Avoid Integrated and Netlist Data Flows Slowing Design Starts

June 12, 2018 Altium Designer

PCB layout migrations happen well with global interface frameworks

 

The chaos theory was used by Edward Lorenz early in the 1960s to model weather. Given multiple data points and nonlinear behavior, integrated and netlist data flows slow design starts because of nonlinear behavior. Just like the weather which is difficult to model and predict.

 

It turns out nonlinear complexity produces beautiful, elegant pictures of real things. A tree is fractal; if you were to magnify its branch 1 million times, you’d see the same tree. Magnify any portion of the tree and it looks identical to the overall tree it makes. Electrical circuits and integrated circuits similarly, I think about the beautiful ways in which they’re routed and placed within the electronics we want them to work within.

 

In my mind’s eye, I see PCB development with all its moving pieces and parts an organized model of the final product. Each piece is akin to a graph with rules and processes. If the overall framework repeats, you have nonlinear, complex unity without breaking the whole. Instead, as schematic and PCB tools have developed, different frameworks were used to produce complexity and disorganization.

 

Having a multitude of errors occur that need to be fixed is time-consuming. I spend so much time organizing my drawings down to the last detail. So I become disheartened when new tools ruin my work. Having to ditch everything I so carefully set up makes my spirit flag.

Migrating Causes One Giant Bucket of Errors

It is disheartening to get a multitude of errors when migrating from your netlist-based design. The tool vendor assures that the new environment would maintain legacy designs. Instead, you are getting packager-related errors while migrating to the central library. All the work in the legacy design is corrupted. It is painful to find that a working design, along with its annotations are gone.

 

Although you might have been excited to migrate into a newer tool version, by now, you have lost confidence in the vendor’s ability to maintain integrity with your old, working files. I can imagine your disappointment when you migrate legacy or work-in-progress designs into the new integrated environment only to get multiple packager-related errors.

 

Legacy printed circuit assembly

Keep your legacy design documents intact during migration

 

If that weren’t enough, your database of symbols is also corrupt and not working. This database was linked by DxDatabook so the schematic and PCB libraries were accessible to one another. This also appears to be broken and unsuitable for use. The only real solution that can be thought of is sitting down and investing the time you don’t have to sort out all of these assorted migration issues.

Breaks a Fully Annotated Design

Unfortunately, there’s no real workaround to the aforementioned problem and you might already feel your motivation waning while examining broken, fully forward and back annotated designs built with netlist flow. Your electrical circuit schematic feels so distant, your design process couldn’t be further away.

 

The libraries are also completely broken. Rather than syncing the schematics and PCB layout tools, the libraries are not talking to each other anymore. The database is gone and it is looking like there’s need to rebuild the parts into the newly revised DxDatabook. How in the world are you going to find and rebuild over 3000 parts? The Central Library Migrator within the integrated tool in the new release just broke everything.

 

Further investigation yields a plethora of manual work needed to resolve each and every one of the errors and warnings. You can try to find some way to automate selection and resolution of the errors but there might be no way to work around the issues. The design can be as solid as can be - it might even have been in production for years. But right now, you won’t even be able to release drawings for the build.

Invisible Translations Recognize Annotations

It would be so great if legacy designs were untouched when migrating to newer versions of the tool. With a unified framework, old, fully annotated designs would automatically port into updated tools and benefit from new editors and menus. It would sync schematic and PCB drawings, libraries, and output files seamlessly. Symbols that are set up for components would both port and continue to interact with one another. Net and other design parameters would maintain their meticulously-defined rules.

 

 Import Wizard in Altium Designer 18

Import Wizard pulls design documents from DxDesigner and from PADS

 

The translators would distinguish what to bring along and what is no longer needed. The migration would remove chaff and pull vital information for the fabrication and assembly process. The extraneous information would be gone, especially unnecessary warning and error messages. Only critical design information would be brought to any attention and there would be elegant tools to resolve issues.

 

The tools would be similar, maybe even self-similar, and employ global editors so information would intuitively instantiate where it was needed most. Having a global framework to elegantly log updates would be ideal.

 

Altium Designer 18 has a framework to import not only its previous design containers but also those of Mentor PADS and DxDesigner. Using the Import Wizard, Altium translates both legacy and work-in-progress drawings without throwing multiple errors. It recognizes your library setups so there is no need to redesign your libraries. Saving you time, if there are issues during the migration, there is an Import Engine that points you directly to the issues for resolution.

 

If you are looking for smart, intuitive tools that do the work properly, look no further. And if you’d like to discuss how migration works so well, call an Altium expert to discuss.

 

About the Author

Altium Designer

PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.

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