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In the not-too-distant past, single-layer and two-layer PCBs dominated the industry. Now, innovations in product design have prompted greater complexity for PCB design. Rigid-flex PCBs, high density interconnects, multi-layer designs, and high frequency applications have introduced rapid change. In turn, the functionality and power of EDA software applications—such as Altium Designer—have expanded with suites of tools that guide the PCB design process. All these factors challenge PCB design teams. Without the proper understanding of design and the software, design teams risk using precious time to build a design that—simply put—does not work.
To assist PCB designers with managing change and maximizing productivity, Altium offersvideo tutorials that cover the design features of Altium Designer, access to the Altium knowledge base, blogs, and expert-led webinars. Each of the learning resources allows designers to access the functionality of a unified environment that moves the design process from schematic to layout and to fabrication. The fundamental approach used by Altium within the video tutorials demonstrates how to reduce the design cycle, save costs, and apply documentation. In addition, the entire scope of learning resources establish a foundation for understanding signal integrity and power integrity.
You can take your first steps into Altium’s all-in-one, unified design environment through a step-by-stepvideo tutorial. With Altium Designer, your team can access design tools in the same intuitive environment from any location. Rather than depending on different external tools available through multiple vendors and risk the loss of version control, your team can compile design information within a single, integrated interface.
Because everything occurs within a seamless, unified environment, your team can easily move from creating a project to production. With every function operating through Altium’s rules-driven engine, your team can build and apply design rules that align with the intent of your project. Moreover, Altium Designer provides the tools for automatically compiling extensive documentation including Gerber files, design notes, and the Bill of Materials.
Altium’s step-by-step approach to PCB design begins with a project file that contains design documents. As your team builds the design, the documents populate with project preferences, project outputs, and the required electrical rule checks. Altium Designer provides version control for your documents through managed repositories.
Setting up your project and developing a schematic within Altium Designer becomes easier through acomprehensive video tutorial. When working within Altium Designer, your team can create components from local libraries or place components direct from the Altium’s globally accessible Content Vault. Adding links to the PCB footprint allows each symbol to become a component that includes specifications within the local libraries. Every PCB footprint stores in local PCB libraries and includes electrical and mechanical elements.
While local libraries provide functionality, access to the cloud-based Altium Content Vault allows your team to work on a project from any location. Because the Vault exists as a resource separate from Altium Designer, your team will need to connect through Altium’s Data Management page. The Vault contains thousands of components that include symbols, footprints, component parameters, and links to suppliers. Your team can organize components in folders established by manufacturer or by package.
Having access to components sets the stage for placing the components on the schematic and for wiring the circuit. Altium Designer allows your team to communicate the intent of the design to other project participants. The use of design notes assists external parties who do not have in-depth electrical knowledge to understand the project. Well-structured and detailed design notes also assist with determining signal integrity and power integrity faults with the design.
With the use of the Altium Designer’s Schematic Editor, your teams can assign Nets and Net Labels to indicate pin connections and assign names to Net Labels. The Net Labels create the connectivity between two separate points on the same schematic sheet. Altium’s unified environment also establishes the schematic as the best source of design rules for everything from differential pairs and routing widths to controlled impedances.
As your teams complete their initial work on the design, they can configure project-specific settings—such as error checking, output paths, multi-channel naming formats, and fabrication outputs—and store the settings in either a Project File specific to the project or an OutputJob file available for copying from one project to another.
Having this capability gives the project team the advantage of showing where power enters and exists the design and components tied to the power supply. The files can show all voltage rails with power on sequences, the maximum voltage to deliver, the percentage of available power consumed, and sinks on a particular rail. In addition, the files can provide a 3D representation of the board with labels. As Altium shows in avideo tutorial, the level of detail shown in the Project File and OutputJob files speeds the design analysis and review processes and assists with any transition between teams.
Schematic organization is beyond important for your design process
Within the unified environment of Altium Designer, your design team can easily transfer a PCB design from the Schematic Editor to the PCB Editor.Altium’s video tutorial guides the team through each of the processes involved with the schematic to PCB transfer. When the team updates and compiles the PCB document, Altium Designer creates a set of Engineering Change Orders (ECOs). The ECOs list all the components and component footprints used in the design, a list of all the nets, and additional design data. Executing the ECOs places the components and component footprints in the design and adds each net to the PCB.
After configuring the PCB workspace, layers, grids, and design rules, your design team can position components on the board. The PCB Editor supports the 32 signal, 16 internal power plane, 32 general purpose mechanical, special, and non-electrical layers. Altium Designer displays attributes for all layers in a color-coded workspace. As an example of the Altium Designer functionality and troubleshooting assistance, your design team can use the software to automatically select the applicable routing width design rule with the selection of the Interactive Routing command and a click on a net.
Along with the PCB Editor, Altium Designer uses the Layer Stack Manager to arrange the Layer Stack. The Layer Stack Manager dialog adds and removes signal and power plane layers and dielectric layers, changes the order of the layers, configured materials used for the physical layers, and establishes the layer thickness and dielectric constant. Your design team can use the board stackup to achieve the controlled impedances required for high-speed design.
Altium emphasizes hierarchical design with Altium Designer. By using color codes, the Layer Stack Manager easily shows design elements and the organization of the board. The 3-D display capabilities of Altium Designer allow design teams to view the overall board layout and mitigate problems such as split grounds. With Altium’s overall view of the PCB layout, teams can view the design as reusable functional blocks and include information about design choices that contribute to design reuse.
Altium Designer produces all the output documentation required for board review, fabrication, and assembly. The output documentation includes assembly drawings, pick and place files, PCB prints, PCB 3D prints, and 3D PDF views of the board.
Integrated 3D Modeling makes Altium Designer stand out from the rest.
For your PCB designing tutorial, consider utilizing a circuit board design software that can integrate and create consistencies between stages easily. Making sure your printed circuit board does become a printed circuit is a priority, after all. Have a design tool that can manage solder, electronic components, schematic design, and component placement without drowning you in PCB design tools that are unintuitive to use on a circuit board or would require a PCB design tutorial. .
Need answers to questions about PCB design? Design teams often ask about routing multiple traces, specifying routing widths, and resolving DRC and ERC errors. Altium offers video tutorials about getting started and building the design, the Altium Designer environment, design capture, design unification, board layout, library management, multi-sheet and multi-channel design, design rules, and project management. Those and other resources provide answers to hundreds of questions asked by design teams. You can ask questions of technical support teams, participate in discussions and share tips at the user form, and find extensive, informative documentation about Altium software.