Free Trials

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

How to Buy

Contact your local sales office to get started on improving your design environment

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

    Downloads

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

    How to Buy

    Contact your local sales office to get started improving your design environment

    • 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

    How to Systematically Organize Your Messy Schematic Design

    Altium Designer
    |  July 13, 2018

    Organize your schematic design like building blocks

    Even as a six-year-old, my son is great at organizing his toys and personal belongings. At that age, I used to chuck all my possessions into a huge storage box. My son, on the other hand, has a knack for orderliness that borders on obsessive. Although his meticulous attention to detail can be mildly frustrating at times, it means that I can always trust him to keep his play area organized.

    In PCB design, you need to exhibit the same level of organization in your schematics document to ensure that any hardware designers inheriting your project can progress with ease. The last thing you want is being constantly harassed by calls and emails because no one can understand your schematics.

    Schematic Design Basics

    Many electronics design articles discuss PCB layout best practices, like reducing electromagnetic interference (EMI) or high-speed design. But before you can even start routing the first net on a PCB, you have to get the schematics right. Schematics design is, in fact, one of the most overlooked aspects of PCB design.

    When you’re starting a hardware design, you probably have a general idea of what the complete circuit should look like. A approach to schematic design is to start by placing the main components, like the microcontroller, memory chips, and special function integrated circuits (IC). Then, you would place the passive components before making connections between components.

    The schematic is then exported to the PCB layout, where the respective footprints are populated with the interconnecting nets. A schematic design that generates the correct connections in the PCB seems to be all that matters; but in reality, a schematic design needs to be properly organized to ensure that it's easily understood and reused.

    How to Organize Your Schematic Design

    Keeping your schematic organized is a combination of habit and the features of the PCB design software that you’re using. Here’s how I normally organize my schematics:

    1. Segregate Schematic Sheets by Function

    In a simple design with a relatively low component counts, it makes sense to create the whole circuit on a single schematic sheet. But when you’re taking on complicated hardware design where hundreds of components are involved, squeezing everything on a single schematic sheet can be rather overwhelming.

    Instead, you may want to create different schematic sheets for different functions like the diagram above. Not only does this make the schematics in the individual sheets more manageable, but they can also be easily reused in new designs.

    Screenshot from Altium  Schematic files

    Schematic documents organized in rows

    2. Create a System for Designators

    Designators can be a great way to quickly cross-reference components within the schematic. You’ll be glad to have a designator system in place when you’re trying to locate or remove a single capacitor amidst hundreds of components.

    In my schematics, designators are built to represent the type of components, the number of the sheets that it belongs to, and the component index within the sheet itself. For example, D0512 represents a diode in the fifth schematic sheet and is the twelfth similar component. For a general overview of the component count, you can also list the range of each component at the bottom of the schematic sheet.

    3. Create Subcircuit Separations on Schematic Sheet

    Keeping schematics neat and tidy involves more than simply splitting the circuit into separate sheets. Some sheets contain more components and are vastly complicated than others. It always helps to create sub-schematic groups to clearly highlight the different purposes of the schematics.

    For example, the “memory” schematic sheet contains circuits that relate to SRAM, FRAM, Flash and SD Card. It’s important to ensure that components related to each memory type are positioned close to each other but sufficiently separated from others.

    4. Use Net and Port Labels

    The easiest way to represent a physical connection between two pins is to draw a wire connection. In simple schematics, this gives you a complete picture of the circuit with a single glance. But with complex circuits involving hundreds or thousands of nets, using net or port labels is a better option.

    It’s a good practice to use netlabels for signal connections within the same schematic sheet and port labels for connections between different sheets, as illustrated in the figure above. It’s also important to use the same punctuation and spelling when repeating labels.

    Screenshot from Altium  Schematic files

    Schematic information with corresponding designators

    5. Add Useful Comments

    It doesn’t hurt to add comments to the schematic where necessary. Besides basic information like the version, , and date, you may also want to include notes on any design concerns to keep in mind during the PCB prototyping process. Clearly spelling out instructions helps minimize issues for others who may be involved in the design process.

    With PCB design, usually you’re not going to be the only one looking at your documents. Being able to manage your information effectively will become a true gift the more involved your design process becomes with the rest of your department and team. Whether it’s easily translatable data formats, or just clearly communicated designators and component information, your schematic can hold a lot of the necessary information for involved parties.

    Whether you need to add schematic sheets or include comments, Altium Designer® offers the right tools to simplify your organizational process. Need more help clearing up the mess in your schematic? Talk to an expert at Altium.

    About Author

    About Author

    PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.

    most recent articles

    Back to Home