The famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov was quite fond of telling jokes. He once joked about a computer developed to translate between English and Russian. As a test case, they decided to input the phrase 'out of sight, out of mind.'? They immediately took the result in Russian and fed it back into the computer. The result: 'invisible insanity.'? This, at times, describes the process of translating a PCB design from one tool to another.
EDA tools are like spoken languages. As a result, the effort to migrate a design between tools is rarely simple. Several 'gotchas' need to be realized and avoided and nuances to be understood and managed. This assumes that one could get the bulk of the design translated, to begin with.
The purpose of this webinar is to walk through a translation performed on a Beaglebone board. While this will be imported into Altium, this is a must-see for anyone who is either:
Contemplating a move to another software tool, or
Wanting to take an existing board and translate it to the tool of their interest, or
Wanting to hire a contractor who uses another tool.
Altium Designer 18 introduced a feature that the user community had requested for years - The ability to quickly and intelligently combine multiple boards. We will explore this new project type known as the PrjMbd, as shown below:
Demonstrate the minimal prep work to stage a PCB project for a multi-board project
Show the multi-board schematic editor and its primitives
Examine the connector manager and its ability to modify names for consistent naming between labels
Use the assembly to show the physical connection between the PCBs
Below is the 3D image of the RangeFinder project created in the multi-board project assembly editor that we will showcase in this webinar.
It is not uncommon to need a PCB with some modifications without creating an entirely new project. Creating a similar project is simple; maintaining it is complex. Whatever you do to one project, you must duplicate in the other, thus doubling the work effort. In a graphical environment, it's all too easy to forget that important step. A variant allows us to modify the same circuit without creating and maintaining entirely separate new projects.
Fortunately, a variant allows us to have different modifications to the same circuit without creating and maintaining entirely separate new projects.
Many designers use variants at Nine Dot Connects; however, many small and often overlooked features are overlooked. This webinar will provide a comprehensive review of Altium's variants capabilities.
The term 'design reuse' is much-touted in the field of electrical engineering. The ability to achieve design reuse will result in both cost and time savings. Implementing it is a bit trickier. Altium Designer has two features to assist in design reuse - Snippets and Device Sheets. In this upcoming webinar, we will cover these features in detail.
We will also briefly discuss some of the challenges of organizing your designs for possible reuse.
Subversion (also known as SVN) is thrown around quite a bit. It is a power tool that is free of charge. As of Altium Designer Version 10, the SVN engine is included. Every time you start Altium Designer, the SVN engine is idling, waiting for you to invoke its commands.
Unfortunately, Subversion's methodology requires some knowledge; otherwise, it will feel scattered. How do I set it up in Altium? What's a repo, and where do I put it? Why do I need this Tortoise tool when I already have SVN in my Altium Designer? Do I have to use the SVN database library to use SVN for my documentation? Do I need to use the Altium vault?
During this monthly webinar, we will present a primer on SVN. We will walk through the setup and usage of SVN as it relates to Altium Designer. Also, we will demonstrate the use (and need) for Tortoise. Several common scenarios will be performed.
NOTE: Though we may touch upon SVN database libraries for clarification purposes, we will be primarily focused on SVN as it relates to project documentation
BEFORE YOU WATCH - the purpose of this video is to provide a very high-level overview of scripting in Altium Designer. This is not a 'how-to.' It provides an overview of what you will need to know going into this effort. Unfortunately, this is not a trivial effort.
is a feature that interests most engineers always looking to automate repetitive or boring tasks. Embarking on a script, especially one that has to do with evaluating the position of primitives, is much like writing a novel. It may be exciting initially, but it can take a lot of time and perseverance to get it up and running flawlessly. More often than not, even though we have the interest, work obligations get in the way.
For example, if one can repeat critical clicks and mouse motions 100 times and do it in 5 minutes, is it worth investing 20 minutes researching if a specific feature exists and, if it does, how to use it? Then, is it worth investing 1 or 2 hours if it needs to be coded? If mashing a bunch of keys and mouse clicks dozens of times is a one-time proposition, then most of us grin and bear it. We may consider other options if we have to do it again at some time in the future or know that our colleagues could also benefit from automating this task.
This question was posed to one of our experts in Altium scripting. As scripting was not difficult enough, Altium made it more difficult by not providing all the processes and options. When someone approaches Nine Dot Connects about a script, it is carefully reviewed to ensure that scripting is a viable option.
As for whether one should pursue a script, consider one or more of the following criteria:
Does it meet (a) specific need(s) which typical users believe is needed, in which they have difficulty remembering or implementing the process without making mistakes?
Does it significantly speed up routine processes therefore saving valuable time?
Does it automate a manual process that is so complex, obscure, or esoteric that it is challenging to remember correctly?
Does it automate or incorporate a too complex feature (computationally or otherwise) for the user to do manually?
Would it be simple and fast enough to save significantly more time than it takes to use it?
A good script is more than pressing a run button. It needs to provide feedback. It should have control and reporting dialog boxes to confirm it is being run, allow setting options, and summarize immediate results.
If the script is going to be sold, it needs to provide much more value than it costs to invest in the tool.
In all cases, it must not conflict with procedures a company has already established (such as file naming and storage protocols, configuration management, etc.).
It must also be done fairly regularly so the user does not forget how to use it. For example, a script to draw schematic templates (with borders, zones, title block, parameters, fields, section indicators, different sheet sizes, top vs. continuation sheets, logo insertion, etc.) could be nice for a design service, but not of a lot of value to a customer at one company who would only do it once.
It would be of little value if its sole purpose replicated the tool's intrinsic function, such as checking for connectivity. It is much safer to check and report on conditions than to modify or create a layout because of the esoteric relations to other things.
Scripts should do relatively simple and well-bounded tasks to be created and used correctly and effectively (although repetition is straightforward). For example, a script to move vias onto the nearest grid would be simple but fixing the aftermath would be complex and perhaps even impossible.
And finally, make sure that all other workarounds have been sought or considered before embarking on this effort.
Buried in the properties of each component that is placed in any of the Altium Designer editors is a property called the Unique Id. This randomly generated 8 alpha character codes provided to each component to assist Altium Designer in its netlist management.
The Unique Id plays a significant role in Altium Designer's ability to maintain continuity between the schematic and PCB netlists. Yet, it tends to do its job so well that most users don't even know it's there!
However, A little knowledge about these Unique Id goes a long way in assisting users in establishing connectivity in imported designs, connecting schematic and PCB snippets, and even reconciling potential issues to duplicating schematic files in the same project.
High-Speed Design (Signal Integrity) in Altium Designer
The term 'High-Speed' design, a popular term in the EDA industry, is used by many EDA companies to express the idea that their tool has functionality that makes it better at producing electrically stable designs. However, like analog design, high-speed design is a part of art form and science. Though Altium Designer provides functionality to assist in high-speed design, it still requires an understanding to apply those capabilities properly.
Altium Designer provides core capabilities to assist in analyzing, constraining and routing high-speed interconnects.
In this webinar, we will explore:
The Layer Stack Manager, as it relates to proper stack up for design
Noise and how to mitigate it through proper layer stack up
The Signal Integrity tools that Altium provides, including cross-talk and reflections
The Signal Integrity rules and how they relate to Signal Integrity capabilities
This video is a brief overview of the SPICE capability in Altium Designer. It provides a general understanding of how users would add models to the components and set up and run the analysis.
Altium provides several SPICE-specific libraries that a user will need to provide a stimulus to the circuit (i.e., VDC, sine waves, pulses, etc.). They are generally located in the example directory created during the installation of Altium Designer. This directory path will be similar to C:UsersPublicDocumentsAltiumADxx.xLibrarySimulation, where ADxx.x is a version number.
The 5 libraries provided (all of which are Integrated Libraries):
Simulation Math Function
Simulation PSPICE Functions
Simulation Special Functions
Simulation Transmission Line
Install these libraries as you would with any library in Altium.
The term "off-label" is used to describe the use of a product for which it was not intended. For example, it may surprise you that many system engineers use Altium Designer's schematic as a drawing tool. They may also use it for the ease of creating a bill of materials by simply declaring an item (such as equipment, test fixtures, racks, tools, etc.) as a library component.
The same can be said about Altium Designer's assistance with cable creation. The trick is to know what features of the cable are electrical, physical, or both. It requires creativity and recognizes the inherent limitations of using the Altium Designer "off label" for cabling.
This webinar will summarize the cable creation capability within Altium Designer:
Physical versus electrical elements of a component
Use of DXG/DWG to create 2D graphics in minutes
Library configuration consideration
Example of a completed design
You may download the same example cable project used during the webinar here.
Cable harnesses are a challenge in product design, requiring mechanical and electrical information. Yet, creating a harness design has generally been relegated to whatever drawing tool was available within the design team. In many cases, mechanical CAD or schematic capture tools (developed to create PCBs) have been used to create harness and cable designs. As a result, these drawings are typically "dumb" drawings, without intelligent data, nor are they easily manipulated to accommodate changes.
It may surprise you to know that Altium Designer can be used to create intelligent cable drawings. This can be useful when a handful of cables are needed for testbeds or to interface one PCB to another PCB or computer. However, this requires a deep knowledge of the library, the Altium schematic tool, and its limitations.