It's a well-accepted fact that electrical design (ECAD) and mechanical design (MCAD) disciplines are fundamentally (and significantly) different from each other. Their design tool suites echo this difference.

To bridge that gap, SOLIDWORKS PCB was created with its roots in Altium Designer. Dassault developed in cooperation with Altium Inc. to smoothly bring together the ECAD and MCAD worlds.

For many years, previous attempts to bridge these worlds were focused on the simple translation of the primitives from one tool suite to another. Though universal 2D formats, like DWG, DXF, and IDF, existed, they could not capture all the necessary details. In most cases, manual duplication for each tool was required, making it extremely difficult to keep mechanical representations in sync across various tools.

In 2008, Altium Inc. revolutionized the ECAD industry by introducing an easy to use 3D modeling in their layout tool, which took advantage of a universal 3D mechanical format called STEP. Altium Designer was then able to pass graphical information to and from the MCAD tool readily.
As this capability developed, it allowed the ECAD and MCAD worlds to pass information back and forth in real-time.

The need for tight integration between ECAD and MCAD has increased dramatically. Because consumers expect their electronics to be within challenging physical dimensions, no design or mechanical space can be wasted. Companies that produce these goods demand electrical and mechanical assemblies at the lowest possible total cost.

The mechanical aspects of designs are no longer driven by the electrical or mechanical teams alone but by the marketing department, which has its direct ear to the customer. Given this new reality, an efficient design process can only be achieved by having design tools that effectively and easily interact with each other. Thus, the drive-by Dassault to collaborate with Altium Inc. to create SOLIDWORKS PCB.

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