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

    No Icebergs Here, Captain! Board Rule Checking for Bill of Materials Management

    Altium Designer
    |  December 29, 2017

    Picture of Titanic approaching the iceberg

    You know the story of RMS Titanic and how just before midnight on April 14th, 1912, it struck an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean and sank. What you may not know though is how one small item may have saved the ship from sinking. During the inquiry, one of the surviving crew members who was a lookout reported that they did not have a pair of binoculars to use in the crow’s nest. When asked if having the binoculars would have made a difference or not, he replied that they would have given “enough time to get out of the way.”

    The tragic thing is that the binoculars were there, they just weren’t accessible to the crew members who needed them. According to one story, another crew member who had been replaced just before the ship sailed accidentally took the key to the binocular locker with him. Without the key, the lookouts couldn’t get the binoculars and therefore weren’t able to see the iceberg in time for the ship to steer around it.

    It is often the little things that we forget to check that end up causing the biggest problems. This is why we have processes to check for those small things that may end up sinking our boat or causing our printed circuit boards to be non-manufacturable. Traditionally you will check for errors related to how the circuit board will perform by using design rule checks (DRCs), and the manufacturer will check for errors related to the manufacturing of the board by using manufacturing rule checks (MRCs). We will see here how these checks need to be used together in order for the finished PCB to make it through manufacturing without errors and match up with its bill of materials.

    Manufacturing Rules Checking

    The PCB manufacturer has always checked the board for manufacturing rules violations, and for a long time that was the only place that those checks happened. The older layout tools that we used would run the traditional DRCs, but they weren’t set up to run all of the checks needed to make sure that the PCB could be manufactured. Once we finished the design and confirmed that the board had passed its DRCs, we would then turn it over to the manufacturer and they would run MRCs with their own specialized tools.

    I was always frustrated when one of my designs was rejected by the manufacturer because of a problem that I couldn’t check for with my layout tools. Some of these unchecked items included searching for solder mask slivers, acid traps, or silkscreen to silkscreen clearances. A lot of time was wasted waiting for the manufacturer to check my design and then report back to me so that I could make corrections.

    Picture of PCB with quality control sticker on it
    Full design rule checking is the best way to get your board through manufacturing with no errors

    Design Rules Checking

    DRCs, on the other hand, are those violations on a printed circuit board that will affect its electrical functions as opposed to how the board is manufactured. For instance, an incorrect size of the conductors on a PCB, such as trace widths or the spokes of a thermal relief pad, can cause the board to not work as it should. Objects like these are among those DRC items that typically don’t have any effect on the manufacturing of the board. There are however other DRC items such as object clearances between traces, component pads, or area fills that will affect both the electrical functionality of the board as well as its manufacturability.

    DRCs are an essential design tool and should be available to you as an online function while the board is being laid out. Prevent your design errors from occurring due to components being too close together, or net shorts due to traces touching each other with real-time rule checking in your layout tool. In addition, at any time during the design, a batch DRC pass can be run as well. You can use it to catch any DRC errors that were ignored during design, or if the online DRC was not used. 

    Picture of the Design Rule Checker menu in Altium
    The layout check design rules menu contains a complete set of  DRCs and MRCs

    Your Bill of Materials Will Also Benefit From Rule Checking

    The best checking solution is enabling you to check all aspects of the PCB design at once. This includes both the traditional DRCs and the MRCs as well. Fortunately, the MRCs that used to be only available as part of the specialized tools owned by the manufacturers, are now included in the DRC options of advanced PCB layout tools. Circuit board designers are able to detect MRC errors along with DRC errors and correct them all at the same time.

    With the PCB design entirely checked for errors and ready for manufacturing, you are able to create the bill of materials () with confidence in its accuracy. CAD tools today have functionality that allows the creation of the with different formats, groupings and other customizations that make your part of the design process instead of a simple report. Even finding a specific part on the schematic can be easily accomplished by selecting the part from the .

    If you’re looking for both advanced rule checking functionality and advanced creation utilities, then consider PCB design software like Altium . It has Active which is more than an independent or auxiliary document, it is part of the entire unified design platform giving you more control and power with your design. Find out more information by talking 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