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    Move 3D Interference Checking to Electronic Design for a More Efficient Flow

    Charles Browne
    |  March 21, 2017
    During a typical design process it can take multiple iterations before your PCB fits its enclosure, leading to delayed schedules and missed deadlines. How can you ensure your PCB fits right the first time? With 3D interference checking.

    Every electronic product consists of both mechanical and electrical assemblies. The two need to fit together — you don’t want electronic components interfering with the mechanical enclosure. Typically, the completed electronic design moves to mechanical designers for 3D interference checking. Any component interference problems are identified and then passed back to the electrical designer for necessary changes.

    During this process, it can take multiple iterations before the electronics properly fit within the enclosure. This iterative approach delays product completion negatively affecting schedules and in some cases can even cause missed deadlines. So how can you shorten this timetable and successfully release your products on time?

    A New Methodology

    What’s needed is a methodology that gives electrical designers the opportunity to verify interference before the design is handed off to mechanical designers. Using that methodology can reduce iterations, save time, and improve the overall accuracy of your schedule. Let’s look at how this methodology works.

    A Better Approach with STEP

    The best way to reduce (or eliminate) iterations is for the electrical designer to verify clearance before it’s handed off to the mechanical team. STEP files can be imported for each component and then embedded as a component property. This STEP model can either be obtained from the manufacturer or manually created within the electrical design tool. Either way, it has the accurate physical dimensions of the component. Embedding dimensions moves toward the goal of interference checking taking place completely within ECAD.

    Imported 3D STEP Model Enclosure Fitted Over PCB Design

    STEP files are not limited to components. The mechanical housing itself can be imported as a STEP file from the mechanical designer. Once this data is obtained, you then import it into the ECAD tool and verify that the all of the components and connectors fit securely within the housing and mounting holes are where they belong. Any discrepancies can be quickly adjusted in the ECAD tool, eliminating the interference. Once verified, the final electrical assembly design moves to the mechanical team for any further testing. This methodology significantly reduces the number of iterations, saving time and money — and keeping the product on schedule.

    Checking Interferences in Altium Designer

    Altium Designer® supports both import and export of STEP models and files, allowing inference checking within the electrical design. The component clearance rule verifies that all 3D bodies and models within the design adhere to the constraints you have defined.

    Learn more about how to easily implement PCB 3D interference checking in Altium Designer by downloading a free white paper.

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