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If you ever want your PCB to be more than just a layout on a computer screen, you’ll need to plan for production. You’ll need to take information in your schematic and layout and generate a complete production plan for your manufacturer. You’ll need complete component information, sourcing information, assembly instructions, and CAD drawings of your PCB. The best way to generate these deliverables directly from your design is to use an integrated PCB design platform. Only Altium Designer integrates these features into a single platform, enhancing your productivity and giving you the tools you need to build the best PCBs.
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A fully unified PCB design package with the best manufacturer deliverable tools.
So you’ve finally finished your beautiful PCB layout and it’s time to move on to production. So how do you determine the best manufacturer for your device? Making the right choice involves more than just a Google search. You’ll need to consider several aspects of your manufacturer’s capabilities, standards certifications, and lead times. You’ll also need to source your components and prepare deliverables for your manufacturer.
You’ll also need to prepare a number of standardized deliverables, including drill tables, Gerber files, CAD drawings, and a bill of materials. The bill of materials is arguably the most important among these deliverables. There is always an advantage to consulting with fabricators during design as this ensures your board will be manufacturable without destroying your budget or requiring time-consuming redesigns.
Whether you’re looking for a list of PCB manufacturers, or just anything to get your circuit board through its PCB manufacturing process, you’ll want to ensure that you have more of an understanding of the electronics industry as well as printed circuit board manufacturers, PCB fabrication, PCB assembly services, and high quality PCB prototype services. Quality products don’t result from shoddy circuit boards, give your circuit board its best chance.
Many PCB design software companies will compile a list of vetted manufacturers and service providers that are intimately familiar with your PCB design software. They’ll know how to access and modify your PCB and can recommend minor redesigns that will ensure your device works as designed and is actually manufacturable. They will also be familiar with your deliverable formats, ensuring your circuit boards are produced and delivered in a timely fashion.
Even though your manufacturer has done some of the leg work for you, there is no reason you should be limited to working a specific list of manufacturers. Some PCB design software companies force you to work with specific fabricators, and their tools are designed to produce deliverables in a format that is specific to their fabricators. Instead of getting pigeon-holed into using a specific manufacturer, you PCB design software should give you the power to generate deliverables in any format and for any PCB fabricator.
Your PCB design software should make it easy to construct a standardized bill of materials by importing information directly from your layout. The days of writing out a bill of materials by hand or using external word processing software are past. Only the best modern PCB design packages allow you to generate a bill of materials for any size production run, including sourcing information and assembly specifications.
Sourcing components in a BOM with Altium Designer
Even if you’ve picked the perfect components for your PCB and refuse to use anything else, you still need to source your components in order to ensure your device is actually manufacturable. Unsourceable components might cause you to rethink your entire design. Thankfully, the best PCB design software packages include integrated component libraries that allow you to find alternative sources your components or locate proper replacements.
This type of tool includes search capabilities, saving you from having to scroll through massive component databases or use 3rd party database services. Integrated component libraries also regularly update supply chain information, allowing you to source your own components and select the best replacements for your device. You won’t have to rely on your manufacturer to source your components.
Adaptable PCB design software with a broad, integrated feature set makes managing your BOM, custom component, and design data easy. The best PCB design software with integrated features allow you to implement a consistent management strategy for all your data. This makes it easy to take all your designs and move quickly through the sourcing and manufacturing process.
The ActiveBOM tool in Altium Designer
Altium Designer is the only PCB design software package that integrates critical tools for design, data management, deliverable generation, and component management in a single program. You won’t have to switch between separate programs or modules to accomplish basic design tasks. All your tools are designed to work together, ensuring your time is spent on actual design tasks and not on wrangling design programs with disparate workflows.
When your manufacturer deliverable tools are included in the same interface as your design tools, you can easily generate your deliverables in a standardized format. Printed circuit technology and PCB assembly can be a bear without the right tools. The best deliverable tools make it easy to plan for production, utilize DFM practices, and help ensure that your manufacturer can build your board without delays or sourcing problems.
If you’re unsure of which manufacturer you should use to produce your PCBs, Altium provides you with an extensive list of vetted service providers. You can rest assured that your boards will be produced correctly and that these manufacturers are familiar with Altium Designer’s output format. If you opt to use a different producer or service provider, Altium Designer makes it easy to generate standardized deliverables for any manufacturer.
Working in a unified design platform means that your deliverable generation features interface directly with your design tools, brings these design and all within a single software platform. A unified PCB design environment is the only place you’ll find true integration among all your design tools. The standardized deliverable generation tools ensure that you can complete manufacturing runs seamlessly, no matter which manufacturer you use.
Altium Designer wants you to be successful as you dive deeper into PCB design. In addition to a long list of manufacturers and service providers, you’ll have access to webinars and podcasts from design experts, the AltiumLive forum, and an extensive knowledge base. Altium Designer provides all the support you need to build the best PCBs.
The best design and deliverable generation tools will ensure that your device operates as you intended and complies with critical industry standards. Only Altium Designer gives you all these tools in a single interface. The rules-driven design engine in Altium Designer ensures that all these tools work together, and all your tools are integrated in a single software package.