Nothing Less Than Gold When Working With Software for PCB Design

Altium Designer
|  Created: March 9, 2018  |  Updated: September 25, 2020

Vector image of skier

Ester Ledecka’s gold in women’s Alpine skiing Super-G during the Winter Olympics this year was a surprise to all, even Ledecka herself whose speciality is snowboarding, not skiing. She was the 26th skier down the mountain, and wasn’t expected to place anywhere close to the top. Ledecka went on to win gold in the parallel giant slalom for snowboarding making her the first woman to win gold medals in two different sports at the same Winter Olympics.

Ledecka’s determination to compete in both events is inspiring to me and many others. Because of her example, people everywhere are seeing the advantages of branching out into other disciplines within the same field. Diversity like this keeps you on your toes and competitively sharp. It also opens the door to excelling at multiple tasks that work toward a goal.

The advantages of handling multiple tasks within the same field become really obvious when we look at our own world of software for PCB design. It has been an unwritten rule that you use one tool for schematic capture, and then a different tool for PCB layout. This approach can cost time, effort, and money to learn and work with these different tools. While not the gold medal platform, I’m sure Ledecka would still endorse a unified design environment.

Software for PCB Design Can Greatly Benefit from Similar Interfaces

One of the biggest problems with using multiple tools for different aspects of PCB design is that it can be confusing for the users to move from tool to tool. The look and feel are different, functions that should be similar are often not, file formats can vary a lot, and the different libraries may not be compatible. This can cause a lot of wasted time by the users as they have to re-learn the tools each time they open them up.

Design tools are very large applications that require the full attention of their users. If the users constantly feel like they are never making it through the learning curve because of switching between tools, their productivity can tank.

PCB design tools that come from the same platform, however, can resolve all of these problems. The look and feel between the tools are the same as are the functions, file formats, and the libraries. Users who switch between these tools only need to worry about learning new design techniques and processes instead of always relearning how to use different software.

The wrong type of screwdriver with two screws
A mixed tool environment can spell trouble for the different tools communicating with each other

Tools That are Designed to Work Together

Another benefit of design tools that are in the same unified platform is that they are designed to work together. When using different tools in a mix-tool environment, there can be problems in getting the tools to talk to each other. Since the tools were not designed initially to work together, their communication is dependent on interfaces and translators. Sometimes users are forced to manually alter interface files in order to get the other tool to read them properly.

Here is where a unified design environment really shines. The tools within the unified platform are designed to work together without all of the fuss and mess of translators and interfaces. Not only does this save the users from a lot of frustration, it will also save your design cycle a lot of time. Instead of going through a manual process to send and receive annotation files between the schematic and the layout, the tools in a unified design environment are already set up to easily synchronize among themselves.

Screen shot of Altium  18 with multiple tool windows openThere are many benefits to using software for PCB design in a unified design environment

Cost Savings are Passed on to You

The benefits of PCB design tools that work together in a unified design environment translate to reduced expenses for you and improved production from your design team. With all of your PCB design tools working together in the same environment, you no longer need to purchase and maintain multiple tools. Instead, all of your design tools will come under the same umbrella of a single unified design environment.

With the commonality of the tools that this environment will give you, your staff will no longer have to spend time forcing the tools that create your designs to work together. Instead, they can focus all of their energies on creating better designs resulting in decreased costs and shorter design times.

Does the simplicity and efficiency of a unified design environment sound like it would be helpful to you? Altium Designer® is PCB design software based on a unified design environment. Users can easily transition from schematic to layout due to their similar interfaces, functionality, and connections. In addition, Altium also offers access to other tools such as a power distribution network and a bill of materials management system that is all part of the same platform of tools.

Talk to an expert at Altium to get more information on how this unified design environment can help you in your next PCB design.

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About Author

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

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