must meet important design standards and performance requirements. Fortunately, the best design, collaboration, verification, and production planning tools will help you and your team create embedded systems that provide critical functionality for any aviation system. Altium Designer is the only PCB design software package that includes these critical design features within a single interface.
Designing embedded systems in aircrafts is a complicated affair, but your design software can ease the design process. Altium wants you to be successful and provides the resources you need to meet your design goals. You’ll have access to webinars, podcasts, design tutorials written by experts, the AltiumLive forum, and an extensive knowledge base. No other PCB design software company gives you access to this many resources.
Rules-driven electronics design in an integrated environment is the new paradigm in PCB design for embedded systems. Instead of using outdated design software that separates features into different programs, join the future of PCB design and work with the best software on the market. If you want access to the best embedded system design tools, you need Altium Designer.