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Altium enables 3D design without guesswork

Posted: 05 Jun 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:unified electronics design? 3D PCB visualization? PCB design?

The folks at Altium, whose mission in life is unified electronics design solutions, have introduced technology that they say, for the first time, lets electronic designers fit their boards into enclosures in real time, in 3D, without guesswork. Using this technology, designers can eliminate the numerous costly, trial-and-error, "wait-and-see" ECAD-MCAD iterations that so often delay the bringing of products to market.

Electronics designers continue to seek new ways to innovate, to create the next generation of electronic products. Altium believes that a unified approach to electronics design, which now links to the MCAD world, must replace the current silo approach of loosely connected design tools that go to making an electronic product and bringing it to market.

Being able to manipulate the enclosure and make design decisions in real time, during the electronics design process, is a crucial step forward in unifying broader product design processes with electronics design. It's now easy for electronics designers to collaborate directly with their mechanical design peers.

Building on Altium's earlier real-time 3D PCB visualization technology, it's now possible to link to external STEP models from within Altium Designer to bring, for example, the model of the casing into the PCB design environment. By using the non-proprietary STEP 3D file format as a mechanism, Altium allows ECAD-MCAD collaboration without forcing organizations to purchase costly integration add-ons or use a specific mechanical CAD package.

Altium Designer lets designers create the board shape directly from the case model, do full mechanical fit and clearance checking, and update their board design or component choice and placement to ensure a perfect fit and conformance to physical design constraints. If the mechanical designer changes the case design, this is updated within Altium Designer. The complete board design can also be output by Altium Designer as a STEP model for use by the mechanical designer.

Electronics designers can interactively adjust board layout, component placement and even component package choice to suit the proposed enclosure design. They can ensure that the PCB complies with mechanical clearance constraintstested directly against the real enclosure designbefore the board is sent for prototyping or manufacture.

This technology will significantly reduce the number of time-consuming, error-prone and costly design iterations currently necessary to close the ECAD-MCAD loop, and for the first time will allow real collaboration between these increasingly interdependent areas of design.

Unified electronics design
The latest version of Altium's unified electronics design solution delivers features that cover all areas of electronics design. At the board level, PCB-level pin swapping, auto-optimization, BGA fan out, and system-wide differential pair support make using FPGAs on a board so much easier and effective, even for those who aren't PCB design experts.

A new routing engine not only makes board design faster and easier for specialist PCB designers; when combined with the general editing environment and real-time 3D PCB visualization capabilities, it also lets those less experienced in board design turn out workable boards faster and easier.

C programmers, as well as creating application code within Altium Designer, can now create hardware directly using their existing C coding skills and link this hardware into the wider FPGA-based system. Indeed, the entire programmable design process can be done by software or board-level designers without any specific FPGA design expertise.

Ready-to-use FPGA components borrow from board design methodologies to enable functionality to be moved off the board and into the programmable domain. C-to-hardware compilation lets programmers use this FPGA hardware to accelerate application execution and define the platform on which their code runs.

The latest release of Altium Designer is available now.

- Clive Maxfield
Programmable Logic DesignLine

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