Multi-Directional Communication for Easy Mechanical and Electrical Collaboration

Altium Designer
|  Created: September 7, 2018  |  Updated: August 27, 2020

Use collaborative tools that attend to details in 3D

My neighbor and I were sitting on the patio one summer dreaming up a Christmas display that would span both our yards. Engineers, right? Ambitious project, for sure, but we had fun visualizing Santa and his reindeer flying across our two roofs. We’d use LED light strings to span the rooflines and we’d incorporate controllers to synchronize Christmas music.

Several months later after summer had turned to Fall, in comes the neighbor with a CAD rendition of our summer musings. I poured him some coffee and pulled out a schematic I’d been working. With dimensions from his design drawing I, or other engineers, could process the schematic into a PCB and our project might be ready for Christmas.

The collaboration ran into a few roadblocks as our CAD tools struggled to share formats. Being a home engineer project, we were both using free versions of sophisticated CAD tools with limited features. They were old too. We’d been successful building 3D design models for electronic enclosures of the display’s control boxes but sharing the formats was impossible. Our databases kept crashing, and our systems could not handle any engineers design needs.

Researching the web and newer vendor tools led us to MCAD and ECAD tools that included NATIVE 3D engines along with .STEP formats. Putting our designs into the newly-downloaded tools yielded solutions and soon our collaboration was moving forward once more. We made lists of materials and found 3D models on vendor websites that ported into the CAD tools as well. Our display was going to be ready by Christmas!

Dimensions included in .STEP files

Share dimensional analysis across MCAD/ECAD

Old Tools Crash and Prevent Sharing With Partners

No matter the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or level of hands-on experience, collaborative engineering should have cost-effective solutions for designing electro-mechanical systems. Part of the joy of mechanical and electrical engineering collaboration is the ability to solve real-world problems in any part of your life.

It is tough to collaborate when tools crash the files. With no files to share work comes to a standstill and engineers scheduling is delayed. Accessing directories to resolve errors reveals the database is locked. Working through files discovers that although some open the 3D design window comes up blank. Engineers collaborating becomes impossible with tools that crash the files before than can be shared.

Design process with engineers can and should be smooth as systems working together. Working through error messages is painstaking business when partners are ready to collaborate. All the 3D models specifically made for collaborating are corrupted. Rebooting opens up a window but switching to 3D leaves the screen blank. Going back to the drawing board will require endless hours to unlock the database and to figure out what went wrong.  

Database Maintenance Impedes Sharing 3D Models

Locating any workable 3D models within the database for sharing while troubleshooting becomes impossible. Attempts to keep collaborators productive while troubleshooting the database fails. Working through error messages results in loss of data or data that is corrupt and needs rebuilding. Days of work is lost and it becomes apparent that the database will need to be rebuilt.

Time away from troubleshooting the crashed database becomes necessary to continue work with engineers. Returning to the EDA tool takes time away from the project. Hours are sunk into reading support websites for ideas on how to work around the failed tool and trying to find appropriate disciplines and opportunity. . Tickets submitted to the support portal are left unanswered.

3D component databases for systems collaboration

Models are easily built with 3D component databases

Collaborative Tools Provide Underlying Structure for 3D

Engineers shouldn’t have to worry about their design process being disrupted by anything short of their desires and creativity to create the board that they wish. Engineers from varying disciplines should be able to work within the software to be able to create whatever systems they desire.

Having a functional EDA tool for 3D design modeling would be a pleasure. Having commands integrated into pulldown menus that worked without crashing the instantiation would be great. Selecting a command to switch from 2D to 3D views would build confidence with collaborators, from engineer students to full-fledged engineers to any involved, and move projects forward with ease.

Having a 3D model database available without the need to manually build models is even better. Using those models without system crashes and loss of database facilitates collaboration across more departments within the enterprise. 3D models are portable and may be shared with other CAD tools. Collaboration is supported with intelligent CAD environments able to import and export formats recognized by either.

Circuit Studio Enables ECAD/MCAD in Collaborative Environment

Circuit Studio® comes with a 3D engine with formats that port to other CAD tools. The PCB 3D Editor allows 3D environment. More than a design viewer, the editor allows import of models from collaborator MCAD tools or from collaborator third-party vendor sites. Your database builds within the unified design environment systems built to hold 3D design models and their instantiation into layouts. Layouts can be converted into .STEP for export, as well as import, from your mechanical collaborator’s tool.

Collaborating with partners is a breeze with Circuit Studio’s 3D unified environment. With import of .STEP files, your design is ready for collision checking in early stages of board outline. The environment allows immediate placement of largest components. Placement of largest components is trusted with 3D design models imported from the vendors’ websites. The models are accurate and the database supports their instantiation without throwing error messages or crashing the directory.

Don’t let multiple disciplines get in the way of your product systems. provides an intelligent, unified environment for powerful collaboration with partners. If you’d like to know more talk to a Circuit Studio expert.    

Start the journey to switch over to Altium Designer today.

About Author

About Author

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

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