Deep Diving Into Altium Designer's New Constraint Manager

James Sweetlove
|  Created: February 13, 2024
Altium Designer's New Constraint Manager

Today we're diving head-first into Altium's New Constraint Manager with Andy Critcher, Director at Total Board Solutions. This revolutionary feature is designed to streamline and optimize the process of applying design constraints across multiple nets, making it easier and more intuitive than ever.

If you're dealing with high-voltage designs, complex multi-layer boards, or simply looking to enhance productivity, the new Constraint Manager offers a suite of tools that promise to elevate your design workflow.

Join Andy and host Tech Consultant Zach Peterson as they chat the ins and outs of this innovative feature, including industry responses, practical applications, and a detailed exploration of how it can simplify your design process.


Listen to the Episode:

Watch the Episode:

Key Highlights:

  • Andy's Background: Insight into Andy's experience and expertise in the industry.
  • Advice for Young People Entering the Industry: Key advice for newcomers navigating the field.
  • Fusion of EE and PCB Layout Positions? Discussion on the evolving roles within the industry.
  • Eye-Opening Fab Facility Visits: Experiences and revelations from visiting fabrication facilities.
  • Altium Designer's New Constraint Manager Overview: Overview and benefits of Altium Designer's Constraint Manager update.

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Zach Peterson: You brought up something interesting, which is copying a rule set between nets. I'll be honest, I've had to do that at times and I've done it through a very, I'll be honest, strange looking query and then copying that around to different rules to make sure I get that rule applying to all these different nets. And then I think the priorities can kind of mess you up too, because in the rules and constraints editor, they do run by priority.
Andy Critcher: And I think it is that the language, as I said, they've kind of, you've got power under the hood, but sometimes you really want to be able to just do the simple thing simply. And I think that's one of the things that this has done. And you can set up your role and go, okay, so now apply this to this, apply this to this. And that's great. And it's just really think, I think it's freed you.
Zach Peterson: Hello everyone and welcome to the Altium OnTrack podcast. I'm your host, Zach Peterson. Today we're talking with Andy Critcher, director of Total Board Solutions. He's part of the beta program and he has been testing out the new constraint manager feature in the newest version of Altium designers. So I'm very excited to talk to him today about his impressions of the new feature. Andy, thank you so much for joining us today.
Andy Critcher: It's a pleasure. It's a pleasure.
Zach Peterson: Yeah. Why don't you do me a favor and introduce yourself since you are new on the podcast and maybe go over your story of how you got into the electronics industry.
Andy Critcher: Okay. So I'm one of the directors, as you said earlier, Zach, here at Total Solutions. And I started, as you can tell by all the gray hairs, a long time ago in PCP layout world, I started off as essentially an apprentice at a defense company. And then through different machinations, I joined mental graphics, am I allowed to say that on this call? Initially as a support engineer and then transitioned to become an applications engineer for all the layout products really. So simulation as well as layout, capture, that kind of thing, libraries, and then again, went on to a European product specialist. And then my final incarnation there was as a product architect for some of the tools that we did for the past, I got to a point where I just moved on and joined Tolerable Solutions in one 13 and a half years ago, about the same time as we moved across to AUM Designer. So that's really kind of my background in a nutshell.
Zach Peterson: You said you have a lot of experience as indicated by your visual features, and you mentioned that you got into this as an apprentice. I get a lot of questions from folks who want to get into industry, want to get into PCB design and engineering, and I think they have trouble getting into it because they have trouble getting an internship, which I think is kind of the modern day, you could say equivalent of something like apprenticeship. So what are your impressions or advice for young people who might want to get into this industry?
Andy Critcher: I think as you say, it is quite difficult here in the uk. They do have schemes for different companies, but I think it's trying to identify a specific company you want to work with and I suppose badgering them for want of a better term. And I think the other thing that has changed from our time was that part of the apprenticeship scheme, you would get training at a local college or university. And now I think that's very much a prerequisite of going through that process so that you have the skillset for not only, shall we say layout the traditional drafting as well as the electronics industry. You definitely need to be looking
Zach Peterson: At that. And then have you seen a pretty clear fusion of the EE and PCB layout disciplines over time into really one job title? Something that I've noticed quite a bit?
Andy Critcher: No, I agree. I think it has moved on. When we started, it was very two distinct disciplines. You had the drawing office, if anyone else out there remembers these, and then you had who did, or the physical layout perhaps, did the actual schematics themselves, put 'em onto Mylar and then it moved on. So engineers initially at the company I was at, it didn't have a lot of access to the schematic capture tools. And if they do it, it would be very small chunks of time, a lot of time researching. But I think as time's gone on, it's become more of a single focus where people do some layout as well as doing the actual electronic design. So yes, definitely. And I think the two disciplines, that's why it's quite difficult if you come from one side or the other, it's trying to get the other skillset. A lot of companies, I was going to mention about TBS is we work with a lot of companies who do have electronics engineers, but they don't really have the backend, as we would call it, the layout, skillset, don't know about fabrication, all those things. So it's quite an important part of it, how boards made. We always say that everyone needs to go and go to a fab house, see how it's made, goes in assemblers and can see how that works.
Zach Peterson: That was a real eyeopener for me, just going in and seeing the actual fab house. It's one thing to read about it and know all the vocabulary for the process, but to have someone who runs the process walk you through a facility is always really eyeopening.
Andy Critcher: I agree. I mean, we've been to quite a few, but I think it was when we saw the plate implant, this particular Plaing implant, it dropped 500 amps and you see the scale of it, and you may be getting this very small board, but the machinery that's doing is humongous. And over time we, again, from the gray hairs, we've been and seen the industry change in that way. So things like it used to be dip etching, now it's spray etching and the changes that's made to the board, how you can make them and how more accurately you can actually etch them. So yeah, I agree. It's definitely something to go and see because I think a good appreciation of what is possible.
Zach Peterson: So just switching gears here for a moment, you said earlier in your background that you I think worked for Mentor Graphics.
Andy Critcher: Yeah.
Zach Peterson: So was mentor the first tool that you learned to use?
Andy Critcher: Yeah, well actually I used computer vision first. So computer vision, if I remember correctly, originally started off as a piping tool and someone in computer vision must have said, oh, PIP in PCB design's not a thousand miles away from each other. So I initially started as a mechanical engineer, which is the way most of us started. And then electronic side, they asked me to go on that sections. And as I did that, I really enjoyed it. And then we got to CADs fourex, if anyone out there remembers that, that was when it started. Before that, we were in two colors, green and light green. And so as things went on, we then got fourex, which we had two color terminals. We were doing eight layer boards then, which was quite technology leading. And then we went to mentor and then we needed something more powerful. We needed something at that time with simulation capabilities for engineering teams and we kind of tagged along. So yeah, we ended up with, again, board station. What was the initial carnation?
Zach Peterson: 
So what was it like making the switch over to using ultium? I asked this because I've been told many times that when you learn that first CAD tool, you tend to kind of be a little biased towards the way that original CAD tool works. And some people can find the switch to be non-intuitive, right? You go into a new program, definitely. Where do you find all the stuff? They can be a little non-intuitive for some people. Some people have trouble making that switch.
Andy Critcher: I agree. And I think the thing is that the designer knows what he wants to do. You've just given him a complete new language. And I remember when I was an ae, I would go and see different potential customers who were trying to transition to mentor. And I remember, I think it was Cadence, call it rats, side cards call it from very best called it something. So everywhere you went, you had a different name for the same thing, which is a connection as it's called in. And I think that is one of the things that is kind of getting over. And I think, I'll be honest, when we went to aio, it is different from board station, extremely an expedition. But I'll be honest, it wasn't an onerous transition. I think once we started to know where things were, how things behaved, we were pretty productive pretty quickly. But it is really, as you say, it's an nomenclature. I always remember one of my potential customers was always hung up on the fact that what we used to call signal layers, they're called metal layers. And every time I went to the meetings, I had to remember to call them metal layers, how we saw it. But I think once you get over that, it's actually pretty straightforward.
Zach Peterson: And then with metal layers, you can break that out into signal layers and plane layers.
Andy Critcher: Yeah. Yes. And that's the other thing as well is because some people are very planes and some people are very anti planes. And as we were a consultancy, we listened to what the customer really wants to do. But yeah, you're quite right. And then you get down into these little rabbit holes and different ways. Altium has kind of three different ways of add in, let's say a copper flood, copper pour, whereas some tools only have one or two. And it's just understanding as well what you can use 'em for. And it's, for me, it's a little bit running and walking. You want to get to the end, still got to get your jobs out. You said to your boss, well, I haven't used it before. I'm not that experienced, experienced in the old tool. And your boss is going to say, well, you still need to get the job done. So initially your first navigation is kind of get through a little bit knife and fork, but as time goes on, I think you build up that expertise in the new tool. And again, you start to see all the good bits that are in there as well as the bits that you just dunno what to do.
Zach Peterson: I think it's like anything, right? You play with it enough and focus enough time on it and then that program becomes second language.
Andy Critcher: Yeah, I think when you've as well, if you've got people around you, you can bounce off, I tried this, I did this, this didn't work. And I think a little bit of patience, but I think over time, yeah, you do definitely get there. Definitely get there.
Zach Peterson: So ever since you have come to use LTM, at some point you started participating in the beta program. So can I ask why? It seems like a beta program might be a little time consuming because you're basically testing something for free. So what are the benefits for you of being part of the beta program?
Andy Critcher: I think every time there's an iteration of a tool, there's a bunch of release notes and you read through, well, hopefully you read through those and try because I think again, as a co consultancy, you're always trying to do things a little bit quicker and get the most out of the tool. Tools aren't free, so you do want to get your bank for the buck. And I think that that's the first stage of going through and seeing what's happening, what you can use. But I think the thing for me, the thing I like about the beater is you can a get to see what's in development, get a feel for where AUM is going and how they can support you in your process. And also it's important that the beta, you can just create a call, raise a ticket, you can do exactly the same thing on the beta. So you can give feedback into whether something's working well, whether you think it should be tweaked. And our team are really good in getting back to you and giving you feedback on your feedback for want of a better term. And I think you're really kind of helping the tool direction to a degree and making sure that when it comes out there is a quality there that you can feel confident to move into that new again, when you're in the middle of a project just to turn around and say, yeah, we just updated the least and greatest. There's always an element of risk there. And I think having this heads up, you hit the ground running really. And I don't think it isn't vast amounts of time you have to spend doing this. I mean, I would say for me, I perhaps a slightly different position, obviously, I mean the company, so if I want to spend a couple of hours playing with, it's all I can, but I'm not spending lots and lots of time on looking at this and seeing what's going on. The information you get, it's just like documentation. It tells you what's coming up, what's in there, how to use it, and you can just go and say, yep, that looks good. Or put some feedback. You can see what everyone else is finding as well. So you can see everyone else's feedback as well as your own on the website. So it really is a good heads up of what's going on. And I've been doing it for three years, four years.
Zach Peterson: Yeah. Yeah, that's really interesting too. And it actually makes me really happy here that the folks at Altium are so engaged with the beta users and really want to get their feedback about what's working, what's not working, what can be approved.
Andy Critcher: It's definitely for sure, I've had lots of conversations with the team and we've had calls like this really to also show difficulties or things, questions for the tools. So it is been good. And they also do webinars for the tools so you can see what's coming and how they've envisioned it to be used. Because again, some of these tools change the flow paradigm, the working paradigm. If you look at a 365 that that's quite a step change, a very positive step change, but again, getting the most out of that.
Zach Peterson: Yeah, and I think that's really important for a program like ultium, but also for a company ultium that really is so community focused. It's not just something for the big huge organizations out. There are a lot of smaller companies, there are a lot of individual designers who use this and the ability to provide that feedback directly to the company building the software, I think is extremely important.
Andy Critcher: Definitely. No, I agree. I agree. It is an ongoing process as well, so you can see changes coming through. I mean, if you do get time to read the release notes, you can see there's always good stuff in there. Really.
Zach Peterson: Yeah, I think a lot of folks may treat the release notes kind of like a terms of service for a website.
Andy Critcher: Just
Zach Peterson: Scroll to the end so that it allows you to go to the next screen. But yeah, I think it is a good idea to read the release notes. And I will admit, I have not read them thoroughly when the new versions come out, but I do skim them to see if there's anything that catches my eye. So I'll have to do a better job of reading those release notes in the future.
Andy Critcher: Yeah, I think it's also a habit From my old days, I used to write the release notes. I think, oh, so okay, let's put something in there. And I think sometimes there was one of our customers, again, if digressing, you may want to cut this, but I found that there's one of the things on schematic is that you can make reference engineers always write notes, put R one next to R two and then someone re annotates an R two and R one are no longer the same. You can use the at sign and it will do that for you. So if one of our customers, that was a real big thing. They hadn't thought of asking for it, but it was a real big thing. So reading through that release now found it, told them they were happy, had another cup of coffee and they went off. But that's the other thing I think as well is sometimes you find little gems in there that you didn't know. So yeah, sorry, perhaps I'm just quite sad. Well,
Zach Peterson: Shifting gears just for a moment, one of the new features that's coming out in 80 24 that you have been looking at is the constraint manager. I guess tell the audience including the new people who may be watching now, what the constraint manager is and maybe how it's different from the existing workflow that's in older versions of all team designer.
Andy Critcher: Okay, so the constraint manager is essentially a new GUI graphical user that's been written around the existing core rule set. So at the moment, rightly or wrongly, my on the definition of the WAYRA institutionally worked is that you have essentially like A SQL, well the way you write in, type in your rules, you can add your net classes, that kind of thing. And then you can make rules around it, add them into rural areas, that kind of stuff. But now what they've done is they've done more of a, I'm not sure wrapper is the right word, but they've written an interface that still interacts with the base rules but makes rule entry a lot more, a lot easier and more intuitive to actually put those rules in. So you'll see now it's more net centric rather than being rule centric. So you will see a list of all the nets within your design. You can organize them within that interface into net classes, move things around, so you've got DR, that kind of thing. You can put the banks in, add 'em as individuals, and then some of the things that does for you is that means that you can now have hierarchical rules where you can just add a, if you want them all to be matched, you only have to add it at the net class level and it will come down for all those banks, that kind of thing.
I'm not sure if that's painting the right picture really
Zach Peterson: A little bit. But you actually just said something interesting here because one of the questions that came through the YouTube channel, or maybe not a question but more of a complaint was that the constraint manager did away with nets and net classes and things like this and that kind of organization that I think people are all used to. And you're saying that's not correct. It still does exist.
Andy Critcher: The net classes are accessed in a different way now. So it is from let's say a spreadsheet environment where you can group nets together, add a net class, and it will manage the net classes for you so you can see them. I'm trying to think of the correct terminology for Microsoft Excel, but you get little arrow, you can click 'em and you can open 'em up, collapse 'em down, that kind of thing, expand them out. That's the word I was looking for, sorry. So you can expand them out, but you can organize that data in that fashion. I think one of the things that I think is a major improvement is that, so we do being a consultancy for different companies, we do a lot of different designs. So we do some very simple designs. I'd say simple like breakout boards, someone going from one connector to another to one of the boards we've done is a 24 layer high density interconnect. It's got three layers of micro eyes, top and bottom, and it's a computer card. So we kind of do a great thing, but one of the things that we, part parcel of that as well is that we do a lot of mixed signal and some boards with some very high voltages on. And an example at the moment is that we've got a design with, it's got 10 different net classes, traditional net classes, so I can put those on with directives, but each one of those, because it's all voltage based, each one of those has to have a different clearance to its partner. So in traditional rules entry, I've got 78 rules that I've had to write in to manage that complexity. And we did it that way because with the engineer, they're still fine tuning the rules and how they want to manage that. But with the constraint manager, I would just get a matrix and I only have to enter in the matrix, which is not 78 rules, and I have to do that multiple times. The other thing is that my customer, basically they're supplying this data in PDF format as well, so they've got an Excel spreadsheet and I can cut and paste from their Excel table directly into the constraint manager. So you can see straight away that anyone looking at this can read it. They can just see a table and they can see that five volts to a thousand volts has to be this value rather than have to go through a plethora of rules just to find that one to change it. It is making some of the rules entry a lot less complex.
Zach Peterson: Yeah, that's interesting. And you bring up power systems here where you could have voltage based clearances. I could see this kind of expanding into some other areas with using power as an example where now you can break it out into multiple voltage ranges by groups, by net classes, you could do this with directives or you can just go in directly to the constraint manager and edit it manually.
Andy Critcher: Yeah, I think it's that there's still the ability to add in if you've got some really specific rule, which again, coming from my background, I like that. I like the fact that with the SQL, I can still add in those really quirky rules that you sometimes get. If it's a Tuesday and it's on the left hand side of the board, then it has to be this far away, that kind of thing. But in the main, a lot of rules we do are repetitious. I've got my eight layer board with VI top and bottom. I export my rules, I bring my rules in or I make it as a template. There's lots of ways to do that, but it does mean that you've got that capability and I think it's taken a lot of the standard complexity that you have to learn say, and we say away, but you still have the power if you want it. It makes it a lot easier for especially new users as well. I think if you transition from another tool, you're going to be a lot more familiar.
Zach Peterson: Yeah, I think I can see the value here because if you go back into the rules and constraints editor in AD 23 and you look at all the rules, they're all broken down by a rule type and then you assign nets to the rules, whereas this is broken out by object and you assign rules to the object, it kind of flips it on its head.
Andy Critcher: Exactly. And I think after a couple, the first time you call it up you think, okay, what do I do where? But I think it soon becomes apparent that that's the process really. And I think one of the other things that aids in that is that if you set up a rule, let's say 50 ohm or rf, 50 ohm and you set up that rule and you think I've got a bunch of nets, you can save that as a constraints set and then you can just apply that bunch of rules to another set of components.
Zach Peterson: Oh, I
Andy Critcher: See. Oh, sorry, another set of nets. You don't have to keep going back and going, okay, so I need to add another net to my list of nets or I have to put in the same class. You can just apply that around. And then if when you go into the editor at the bottom, you can either edit the individual net or you can edit the constraints, set this part off so you can very quickly, as you said, the paradigms changed, shifted a bit where it's more of the objects centric rather than being the actual rule centric. And I found that that has made things a bit easier.
Zach Peterson: You brought up something interesting, which is copying a rule set between nets. I'll be honest, I've had to do that at times and I've done it through a very, I'll be honest, strange looking query and copying that around to different rules to make sure I get that rule applying to all these different nets. And then I think the priorities can kind of mess you up too, because in the rules and constraints editor, they do run by priority.
Andy Critcher: And I think it is that the language, the language, as I said, you've got power under the hood, but sometimes you really want to be able to just do the simple thing simply. And I think that's one of the things that this has done, and you can set up your role and go, okay, so now apply this to this, apply this to this, and that's great. And I think it's just really think it's freed you from some of the, to do the example I was giving earlier with the net classes you would've had in constraints. As I said, it is taken me 78 entries to do that and I've got to be honest, that was a fun afternoon. But to add into that becomes a little bit, you have to know which one to add it into. And I think it's just not very portable in terms of when you're looking at those rules, you have to sift through the rules again. Whereas with the matrix, you can just see it directly in front. And again, they've added in one of the things that has always been a little bit challenging, especially for new users, if you've got different rules on the internal and external layers and now you have that, that's just been pulled out. So you can say I want it for all layers or external, internal. So there's lots of little things in there as well, which I think people are going to find help simplify the every day kind of rule set up.
Zach Peterson: Yeah, that's a good point with internal versus external, because that was another thing, especially with power systems, some of the stuff I've had to work on where you do have to break it out by internal and external, and if you don't know the query, what do you do? You probably just set a global value and if you don't set the right value, then there might be a problem when you go to manufacturer and actually test this thing. Yes,
Andy Critcher: As I said, the current way it works, I've got used to, again, as I said, I'm a bit sad reading the release notes, but one of the things I think about it is it's a bit like a dictionary. If you don't know how to spell the word, how can you look it up and when you need that query, I'll be honest, some of 'em aren't that obvious at times. So you do have, as you said, it's a bit of trial and error. There's some ways around it that atom help me with especially using the filter capability. But yes, you're right, you're right Zach. There is a learning curve with that and I think the constraint manager will simplify a lot of the standard things that everyone does really from day in day out.
Zach Peterson: And another thing you mentioned, you mentioned it's a matrix. You've said that a few times in my mind, I haven't played with this yet, so I'm going to now after this, but in my mind, I think if you look at the clearance rules in 80 23 and earlier, it's set up as basically as a matrix. Is it taking that kind of format and applying it universally to an object but broken out by rule and value?
Andy Critcher: Yes. So the matrix really is for your different net class to net class rules. This is where it's really being applied. So if you've got five net classes, you'll see I could, using the power analogy again, T volts, five volts, 25 volts, 48 volts on the left and they're going across the top. And then in the columns you can just add in the individual rules at that level. But if you click on a cell, let's say we would put in nor volts to nor volts. So that's going to be a pretty standard, but if you wanted different rules internally, when you click on that actual cell down the bottom, you'll see the usual, the thing that we're all familiar with of the clearance matrix that you get down the bottom that you get from pad to track to copper pour, you'll see that as well. And then at the bottom you'll see some tabs where it says internal, external essentially or by layer and you can have all layers or whatever, and then you can fill in that. So the top level really is going to apply all those rules between those net classes and you will not have to learn what all those net classes are. Basically it just is one hit one and the bottom of the screen. Whenever you hit on the sales against an object, what it would do is it would take you to the appropriate screen that we know and love of clearances, widths, via styles, that kind of thing.
Zach Peterson: I see, I see. So you mentioned that spending an afternoon setting up 78 rules was something that you've had to do in the prior interface. I don't know anybody who wants to necessarily spend an afternoon setting up a list of 78 rules. So I guess my question for you is has the new interface produced really tangible changes in the amount of time or effort or headache that creating rules and assigning rules requires?
Andy Critcher: Yes. I mean that specific example from an afternoon, because obviously I put them in, I didn't check them to make sure they haven't gone snow blind with the data, but I just called up, I can just call up the matrix that they've given me in Excel. That's how they manage internally the calculations and I can just select all those cells and then paste it straight in to the matrix. So yeah, it's come more down to my dexterity with Excel really rather than alium. So a minute perhaps if I stuttered a bit clicked wrong. But yeah, it really has that has trivialized it. And I think the thing is, well again, is checking of it is so much easier because each one of them is different. So now you've got to read a line across, read the two net classes, make sure that they're what you want, whereas all you've got to do is look at a matrix and compare it to the one that you just copied it from.
Zach Peterson: And I can imagine that this makes some communication with people who maybe are not spending most of their days inside of a PCB design tool much easier.
Andy Critcher: Actually, that is an excellent point because I think I especially forget that the consumer of what we do normally, and I mean it's not in a nice way, but non literate with PCBs. I mean the first time we had a 10 layer board up on the screen, one of our bosses came down and said, how the hell do you read that?
It's just what you get used to different colors and things, and I think it's correct. I mean the same thing with the 3D, the D viewing capability that whenever I show it to any one of the managers, we go into that mode because they can relate to that. It's a physical thing, and I think it's the same with this. They can see very quickly how the rules are set up with the tabular format of all the nets. Again, they can see the nets, whereas when it's just a bunch of rules, they're just looking at how creative we are with the name in really more than naturally the data.
Zach Peterson: One thing that happens to me is if you show a screenshot or a live viewing of the rules, like, well, what does that rule mean? It's not intuitive if you're not a pro designer or if you don't spend a lot of time in PCB design software.
Andy Critcher: Agreed. No, it is. You spend a lot of time explaining that. Yeah. Again, just anecdotal be the first time when we were using our thermal tool, the tool, just like all the tools, they grade the temperature graph and unfortunately the top hot color was white. And so when one the managers come over he said, is that white hot? No, no, no, it's just a grade. It's just a gradient. Okay. It's just going from hot to cold. But yeah, it is. We get very blood say about we are used to reading what we're looking at and we have to explain it to a wider world really. So again, this will help because as I said, when you click on the data at the bottom, you'll see the actual rule entry as it were. And again, with the good graphics they got for that, you can very quickly and easily show other non PCB people how it's working.
Zach Peterson: So would you say that this particular feature has improved your overall workflow for the designs that your company works on?
Andy Critcher: Yeah, I think there's specific ones. The high power, yeah, that really is helping and we have things with DDR. That's definitely helping as well. Being able to put the banks in and being able to have different rules between the banks don't get me, it wasn't horrendous before, but it was more time consuming. And what this means is that we can, and again, we can show that to everyone else, it's the list of banks and this is what you've got, so this is how it kind of works. And it will definitely improve with, because obviously at the moment with the beta, then we're kind of saying this is definitely going to be an improvement on the way in which we do things now. And again, we know that for some of our people we work with, they don't spend all day in the talks, so they go away, they come back and they think, well, should it be in Polygon or is Polygon when they're writing their SQL? And so they have to go and get another design and bring it back up. Whereas I think this kind of thing is definitely going to again, simplify it and put that as I would know it as a wrapper around them because it is an Excel style approach. It definitely makes that much easier. Everyone, we all have to use Excel one way or another, even if it's just to do our home accounts. It's pervasive. We're all very used to how it works.
You have used the hierarchy in there. Yeah.
Zach Peterson: And as far as collaboration with somebody else via Excel, it sounds like that's a real benefit too because it forces you into a third party program, but it's still a common language as far as communicating with someone who, again, is not a pro PCB designer, maybe they're just a front end engineer, but they know that there are certain rules that they need to enforce and Excel is convenient medium for providing that.
Andy Critcher: I think you're right, a hundred percent. The big thing is, you said the right word for me, it's convenient. When you mentioned earlier about transitioning, and I think it's not only transitioning from using a new language at all, but there's a cultural change as well. Older maxims, it ain't broke, don't fix it. And when someone said, well, I've always used Excel, and so you've got to do two things, really, you've got to change the tool and then you've got to move them on from what they currently use. So I think when we've used a step approach and then when we've shown them, well, actually if you do it this way in the first place, they've had two bites of the cherry kind of thing. They don't have to, it's not like someone picked up their office and moved it somewhere and have to find it the following day, which is always traumatic for people, but it really is. I think you take them along and you get them to buy in to the change. And with DXL, it definitely gets you to that point and you say, yeah, we're not impacting now, but you can see you could have entered this directly in and all of a sudden they're going, yeah, that's a good point. Don't have to do this. They don't have to. Okay. Yeah. So I think it is useful, especially as a transition tool as well, because what they're used to,
Zach Peterson: 
Well, this has all been really interesting, and I'm really hopeful that of two things. Number one, more people will find an easy transition into the constraint manager, but also number two, maybe we'll get some more beta users coming out of the audience for this podcast episode.
Andy Critcher: Just on the beta, when you look, there be things that you may not be interested in, but you it and you go, okay, yeah, Willow won't do that. And then there will be things that you're interested in and you don't have to do everything. You can just focus on those bits, you think, yeah, that looks cool. I'll play with that for a while and tell 'em what I think. So
Zach Peterson: Yeah, that's a great point. That's a great point. You don't have to get into this huge program. You can really find the points where you can provide value as far as testing a feature and evaluating it. Yep. Great. Well, Andy, thank you so much for talking to us today. This has been really interesting.
Andy Critcher: Oh, good. And thank you. Thank you for the time for the platform to waffle on about stuff, really.
Zach Peterson: Absolutely. Absolutely. As new features come out as you're involved in testing them, we'd love to have you back on to talk about this.
Andy Critcher: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I would love to. Love to
Zach Peterson: Everyone that's out there watching and listening, we've been talking with Andy Cher, director of Total Board Solutions. If you are watching on YouTube, make sure to hit the subscribe button. You'll be able to keep up with all of our tutorials and podcast episodes as they come out. If you're interested in learning more about Andy and what he does as well as the beta program, make sure to check out the show notes. You can check out the links there and learn as much as you need about both Andy, his company, and the Beta program. Last but not least, don't stop learning. Stay on track, and we'll see you next time. Thanks everybody.

About Author

About Author

James Sweetlove is the Social Media Manager for Altium where he manages all social accounts and paid social advertising for Altium, as well as the Octopart and Nexar brands, as well as hosting the CTRL+Listen Podcast series. James comes from a background in government having worked as a commercial and legislative analyst in Australia before moving to the US and shifting into the digital marketing sector in 2020. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and History from USQ (Australia) and a post-graduate degree in political science from the University of Otago (New Zealand). Outside of Altium James manages a successful website, podcast and non-profit record label and lives in San Diego California.

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