Managing Symbol and PCB Footprint Libraries with Altium 365

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: March 22, 2021

When you need to collaborate on printed circuit design projects, you have a few options for sharing data. Your projects need to contain schematic symbols and PCB footprints in order to be opened on another computer, and the old ways of sharing this data are inefficient. If you have access to a cloud application that integrates with your PCB design tools, sharing data becomes easy, and you won’t be prone to neglecting shared data.

Altium 365 allows you to quickly share individual symbols and PCB footprints, or a set of component libraries within a project. Altium Designer is the only application that gives you access to these capabilities alongside your standard design and management tools. You can quickly share your important design libraries within a secure environment, and all while regulating access privileges to your data. No other system provides these collaboration features alongside the powerful circuit board design features in Altium Designer.

ALTIUM 365®

A PCB data management and component management platform that integrates with Altium Designer® and popular mechanical design tools.

Your new circuit board won’t function without the right components, and your CAD tools need symbols and PCB footprints to create an accurate PCB layout. When you’re collaborating on a complex project, you need to share these important pieces of data. Sharing projects by email is time-consuming and leaves you prone to creating design errors. You won’t have version control capabilities, and there is always the possibility of omitting an important file when sharing data. These problems create the possibility of design errors that slow down development.

Altium 365 solves these problems by providing version control for an entire project, individual libraries, and individual symbols and footprints. You’ll have a complete system that provides comprehensive component management, and this is all accessible within Altium Designer. Here’s how you can use Altium Designer with Altium 365 to manage your schematic symbol libraries and PCB footprint libraries without sending a single email.

Managing Symbol and PCB Footprint Libraries

There are three ways you can use Altium 365 to share and manage your symbol and PCB footprint libraries:

  1. At the project level: Libraries contained in a project can be saved to your server alongside your other design data. Version control will be enforced on all files in the project.
  2. At the symbol/footprint level: Individual PCB footprints and schematic symbols can be saved as models in your Altium 365 Workspace. If you need to create a new component, you can start a new footprint in the Explorer in Altium Designer, and you can quickly reuse a footprint or symbol from your Altium 365 data.
  3. At the folder level: You can create a shared folder in your Altium 365 Workspace specifically for storing library files. Any custom folder you create in your Altium 365 Workspace is accessible through the Explorer Panel in Altium Designer. You can then add any of your libraries to your Altium 365 server by adding them to a Library folder.

Both processes will save you time when you need to share or reuse component data. A fellow designer can then access library data through an existing project, or they can access symbols and footprints in the Explorer window in Altium Designer.

Symbol and PCB Footprint Libraries in Your Projects

An easy way to share symbol and footprint data from a specific project is to create libraries for your components in Altium Designer, and then push your data to your Altium 365 workspace. When a designer creates a project in Altium Designer and adds components to the project, simply push the data to your Altium 365 web instance to make the data accessible to other designers.

While a new project is open in Altium Designer, simply add your libraries to the project as you normally would. You can create the project locally in Altium Designer, or you can create the new project in your Altium 365 web instance and import into Altium Designer (see below). Once you save the project to your Altium 365 server, as shown below, your collaborators will be able to access the libraries when they access the project.

Screenshot showing component library creation in Altium Designer

Saving component library data in Altium Designer to the Altium 365 web instance.

The final step is to formally release this new project that contains your libraries. Right click on the project and open the Project Releaser. If there are no schematics or PCB documents in your library project, just uncheck the assembly and fabrication output options. Click through the screens in the project releaser, and your project data (including libraries) will be uploaded to your Altium 365 web instance.

Screenshot showing component library creation in Altium Designer

Saving component library data in Altium Designer to the Altium 365 web instance.

Once you give a collaborator access to this project, they can download the release data from the Altium 365 web instance, or they can select a download option within Altium Designer. This will download the project file and the source files (the schematic and footprint libraries) to the designer’s local machine. The Explorer also allows your collaborator to re-open the project in Altium Designer; simply download the library files from the Explorer and add them into the re-opened project.

You can also navigate to the entire set of libraries through the Explorer. Simply click Admin → Explorer and navigate to the project folder. You’ll see an entry for SRC-[Project Name] in the list of files. Clicking on the disk at the right side of the entry allows you to download a zip file containing the library files. You can then navigate to the library entry on your local machine and immediately import these libraries into a new project.

This is a better option than emailing design data between collaborators and enforcing manual version control. It removes the possibility of omitting a file, and you won’t have to track copies and annotations of design files to ensure version control. You can instantly share these libraries with other designers using the standard features in the Altium 365 web instance.

Using Models for Schematic Symbols and PCB Footprints

The other way to track and quickly reuse component data is to create symbols and footprints as Models in the Explorer. When you start Altium Designer and bring up the Explorer, open the Components folder and scroll down to the Models subfolder. From here, you can create a new footprint or a new schematic symbol. You can then create your component symbols and footprints manually, or you can copy the symbol/footprint from an existing component into the new symbol/footprint.

PCB footprint libraries creation in Altium 365 and Altium Designer

Creating a new PCB footprint in the Models section of the Explorer window in Altium Designer.

If you want to copy data from an existing library into your new footprint model, simply open the existing footprint, hit Ctrl+A, and paste the CAD data into the new footprint. You can now push the new component to the Altium 365 web instance, which will make it accessible to others on your design team. You can control revisions and access the same way you would with other design data; simply apply these privileges in the Explorer window.

PCB footprint libraries in Altium Designer

This new PCB footprint will be deployed to my Altium 365 web instance.

Component Data Reuse is Easy with Altium 365

Finally, when you need to create a new component from an existing model, you can quickly import the existing footprint into the new component with the standard component creation tools in Altium Designer. Simply add a new component to your project, or create a new component from the Explorer window in Altium Designer. You can then use an existing symbol or footprint from your Altium 365 Model data to quickly create your new component.

Secure Sharing of Symbols and PCB Footprint Libraries

Your symbols and footprints are extremely easy to share with Altium 365, but you’ll still need to keep your data secure. With the access control and revision control features in Altium 365, you can prevent exposure of sensitive design data to an unauthorized party, and you can control who can edit your component data. This is a much safer option than sending your IP via email or FTP.

The data access and management tasks shown above were performed using the Altium 365 web instance, but you can also bring your Altium 365 workspace on-premises. If you’re working in an industry where IP protection and regulatory compliance are major concerns, you can still perform these tasks when you deploy Altium 365 on a local server. This gives you the ability to control access, audit user activity, and protect your data without exposing it on the cloud.

Manage all Your Design Data with Altium 365

You can do much more than just manage component data with Altium 365. You can manage and securely share your design and component information in Altium 365 with specific Altium Designer users. Altium 365 provides this same level of integration with popular mechanical design tools. The two systems integrate seamlessly to form a secure solution for all aspects of product design.

When you need a secure cloud platform for electronics design, Altium 365 is the ideal choice for sharing and managing your design data. Instead of separating component data management, access control, and design management features into separate applications, you can control and manage all your design data in a single platform. If you’re ready to easily share and track your symbol and PCB footprint libraries, it’s time to try Altium 365.

Altium 365 is bringing 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.

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

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 1000+ technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, and the American Physical Society, and he currently serves on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee.

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