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Creating an electronic circuit board is a complicated process that includes selecting components and determining how they should be integrated into a circuit that will perform as desired. After settling on an operational configuration for your network you then have to design a physical architecture or PCB layout that can be built. The entire procedure can be quite a challenge. However, with Altium Designer 19 you have a virtual PCB guide on which to base your design.
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The most advanced PCB design tool with an unified environment for seamless PCB design.
The design of a PCB can be basically separated into two major tasks. First, you need to create a schematic that includes all of the components, the interconnections between them and any input and output connections for your board. Once your schematic is created and successfully verified you can transfer your design to a PCB layout, which defines the physical architecture of your design. This may seem simple enough; however, each task requires that several interdependent steps be taken. Moreover, there are constraints and guidelines that must be followed to ensure that your design can actually be manufactured. Managing this process is daunting, but with a design tool; such as Altium Designer that serves a PCB guide, it can be performed successfully and efficiently.
Your schematic is not only the first major part of your design, but it also establishes the basis for your PCB layout. For example, the components and packages that you select here determine the board size, amount of space used on your board and how many layers will need to be included in your PCB stackup. A good PCB guide will help you with these choices and more.
A strong design software will enable you to make a printed circuit, double sided or any layer board, using the PCB materials that are right for your designs and with easy component placement. It will have design rules for helping PCB designers incorporate tricky elements like surface mount components, thickness management, copper, and other electronic components and material without a massive learning curve.
Your schematic is not simply an enhanced block diagram of your design intent. A good schematic is more akin to a detailed blueprint that provides detailed information about your board's network. Central to your schematic’s function is to accurately define the components that will be installed on your board. It is not uncommon for this to be changed due to lack of availability of components to meet your manufacturing needs. With Altium’s Active BOM you can avoid this issue that can result in redesign and additional development costs.
Real-time component data for your BOM management
Altium Designer is designed to facilitate a smooth transition from your schematic to your PCB layout. And the program’s unified environment, which includes your schematic, BOM and PCB layout, make it easy to make changes that are translated throughout your design files. In contrast to your generating your schematic where you have almost complete freedom over the placement of components and nets, your board layout requires specification as it has to be built. The ease with which you are able to define component and drill hole locations, trace routes and the PCB stackup depends on the design tool you use.
Specifying your PCB stackup with Altium’s Layer Stack Manager
Your PCB layout provides the details for the physical construction or fabrication and assembly of your PCB. Central to the layout is the PCB stackup that not only gives the number of layers, but also your board’s materials, dimensions and layer types. A stackup is necessary whether you are designing a single or multilayer PCB. With Altium Designer’s Layer Stack Manager all of the needed information can easily be defined in one place.
For the top and for double-sided boards the bottom layers Altium includes automatic placement and routing functionality. Of course, the ability to perform these manually is also available, which you may prefer to control grounding and vias.
No matter the solder or solder mask necessities, make sure you have a PCB footprint that clearly annotates copper and copper placement for manufacturing. Engineers, with or without a design guide in place, should consider DFM PCB design guidelines including substrate materials, copper foil usage, and other elements found with the schematic design of a printed circuit.
Most likely, you engage a contract manufacturer to build your boards. Although, this is an outsourced activity your design actually determines the quality of your physical PCBs. There are a number of design decisions that you make which can either make the manufacturing process easy, difficult or impossible. Fortunately, Altium Designer provides features to allow you to aid your CM in building your boards.
The most important thing you can do to help make the manufacture of your board’s a smooth process that results in a high-quality product is to use their DFM specifications to guide your design. Contrary to the what some believe, DFM is specific to your CM. Reliance on default or general specifications will undoubtedly cause manufacturing delays and require you to engage in a sometimes extensive back and forth with your CM for clarification and changes. This is easily avoided by setting your DRC and other parameter tolerances according to the capabilities of your CM.
Another way you can assist your CM is by specifying a panel layout or panelization. Altium makes panelization easy; including the ability to evaluate 3-D views to determine the best layout. As your layout determines how much waste there is for each panel, a bad design can be costly.
Designing electronic circuits is not a simple or easy task. There are many considerations and choices that determine the quality and perhaps manufacturability of your design. Having a PCB guide is practically essential in order for you to achieve a good design, efficiently. And today, with constantly shrinking development times efficient design is required. Altium Designer, which is designed to provide you with the greatest range of capability also includes features that can guide you through the steps for PCB design quickly.