What are some useful PCB design tools worth trying out

To better understand which features are important, let me tell you what I’ve found most useful in PCB design tools. I am using AltiumDesigner version 18, a complete PCB design platform solution that can capture your design from schematics all the way to PCB layout.

Altium is a feature-rich tool set with several important features that help me be more productive. Any user of Altium will be convinced of its strengths as CAD modeling software and recognize how it should serve as a good example when investing in PCB design tools.

A unified design environment foundation for tools

One of the most important keys to the success of any PCB design software is its ability to work with other tools. It can take a lot of time and effort to force different tools to talk to each other in a CAD program. On the other hand, tools designed to work together will save you a lot of trouble. Something as simple as having an easy-to-navigate user interface to get compatible file formats, such as DWG files, would help.

If the design system consists of tools that were not originally created that must be linked or translated, this adds time and complexity to the process. Each tool can use its own design data in its component model, netlist, file format, and so on, and all of these tools must be mixed with other tools in some way. In the case of tools from different systems, the problem can be worse. You may see a misunderstanding of the data, or you may even discard some data completely during transmission and transformation.

Altium has been created from scratch and can work together through a unified design environment. Whether you’re working on a schematic or a layout, you’re working with a single unified design model. The data you process from the component at the start of your design will be the same as the data model you completed your design with.

Schematic compilation command and layout import command in Altium

This example is to synchronize the schematic with the layout. There are no nettables to create or use. As shown above, you just compile the schematic to make sure it’s ready for the layout, and then import that data into the layout. Once the import is complete, Altium will provide you with a synchronous report, as shown below.

Completed synchronization report

Using Altium’s unified design environment, working between tools is a very simplified process. Tool-to-tool synchronization, cross-selection, and transformation are naturally designed into workflows, rather than being forced to deal with the workflows of these different programs. In the figure below, you can see the layout and schematic open together in the session window. You can also see another tool open; We will discuss ActiveBOM® below.

Multiple tools that work together in Altium’s unified design environment

A unified platform to facilitate tool collaboration

Another important feature to look for in a PCB design system is the number of tools and the capabilities the system provides you. For Altium, you can use a wide variety of tools, and because of the unified design environment, you can easily use different tools throughout the design cycle. For example, you can see a tool called Active BOM with schematics and layout in the figure above. You can easily add this tool to your current design by simply adding an Active BOM document, as shown below.

Altium’s unified design environment makes it easy to unlock more tools

Using Active BOM in your design provides another portal to your design data. You can use component information directly and cross-select the listed representations in the schematic and layout. In addition, Active BOM provides you with cloud connectivity so that you can get real-time information about components, such as current pricing and availability. Using Active BOM allows better management of the design, and any changes you make are reflected in the schematic and layout in a unified design environment.

Active BOM is just one of many tools you can use at Altium at work. There is a simulator and signal integrity tool as well as distribution network to help you design circuits. You also have Draftsman®, an automatic manufacturing drawing generation tool and version control and job output control files to help you get your designs right ahead of time. In the figure below, you can see some of these tools open in the same session in the same design.

< Small & gt; Altium offers you a wealth of design tools

Access to a variety of different tools, programs, models, and functions is a key factor in determining which design tool is the best investment for you.

Powerful tools worth up to the cost of CAD software

Another important consideration when investigating a CAD system is whether the tool you choose has the power and flexibility to serve your design needs now and in the future. One thing PCB designers have been looking for is next-generation routing tools to help them reduce the time it takes to get high-quality trace routes. Altium Designer continues to improve their technology and now they have user-directed automatic features – Router, as shown below.

Active paths in Altium Designer convert drawn paths into route traces

Active Route allows you to select the network you want to Route and then plot the path you want the Route to follow in the path, or “river.” When the router executes, it automatically places the trace in the area you specify. Because this is all done in Altium Designer’s unified design environment, there is no need to convert files to other third-party tools. Active Route is part of the Altium Designer environment, and you can easily switch between it and regular interactive routes as needed. /p>

Another example of the functionality and flexibility that Altium Designer offers is its layered schematic editor. Using hierarchies enables you to create channel circuits once and then copy them as needed. This can end up saving you a lot of design time. It also enables you to better lay out schematics through circuit blocks, making schematic organization easier to use, as shown in the figure below, where you can see input channel blocks.

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Altium Designer powerful layering schematic editor

It is important to consider what design work you are doing now and what you will be doing in the future when investigating PCB design tools to invest in. You need to make sure that your CAD program has features for its users, such as 3D models and easy-to-view sketching tools.

PCB design software, like Altium Designer we’ve been talking about, has the power and flexibility to handle any design level you need to create. The unified design environment of Altium Designer and all the different powerful tools and features that come with it clearly qualifies as “the best in pressure relief.”