Drawing Creation with Draftsman

Created: April 12, 2017
Updated: November 10, 2020

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Technical drawings for a printed circuit board include a graphical representation of the product design along with information relevant to fabrication and assembly. PCB documentation and fabrication drawings are created in a variety of formats, including Gerber files, ODB ++, IPC 2581, and file formats from other CAD vendors. Any of these documents needs to correspond to data directly from your PCB layout. In addition to these fabrication drawings, your bill of materials needs to import components directly from your PCB libraries.

With so much data to handle, you need to use design tools that help you manage everything from your schematic sheets to PCB documentation for manufacturing. Allium Designer unifies all your design tools with a set of documentation generation and management features. In addition, the Draftsman tool lets you instantly export fabrication drawings from your PCB layout, and all without using an external CAD program. Here’s how this works in Altium Designer and how you can create a unified workflow for PCB design.


A unified PCB design package with the best high speed design tools and signal integrity simulation features in a drawing editor.

Drawing and documentation creation are sometimes treated as afterthoughts in electronics development. Drawings are an important part of enclosure design and multi-board PCB design, but the fabrication process demands its own unique set of drawings to ensure correct manufacturing and assembly. One problem with most ECAD systems is that historically they have not provided the best methods for creating documentation of all kinds. This documentation includes assembly drawings, bills of materials, artwork, and the design files themselves.

Instead of manually pulling data from your PCB layout data and components libraries to create assembly data, there’s a faster way to get your circuit board into production. The integrated toolset in Altium Designer lets you create all these important documents and many more in a single program. Here’s how Altium Designer makes this possible and what you need to do to generate PCB documentation for manufacturing.

The Sourcing and Fabrication Tools You Need

Sourcing for complex systems is often performed by a team of logistics professionals, but this doesn’t need to be the case for PCB designs. As a designer, your job is to take your layout data and PCB libraries and compile information into your fabrication and assembly documents.

PCB fabricators need the following features in a drawing editor:

  • Dimensioned printed circuit board
  • Drill table with legend
  • Layer stack structure with materials and thicknesses
  • Panelization data, including milling contours, tooling holes, fiducials, and/or scoring lines

In addition to the above list, PCB assemblers also require the following drawings:

  • Critical component placement (components with tall or large dimensions)
  • BOM with cross-references for component placement
  • Assembly drawings

If you want to reduce the amount of time required to create these documents, you need to use design software that takes data directly from your PCB layout to create documentation.

Instant Documentation with OutputJob Files in Altium Designer

Altium Designer includes an OutputJob file feature in Altium Designer, which allows you to instantly generate a series of fabrication documents from a single window. In addition to drawings, you can quickly create Gerber files, NC drill files, pick and place data, and much more. This ensures your production files draw data directly from your circuit board layout and are always exported in standard file formats.

Screenshot of Draftsman in Altium Designer

Assembly drawing creation with Draftsman in Altium Designer is easy and accurate.

Build Fabrication Documents From Your Layout Data

Once you’ve got a handle on managing your design data and component libraries, you need to create fabrication documents from your PCB layout data. Your fabrication tools need to take data directly from your PCB layout, and they need to export documentation in standard file formats. Altium Designer includes a complete set of tools for creating drawings with the integrated Draftsman utility.

Fabrication and Assembly Drawing Creation with Draftsman is Easy

What was once a time-consuming process can be performed automatically with Draftsman, which links the PCB layout document to a new Draftsman CAD document. This feature is built into Altium Designer and can instantly be used to create 2D and 3D assembly drawings for your fabricator. Once the PCB CAD has been updated, you can reopen the Draftsman document and instantly synchronize your design data. These fabrication drawing features can be accessed alongside your other tools for PCB documentation, including Gerbers, BOMs, netlists, and much more.

Because design documents and component libraries are linked, Altium Designer and the integrated Draftsman tool allows you to create intelligent design templates. You can quickly create PCB assembly drawings, drill tables, and fabrication templates without using a separate program. Opening a template allows Draftsman to be repointed to a different PCB layout, and the object views you’ve placed are fixed and automatically updated based on the new source information.

Screenshot of Draftsman in Altium Designer

Assembly drawing creation with Draftsman in Altium Designer is easy and accurate.

Unified PCB Design and Manufacturing is Easy in Altium Designer

When you’re ready to send your documentation to your manufacturer, you need to start by panelizing your board and creating assembly drawings. Your assembly drawings need to take data from your circuit board layout and recreate a fabrication drawing in a standard format.

Once you’ve created your assembly drawings, you can also instantly create a bill of materials, Gerber files, netlists, ODB++ files, and other design documentation for your fabricator. You won’t have to scroll through your library to add design and fabrication notes to an external bill of materials tool. Everything you need to manage and use your PCB documentation and much more is included in Altium Designer.

Comprehensive Design and Manufacturing Tools in Altium Designer

Altium Designer gives you access to much more than a set of PCB design data management features. You’ll have a complete set of tools for creating your PCB library data, including schematic symbols, 3D CAD models, and PCB footprints. Your design data will integrate with your documentation features, allowing you to create high-quality PCBs and produce them at scale. When you need to verify your design, the analysis and simulation tools can help you diagnose signal integrity problems and ensure your board operates as designed. Everything integrates with the PCB manufacturing prep tools in Altium Designer, giving you a comprehensive design experience.

Screenshot showing PCB documentation creating and circuit board design tools in Altium Designer

Comprehensive PCB design, analysis, and documentation creation in Altium Designer.

PCB documentation can be difficult to compile without the right design tools. When your PCB fabrication prep features integrate with your standard printed circuit design features, you won’t have to use multiple programs to create and export your PCB fabrication data. Try using the integrated set of PCB layout features in Altium Designer for your next PCB.

Altium Designer on Altium 365 delivers an unprecedented amount of integration to the electronics industry until now relegated to the world of software development, allowing designers to work from home and reach unprecedented levels of efficiency with their drawing editors.

We have only scratched the surface of what is possible to do with Altium Designer on Altium 365. You can check the product page for a more in-depth feature description or one of the On-Demand Webinars.


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