Reimagine PCB Prototype Service with Design and Output Management Software
Prototyping is a process that, when done well, can save immense amounts of time and resources; however, when done incorrectly can quickly become a sink if your software is not fully updated or your team hasn’t communicated properly.
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Helping move your design from idea to manufacturing with ease and security.
The traditional process for PCB prototyping moves from building layout data with CAD software, fabricating a prototype, testing for to developers reviewing the design and making changes, and then to moving to full production of the board. Each one of these sub-processes requires time and adds cost to the PCB project.
Customers looking for PCB prototyping services will want high quality, reliable PCB manufacturers and PCB fabrication that can have minimal turnaround time. With the quick turn nature of circuit board design and PCB prototyping, you’ll want to be in constant contact to ensure an on-time delivery. PCB production should not be delayed because of poor communication between PCB assembly services and PCB fabrication, and PCB prototyping.
PCB designs often include logical modules that improve the capability of the team to read and interpret schematics. In turn, spreading the design over multiple sheets places few components on the individual sheets and allows smaller format printing. When working with Schematic Editor, you can capture separate schematic sheets and then build up the overall design with either a flat or hierarchical structure that establishes connectivity between the sheets.
A flat design structure places all sheets derived from a large schematic sheet on the same level. Horizontal connectivity moves from the Ports any sheet to the Ports on any other sheet. When viewing the Projects panel within Schematic Editor, all sheets appear at the same level.
While flat structures speed the process, hierarchical structures allow you to easily follow signals across the sheets and interpret circuit functionality. With the hierarchical structure, a parent-child relationship exists between the sheets. Connectivity occurs through Sheet Entries in Sheet Symbols with a signal on a child sheet leaving the sheet through a Port that connects upward to a matching Sheet Entry on the parent sheet.
With this approach, the parent sheet includes the wiring that carries the signal across to a Sheet Entry in another Sheet Symbol. Your design team can follow each wire of the circuit or use Net Labels to maintain the logical connectivity between schematic sheets. The hierarchical structure also gives the capability for design reuse.
Altium Designer Provides the Structure That Your Design Needs
Altium Designer smooths the process of PCB design with multi-channel design support. You can repeat sections of circuitry once and then instruct the software to repeat all the components and connectivity the desired number of times. When you transfer the design from Schematic Editor to PCB Layout, Altium Designer automatically steps out the physical components and nets the required number of times. Cross-probing and cross-selecting tools facilitate work between the schematic and the PCB.
After determining the PCB layout you use Altium Designer’s 3D Layout Mode to view your PCB in 3D. In the 3D mode, you can zoom the view, rotate, and travel inside the board. You can use the View Configurations dialog in 3D Layout Mode to configure the 3D workspace options such as vertical scaling and the opacity setting.
- If you want to learn more about how you can utilize design software for rapid prototyping,
Learn more about rapid prototype manufacturing.
- Libraries are instrumental in saving you time in future processes utilizing similar models or parts.
Learn more about creating library parts and attaching 3D models.
- Working in a team environment will be greatly benefitted with multi-channel design.
Learn more about multi-channel design.
PCB Editor provides the rules-driven environment needed to control the signal and power nets. As you change the design, PCB Editor software checks to ensure that the changes comply with design rules. Altium’s Interactive Routing command automatically selects the design rules that apply to the nets in your design and optimizes track and via routing.
PCB Editor allows you to establish the signal, power plane, mask and silkscreen layers needed for fabrication along mechanical and special layers. The mechanical layers include dimensions, fabrication details, and assembly instructions. You can include the mechanical layers in print or in the Gerber output generation.
Special layers include the top and bottom silkscreen layers, solder and paste mask layers, drill layers, the connection layer, the DRC error layer, grid layers, hole layers, and other layer types used for fabrication of the physical board. You can configure the display attributes of the layers through the View Configurations dialog and Layer Stack Manager to add, remove, change, and define the physical layers.
Strong layer stack management is invaluable when working with any multilayer PCB designs.
Altium Designer’s PCB Editor Enables Easy Transition
You can begin establishing your prototype and eliminating the need for creating a custom PCB with a Schematic Editor. Working within Schematic Editor, you can connect component symbols to create unique circuits that include physical and logical connectivity.
With access to Altium’s Content Vault and component libraries, you have access to 100,000s of components, availability information, and real-time pricing. From there, Altium Designer 18 allows you to connect the components by wiring pins for physical connectivity or by placing net identifiers to connect the pins in the specific net for logical connectivity.
Advanced tools found within the Smart Paste dialog give you the capability to convert textual information into objects. Another set of Smart Paste tools contained within the Pin Data Smart Paste dialog allows you to use the Symbol Wizard to populate multiple columns of data from an external source. By using the Smart Paste dialog, you can paste Windows-based text into your design as Ports, Net labels, Buses, Harnesses, or groups of objects. Altium’s intuitive menus ease the process of choosing objects to paste, choosing paste actions, and setting the parameters for pasting objects.
You can bundle multiple nets into a bus and any combination of nets and buses into a Signal Harness. Altium’s Schematic Editor also includes the Harness Connector dialog that enable the logical grouping of different signals including buses and wires. You can use the dialog to specify the properties of a Harness Connector object. Each Signal Harness system consists of a Signal Harness, Harness Connector, and Harness Entries.
While buses represent a group of related signals, wires shows the electrical connections between points. With these tools, you can create and manipulate high-level connections between the sub-circuits of your PCB design. Signal Harnesses allows you to build complex designs within the same schematic environment, maintain consistent naming conventions, and view wires and busses across the entire project. You can use Harness Definitions to establish formal textual definitions that include the Harness type and Harness Entries.
- Having an intuitive and real-time updating symbol system will encourage your prototypes.
Learn more about unified symbols for PCB prototype designs.
- Altium designer has many advanced functionalities, but some of its most basic are some of its most important.
Learn more about creating a symbol within Altium Designer
- Organization and selection features are necessary to streamline your design process.
Learn more about utilizing and highlighting nets in Altium Designer.
With Altium’s unified approach, building the circuit design within the Schematic Editor also allows you to use the circuit simulation and analysis tools found within Altium Designer 18. You can compile circuit designs for viewing by all members of your team and verify that the design satisfies all electrical requirements. After testing your design, you can add design-level instructions to the schematic. For example, you identify groups of nets that work as individual pairs. Schematic Editor provides templates for creating consistent, readable schematics that include component data and bookmarks.
This complete suite of design and testing tools allows you seamlessly move your electrically complete and accurate schematic along with design rules and constraints to PCB layout. For example, Altium’s unified design approach relies on a component model that extends across the design, mechanical, industrial design, procurement, and manufacturing processes. Stored in a target Altium vault, a unified component represents components, connectors, devices, example designs, and template designs from schematic capture to PCB layout and to simulation. As a result, dedicated part choices map the design component and PCB footprint to real-world manufactured parts.
Gerbers become your best friend when trying to work through manufacturing options
Produce Output Documentation with Altium Designer
Altium Designer also provides all the technologies needed to produce output documentation for your PCB. Available output types include Assembly Outputs such as assembly drawings, Documentation Outputs such as PDB prints, Fabrication Outputs such as drill drawings and Gerber files, Netlist Outputs, and Report Outputs such as the Bill of Materials and the Electrical Rules Check. With all the tools available in a unified environment, you can generate output in different file formats and map your design data to the Bill of Materials.
- Smart component placement can save you time throughout the layout process.
Learn more about smart component placement.
- By making outputs reusable, you are saving time for yourself and others.
Learn more about reusable batch outputs.
- Automated project release can ensure that a design can keep moving forward without interruptions.
Learn more about automated project release.
You and your design team can count on the unified technologies offered through Altium Designer. From the initial schematic through output documentation, Altium Designer provides the tools and information needed for successful prototyping.