Design Prep: Centralizing Your Design Data

David Cousineau
|  Created: February 23, 2017  |  Updated: November 11, 2020

centralizing pcb design data like cooking example

Electronics design, like cooking, requires having the right ingredients in place to complete your creations. What if all that information was located in a single, centralized location so that everyone in the organization had access to pre-defined, pre-approved design ingredients to speed the process? Read on to learn more.

I really like cooking. The satisfaction of tinkering with a recipe, and getting the flavors and balance just right. The smells in the kitchen. The pride in hearing my son say, “Dad, you make the best meatballs!” as he gobbles another one down. What I don’t like (and what I usually don’t have) is the time it takes to make recipes from scratch. The chopping, the dicing, the measuring, the trips back and forth to the fridge and cabinets.

How do they make it look so easy on those cooking shows? Simple. They do all the prep work beforehand so the preparation doesn’t take up all their time. Professional chefs have a term for getting all their ingredients ready ahead of time – “mise en place” which is French for “putting in place” or “setting in place.” It’s what makes their cooking process so much faster than the typical home cook.

Why am I talking about cooking in an EDA blog? I think there are some lessons we can take from this and apply them to the design process. After all, there are some similarities between successful electronics design and cooking. You plan. You design. You test. You throw it away and start over. You tweak. You ultimately get your finished product on the table for consumption. Not only do you need the proper skills, but you also need creativity. In order to have time for that creativity, you can’t be spending time chopping onions every time you need some. You have to have them ready to use. What are our “EDA onions”?Abstract onion representing challenges of PCB design software data centralization in EDA

Easily Access Pre-Defined, Pre-Approved Design Data

Think about what you do when you start a new design. You need to establish the framework for the project – the basic folder structure for the files, the first couple of schematic pages and a PCB file. Your schematics need borders and title blocks applied. The PCB needs to have the board outline created and the layer stack defined. Design rules need to be established. Of course, you need access to a lot of components that have been approved for use (or you’ll need to build them). Ideally, you’ll also want the output process to be firmly in place so you won’t have to spend much time on that later (more on that here and here).

What if all that information was located in a single, centralized location so that everyone in the organization had access to pre-defined, pre-approved design ingredients to speed the process? What if new projects could be started with the prep work already done?

Consolidate Your Design Ingredients for Everyone to Utilize

Altium Vault® is an EDA-centric data management solution that will make your design kitchen operate like a five-star restaurant. A major aspect of Altium is to house your component data. Having your lifecycle-managed and approved available to everyone in the organization means no more time-wasting duplication of effort. When new do need to be created, component templates have already done the mise en place of assigning symbol and footprint models and defining what parameters are needed for that part.

Screenshot of Altium  component data

Altium 3.0 expands on the existing concepts of design reuse like schematic templates (i.e., sheet borders) by adding more reusable content types like layer stack files to quickly set your PCB to a predefined and pre-approved board stackup.

Jumpstart Your Designs with Project Templates

The most important addition to Altium, in my opinion, is the inclusion of Project Templates. You can now set up the project framework for all of your typical design types. With just a few mouse clicks, establish your project folder structure, include the title schematic sheet and any additional sheets required, have the PCB defined and even have the board outline created while including the standard connectors for that technology, and have it all added to version control. Your outputs are controlled by Altium -managed Output Job files, templates and Draftsman® templates.

Screenshot of Altium -managed Output Job files and  files

Prep Your Design Projects with Altium 3.0

When you have your electronic design environment mise en placed, and your EDA onions chopped and ready for use, your design recipes will get to the table faster and tastier than ever before!

Interested in learning more about the centralized data management solution presented in Altium 3.0? Visit the Altium product page on our website for more information.

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.

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