Free Trials

Download a free trial to find out which Altium software best suits your needs

Altium Online Store

Buy any Altium Products with few clicks or send us your quote to contact our sales

Downloads

Download the latest in PCB design and EDA software

  • PCB DESIGN SOFTWARE
  • Altium Designer

    Complete Environment for Schematic + Layout

  • CircuitStudio

    Entry Level, Professional PCB Design Tool

  • CircuitMaker

    Community Based PCB Design Tool

  • NEXUS

    Agile PCB Design For Teams

  • CLOUD PLATFORM
  • Altium 365

    Connecting PCB Design to the Manufacturing Floor

  • COMPONENT MANAGEMENT
  • Altium Concord Pro

    Complete Solution for Library Management

  • Octopart

    Extensive, Easy-to-Use Component Database

  • PRODUCT EXTENSIONS
  • PDN Analyzer

    Natural and Effortless Power Distribution Network Analysis

  • See All Extensions
  • EMBEDDED
  • TASKING

    World-Renowned Technology for Embedded Systems Development

  • TRAININGS
  • Live Courses

    Learn best practices with instructional training available worldwide

  • On-Demand Courses

    Gain comprehensive knowledge without leaving your home or office

  • ONLINE VIEWER
  • Altium 365 Viewer

    View & Share electronic designs in your browser

  • Altium Designer 20

    The most powerful, modern and easy-to-use PCB design tool for professional use

    ALTIUMLIVE

    Annual PCB Design Summit

    • Forum

      Where Altium users and enthusiasts can interact with each other

    • Blog

      Our blog about things that interest us and hopefully you too

    • Ideas

      Submit ideas and vote for new features you want in Altium tools

    • Bug Crunch

      Help make the software better by submitting bugs and voting on what's important

    • Wall

      A stream of events on AltiumLive you follow by participating in or subscribing to

    • Beta Program

      Information about participating in our Beta program and getting early access to Altium tools

    All Resources

    Explore the latest content from blog posts to social media and technical white papers gathered together for your convenience

    Altium Online Store

    Buy any Altium Products with few clicks or send us your quote to contact our sales

    Downloads

    Take a look at what download options are available to best suit your needs

    • Documentation

      The documentation area is where you can find extensive, versioned information about our software online, for free.

    • Training & Events

      View the schedule and register for training events all around the world and online

    • Design Content

      Browse our vast library of free design content including components, templates and reference designs

    • Webinars

      Attend a live webinar online or get instant access to our on demand series of webinars

    • Support

      Get your questions answered with our variety of direct support and self-service options

    • Technical Papers

      Stay up to date with the latest technology and industry trends with our complete collection of technical white papers.

    • Video Library

      Quick and to-the-point video tutorials to get you started with Altium Designer

    PCB Design: Create 3D Component in a Footprint Library

    David Cousineau
    |  February 22, 2017

    creating 3d component bodies

     
    In today’s PCB design process, your design and CAD tool needs to be able to integrate mechanical design workflows into an electrical design tool. Read on to learn how to create 3D component bodies in a footprint library.

    In today’s PCB design process, you need to be able to integrate mechanical design workflows into an electrical design tool. Transferring inaccurate design data back and forth between the ECAD and MCAD worlds not only causes frustrations for both design teams, but can also drastically increase the number of design spins required to fit the PCB into its final assembly. And regardless of the electrical design tool’s 3D capabilities, without accurate component 3D layer modeling information, you can’t accurately analyze mechanical clearances.

    Does Your Design Tool Support 3D Modeling?

    Different EDA environments offer different levels of support for 3D modeling. Some have none at all, so all mechanical information needs to be supplied by an MCAD tool. Others use outdated methods like DXF or IDF to exchange information. Altium Designer® supports embedding STEP models to provide accurate modeling information that can not only be passed over to the MCAD world, but can also be used directly in ECAD tools.

    There may be situations when you either can’t or simply don’t want to use a STEP model for snap points. You may not have an internal MCAD department. You might not own any 3D MCAD tools. Or maybe your organization doesn’t allow externally-sourced CAD data of any sort, thus preventing you from downloading the models. Other PCB assembly security restrictions may prevent you from accessing the Internet altogether.

    Fortunately, Altium Designer provides you with PCB layout tools to fully establish the mechanical details of your components. That way, the info will carry through to future schematic or PCB layout projects. This is ideally done in the footprint itself (.PcbLib), but can also be done right at the board level (.PcbDoc) for one-off situations.

    3D view of a component model shown in Altium Designer
    3D View of a Component Model Shown in Altium Designer

     

    How to Create Your Own 3D Component Bodies

    Altium Designer provides three basic 3D shape types for creating mechanical models: Extruded, Cylinder, and Sphere. Each of these can be used alone or in combination with one another. The Cylinder and Sphere types are self-explanatory.

    Using these simple shapes, a large variety of surface mount and through-hole components can be created, ranging from a simple circuit to a surprisingly complex component. Learn how to create your own 3D Printed Board component bodies and speed up your PCB layout process in Altium Designer by downloading a free white paper.

    Check out Altium Designer in action...

    3D Clearance Checking of Flex Mounted Components

    In today’s PCB design process, you need to be able to integrate mechanical design workflows into an electrical design tool. Transferring inaccurate design data back and forth between the ECAD and MCAD worlds not only causes frustrations for both design teams, but can also drastically increase the number of design spins required to fit the PCB into its final assembly. And regardless of the electrical design tool’s actual 3D capabilities, if you don’t have accurate component 3D modeling information, you can’t accurately analyze the mechanical clearances.

    INTRODUCTION TO CREATING 3D COMPONENT BODIES

    Different EDA environments offer different levels of support for creating 3D component bodies via modeling. Some have none at all, so all mechanical information needs to be supplied by the MCAD tool. Others use outdated methods like DXF or IDF to exchange information. Altium Designer PCB design software supports embedding STEP models to provide accurate modeling information that can not only be passed over to the MCAD world, but can also be used directly in the host ECAD tools.

    Obtaining and embedding STEP models is a fairly easy process, as is detailed in this document. However, there may be situations when you either can’t or simply don’t want to use a STEP file model. You may not have an internal MCAD department. You might not own any 3D MCAD tools. Or maybe your organization doesn’t allow externally-sourced Computer Aided Design data of any sort, thus preventing you from downloading the models. Other security restrictions may prevent you from accessing the Internet altogether.

    Fortunately, Altium Designer provides you with methodologies to create the mechanical details of your components, directly inside the tool. This is ideally done in the footprint library itself (.PcbLib), but can also be done right at the board level (.PcbDoc) for one-off situations. This paper will show you how to create 3D models and provide tips for creating common components.

    INTERNAL 3D MODEL TYPES

    Altium Designer provides three basic 3D shape types for creating mechanical models: Extruded, Cylinder, and Sphere. Each of these can be used alone or in combination with one another. The Extruded model is probably the most commonly used. To create one, draw any polygon shape, then give that shape a height value. The shape will then be extruded upward (or downward) by that height.

    The Cylinder and Sphere types are self-explanatory. The cylinder’s radius, height, and rotation values are entered, and the system draws the shape accordingly. The Sphere needs only the radius. Using these simple shapes, a large variety of surface-mount and through-hole components can be created, ranging from the simple to the surprisingly complex.

    MODEL CREATION

    Even though we’re working with 3D models, the best way to create them is in 2D Layout Mode (View -> 2D Layout Mode). Then we can switch to 3D later, to make modifications to the model. Each model type starts the same way. First go to Place -> 3D Body. Then choose the applicable “3D Model Type” option:

    Creating Model

    Creating Model

    EXTRUDED MODELS

    To create an Extruded model, the only required field is the “Overall Height” field.

    Other areas are optional and/or can be edited later.

    Creating Extruded Model

    Creating Extruded Model

    Clicking OK takes you back into the design workspace, in a drawing mode. After that, use standard Altium Designer methods to create a fully enclosed polygon region to act as the model shape. Click to start the shape, then drag the mouse and click again to add subsequent corners. Right-click the mouse or hit the “Escape” key to finish the shape. The 3D Body dialog will reappear if a second shape needs to be added. Click the Cancel button if only one shape is needed.

    Some tips on creating your desired polygon:

    Before starting the shape, use the “G” shortcut key to set the snap grid

    Use “Shift+E” to toggle between the different “Snap To…” modes

    “Shift+Space Bar” changes the corner mode (e.g., orthogonal, diagonal, arc, etc.)

    The space bar alone changes the direction of next segment to be added

    Hitting the “Delete” key during the drawing process will remove the last corner/vertex entered

    Upon completion of the shape, a cross-hatched area will be displayed in 2D workspace mode, which indicates the body, as in the pink hatched area in the example below:

    2D Workspace Mode

    2D Workspace Mode

    Switching to 3D mode (View -> 3D Layout Mode) will display the 3D model:

    Display of 3D Model

    Display of 3D Model

    3D component bodies in Altium Designer can be moved within the X/Y plane by clicking on the body and dragging it. While dragging, it can be rotated using the Spacebar or flipped along the X or Y axes using the “X” or “Y” shortcut keys.

    Further edits can be made by double-clicking the body, to return to the 3D Body dialog. From there, you can change other aspects of the model, such as its color or its Standoff Height (i.e. the height above the board surface, where the model will sit). These edits can also be made while in 2D mode, but in some situations it can be helpful to have the immediate visual feedback within 3D mode. Editing the outline of the shape itself, on the other hand, should always be done in 2D mode.

    CYLINDERS AND SPHERES

    Cylinder and Sphere shape types are a bit simpler to create: they only require you to enter in the dimensions. The system automatically draws the shapes using those dimensions.

    Cylinders can be useful for creating models such as through-hole resistors and electrolytic cap bodies. They can also be used to stand in for the through-hole pins or wire stubs themselves.

    Cylinder shape type

    Cylinder shape type

    Spheres are considerably less versatile than Extruded or Cylinder models, but they can still be very useful in conjunction with other shape types. For example the LED model (below), was created using all 3 model types:

    Led model

    Led model

    Here are the individual pieces from which the LED is constructed:

    Individual pieces of LED model

    Individual pieces of LED model

    USING EXISTING OUTLINES TO CREATE EXTRUDED SHAPES

    Part of the work that goes into creating a component’s land pattern may include silkscreen or other mechanical outline data, which defines the component body shape. Take, for example, this BGA package:

    BGA Package

    BGA Package

    The yellow overlay (silkscreen) outline was very likely created in the same shape and size as the actual component body. So why not reuse that information instead of having to redraw it manually? Altium Designer includes a feature to create Extruded 3D bodies based on existing 2D shapes.

    In the footprint library (.PcbLib), go to Tools -> Manage 3D Bodies for Current Component… The resulting dialog shows a list shapes that were found in the footprint:


    List of shapes in footprint library

    List of shapes in footprint library

    Notice that some of the shapes listed are described as “Polygon shape created from primitives on…” These are the actual 2D lines and/or arcs that exist within the footprint. There are also “Shapes created from bounding rectangle on…” In these cases, the system looked at any existing objects on a particular layer (including the copper layers) and drew a rectangle around the outermost points.

    A preview of the basic shape is shown in the right-hand preview area (the pink box above). In our BGA example we’ll use “Polygon shape created from primitives on TopOverlay,” which is our actual silkscreen outline.

    The “Body State” column indicates whether that particular shape has been added to the component or not. Clicking the “Not in Component” link will toggle its state and add that shape to the component:


    Body state column in Component Body Manager

    Body state column in Component Body Manager

    Notice that the Body State changed to “In Component” and the left-hand footprint preview now shows the shape overlaid on the land pattern. This gives us a general idea as to whether we’ve chosen the correct shape or not.

    The “Overall Height” column sets the body height, just as when we created the Extruded polygon manually in the first example. As before, the other fields, such as body color, are optional and can be changed later. Clicking Close adds the shape to the component, shown in the figure below:

    Polygon shape

    Polygon shape

    The Tools -> Manage 3D Bodies for Library… menu command provides access to a list of all the components in the library. It also includes a “Batch Update” mode for adding the shape from the same layer of every component in the library. For example, perhaps the footprints were all created with a 2D “bounding box” on one of the mechanical layers. That outline could be added in a batch process to all (or some) of the components in the library at once.

    ADDING 3D BODIES TO A PCB

    If there is no existing PCB footprint library for a particular board, or if a one-time shape height edit needs to be made, the Printed Circuit Board PCB editor environment also provides the same “Manage 3D Bodies” features. Going to Tools Manage 3D Bodies for Components on Board… presents a similar dialog to “Manage 3D Bodies for Library.” Additionally, you can add a 3D Body to an individual component by right-clicking the component and navigating to Component Actions -> Manage 3D Bodies in the menu. The functions there are identical to those found in the library editor’s “.Manage 3D Bodies for Current Component.”

    More information on creating and managing 3D bodies can be found here:

    Creating Library Components Tutorial

    OCB Objects - 3D Body

     

    About Author

    About Author

    Dave has been an Applications Engineer for 20 years in the EDA industry. He started in 1995 at a mid-Atlantic reseller that represented PADS Software, ViewLogic, and a host of other EDA tools. He moved on to work directly for PADS Software, and stayed on as they were acquired by Innoveda and then by Mentor Graphics. He and a business partner formed a VAR of their own in 2003 (Atlantic EDA Solutions) to represent Mentor's PADS channel, and later on Cadence's OrCAD and Allegro products. Since 2008, Dave has been working directly for Altium and is based at his home office in New Jersey.

    most recent articles

    Back to Home