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If you’ve want to bring your next great electronic device to life, you’ll need to transform it from a circuit diagram into a schematic. Then you’ll need to turn your schematic into a layout. Finally, you’ll need to turn your layout into an actual PCB. Different PCB tools in your design software can help with different tasks, but only one software package integrates all of these features into a single interface. Altium Designer is the only PCB design tool that gives you access to all of these features in a single program and helps you move through the entire design process.
TOPICS IN THIS SOLUTION
A fully unified PCB design package with a plethora of PCB tools.
The best PCB design tools shouldn’t be sold piecemeal, but all the big players still separate their critical design, analysis, documentation, and management tools into separate programs. You’re forced to learn different programs with inconsistent workflows, forcing you to learn multiple programs just to complete simple design tasks.
Rather than using a software package that separates critical design features into separate programs, you need a software package that allows you to draw schematics, build your layout, plan for manufacturing, and manage your data all in one place. The new paradigm in PCB design software integrates these features into a single package, and all of these important features are present in a single interface.
The first step in bringing your design to life is taking it from the back of an envelope and building a set of schematics based on your circuit diagram. Creating your schematic is the first step to breathing life into your new idea and forms the foundation of all the future work you will do to create your device. Most schematic software comes with some CAD capabilities and should read data directly from your component libraries.
Unfortunately, most online or standalone schematics programs are really only useful for drawing schematics. They don’t have any capabilities beyond that. Once you’re ready to move beyond your finished schematic and start laying out an actual board, you’ll be forced to use a different program, assuming your schematic file format is even compatible. Other PCB design software packages enforce a similar process: you have to move between two different programs just to start laying out your device.
You should count yourself lucky if these separated tools import data from your component libraries or facilitate some type of analysis. Those that do might block further progress with a paywall, forcing you to pull out your credit card just to continue using sub-standard design software. More complete PCB design packages still segment features between design programs and force you to do everything twice. Thankfully, there is a new paradigm in PCB design that enhances your productivity and saves your sanity.
The best schematic software gathers information directly from your component libraries and checks your design choices against standard and custom design rules. You can catch and correct any design mistakes before they compromise the functionality of your finished PCB. You can also segment groups of components into multiple schematics and link these schematics together into a single device using hierarchical design.
Design rules are important for preventing mistakes when creating schematics and for tools with automatic layout and routing functions. You’ll need software that includes standard design rules for any PCB and allows you to customize new and existing design rules for your particular board. Only software with a powerful design rules engine can interface directly with the data in your components library, ensuring that your components are compatible with each other and your board performs as designed.
Schematic creation tool in Altium Designer
Transforming a schematic into a layout requires translating your components and interconnects into a CAD drawing. Your software needs to lay accurate traces with predefined geometry and place real component models with accurate footprint. If your PCB tools aren’t built to work together, you’ll be stuck designing your device twice. Instead, you’ll want to use ultra-accurate CAD tools that access information directly from your schematic and component libraries.
A layout is more than just a drawing of your components and connections placed on a PCB. Your layout includes critical information that tells your design software how your PCB should actually function. It includes information on signal nets, differential pair routing, routing between layers with vias, and much more. Basic CAD tools that aren’t built for real design tasks don’t include this functionality.
Instead of drawing out two versions of your PCB, your design software should include tools that capture your schematic as an initial layout. Instead of routing everything manually, you’ll want to use great PCB design software that includes automatic routing tools. When your design software is built on a single rules-based design engine, you can rest assured that your automated tools can properly route connections in your design while meeting basic and advanced design constraints.
The best design software helps you save time with a number of convenient layout utilities. You don’t have to route every trace manually. Instead, you can define a routing strategy that places interconnects automatically and checks this layout against your design rules. Working with devices that have high pin counts require pin-swapping features. Devices mounted on a BGA require a suitable fanout strategy. Your design software should give you all of these layout tools and more in a single package.
The CAD interface in Altium Designer
Once you’ve finished your layout and schematic, it’s time to put together a comprehensive production plan. You’ll need to create a bills of materials, Gerber files, and other deliverables for your fabricator. Other PCB design programs force you to constantly move your design data between programs, which hampers your workflow and creates the potential for errors. Instead of sacrificing your productivity, you should invest in a PCB design platform that unifies your design tools.
Design unification means that your PCB tools are easily accessible in a single interface, and your design tools are built to communicate each other using a single data format. This prevents design errors and improves your productivity as all your design tools are placed in a single program. Other software tools claim to offer an integrated design experience, but only Altium Designer truly unifies all your design rules into a single package.
Only Altium Designer integrates all the best design, analysis, and deliverable generation tools into a single software platform. Online and free tools leave you to scan back and forth between multiple design tools in separate programs and with inconsistent workflows. Instead of tinkering with multiple programs and forcing them into an ad-hoc workflow, try using the only software that places all the PCB tools you need in a single interface.
Other PCB design programs and online design tools usually include one or two of these important features, but the quality of these software programs does not match the tools in Altium Designer. Other tools that claim to be free will routinely block you from accessing critical features or from saving your progress with a paywall. Instead of just getting by with sub-standard PCB tools, try using the most advanced design package on the market. Try Altium Designer.
Everyone has come into a new software environment, and you might need some help coming up to speed with Altium Design. Instead of leaving you on your own to figure things out, Altium gives you access to all the resources you need to design successfully. You’ll have access to the AltiumLive forum, a thorough knowledge base with examples, and podcasts and webinars with industry experts.
All of your design critical PCB tools need to work together if you want to save time and sanity when designing your next electronic device. You’ll find all of your critical design tools in a single interface when you use Altium Designer. These tools are built to using a single rules-driven design engine. Give your sub-standard online design tools the boot and invest in the only program that gives you the best PCB design tools: it’s time to invest in Altium Designer.