Online PCB Design Review with Altium Concord Pro

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: March 18, 2020
Online PCB Design Review with Altium Concord Pro

You can design a PCB any way you like, but if it doesn’t pass a PCB design review, then it will never become a real board. A PCB design review is about more than just running DRCs, it’s about designing to satisfy your manufacturer’s capabilities and processes. Manufacturers have had to become much more skilled at designing new boards, and the best manufacturers will collaborate with you during a PCB design review. With the right effort and collaboration tools, they can show you exactly how your board needs to change in order to meet important DFM requirements.

Although the design skills of many manufacturers have improved, the tools available for design review and collaboration have only recently improved. A cloud collaboration platform like Altium Concord Pro allows you to share design data with a manufacturer instantly in a secure online interface. Designers can push their designs directly to manufacturers, and manufacturers can pinpoint exactly which portions of a design need to change before a new board can be sent to the production line. Here are the tools you need for effective collaboration and how Altium Concord Pro can help you speed through a PCB design review.

ALTIUM CONCORD PRO®

A unified design collaboration and management platform that integrates with Altium Designer® and popular mechanical design tools.

Your PCB design review is the last step in the design process before your new board enters full-scale production. Everything from silkscreen placement to trace spacing needs to be carefully checked by the design team and a skilled fabricator, and last-minute design iterations are commonplace. By far, the greatest roadblock to a quick PCB design review is the ability to instantly share and access design data while maintaining access and revision control. Emails and FTP tunnels have their place, but they can’t provide the same level of efficiency as a dedicated cloud platform.

What if you could get through the PCB design review process quickly, and all within your PCB design application? With the cloud collaboration tools in Altium Concord Pro, you can quickly place your data in a cloud repository and share it with other designers or a manufacturer. This platform is instantly accessible in Altium Designer, and it allows anyone on your team to pull data from the cloud back to their local machine for editing. This helps you quickly move through the PCB design review and qualification phase on the way to manufacturing.

What Goes into a PCB Design Review

Once you’ve pushed your design data to your manufacturer, they will look over your layout, assembly, and Gerber files, and your BOM to make sure your board can be produced at scale. Your manufacturer may need to note some required changes to your design, or they may need to make the changes on their own. Both tasks can be completed quickly when your design data is accessible by designers and manufacturers directly within Altium Designer.

All these tasks are enabled in Altium Concord Pro, which also provides a direct pipeline into your manufacturer’s version of Altium Designer. Some important points that should be checked during a PCB design review include:

  • Keep-in/keep-out areas
  • Pad-to-trace, pad-to-pad, and pad-to-via clearances
  • Drill bit/via sizes, plane sizes, and mismatched trace sizes
  • Unconnected planes, pads, and vias
  • Mismatch between Gerber data and your layout

If a manufacturer spots any of these in your design data, they can import your data into Altium Designer and make the changes on their own. Alternatively, a manufacturer can make notes in your design within an Altium Concord Pro workspace. Some other important tasks that can be performed in Altium Concord Pro and Altium Designer as part of a PCB design review are shown below.

Running ERCs and DRCs Online

ERCs and DRCs can be run directly within Altium Concord Pro. Any violations can be flagged within the online workspace, just as they normally would in Altium Designer. If you’re a manufacturer, you can scan through all layers in a design to spot any DRC errors or DFM violations. If you’re a designer, you can open your copy of Altium Designer and import the project from the Altium Concord Pro workspace and make edits yourself.

Screenshot showing DRC results in Altium Concord Pro

Running an online DRC in Altium Concord Pro

Annotating Schematic and Layout Data

It’s common for multiple members of a design team, or the designer and the end customer, to collaborate and comment on a design as it’s being created. Within Altium Concord Pro, a designer or manufacturer can leave a comment directly on a component or respond to a comment from another user. Once you leave a comment, other team members will be able to see and resolve comments in the Concord workspace. They can then import the design into Altium Designer and make any changes, then the design can be pushed back to the Concord web instance.

Annotating a pad in Altium Concord Pro

Annotating a pad location in Altium Concord Pro

Adding or Moving Test Points, Mechanicals, and Components

Once annotations have been provided, you may need to move components, mechanicals, and/or test points in your design. Placing test points in a board is easy with the component creation features in Altium Designer. You can place test points as schematic symbols, and you can define a pad shape/size for your test point in your PCB layout. You can then store your new testpoint in your Concord workspace for use in a new design. The same process you use to create, modify, and move test points can be used for proprietary components and mechanicals in your design.

Adding components from Altium Concord Pro into Altium Designer

Importing a component from Altium Concord Pro into Altium Designer

Reduce PCB Design Review Time with Cloud Collaboration

The examples shown above are just a few of the processes you might encounter during a PCB design review. Placing important design data into a web instance and sharing it with collaborators eliminates the core inefficiencies in design review. For more advanced products, you may need to examine mechanical constraints as well as electrical constraints. Now with Altium Concord Pro, you can collaborate on enclosure design by taking advantage of shared data in your Concord workspace.

ECAD/MCAD Collaboration in a PCB Design Review

When your ECAD design and collaboration features integrate with popular MCAD platforms, your design team and manufacturer can check your layout against important mechanical constraints. You can also share your data with a CAM engineer, and your CAM engineer can add mechanical design files to your workspace. This gives everyone on a design team access to a complete set of data required to produce a new product at scale.

ECAD/MCAD collaboration in Solidworks and Altium Concord Pro

Enclosure design with Solidworks and Altium Concord Pro.

Get to Manufacturing Faster with Altium Concord Pro

The old way of moving files between a design team and manufacturing engineer is outdated, inefficient, and lacks security. The new way to take your advanced designs to full-scale manufacturing is to use a cloud collaboration tool that integrates with your PCB design platform. Instead of using a 3rd party data sharing application or resorting to the old ways of sharing data, your cloud sharing tools should be accessible within your design software.

How Altium Concord Pro Aids PCB Design Review

Altium Concord Pro integrates with Altium Designer and popular MCAD applications, and it gives you the power to control all aspects of your data from anywhere. The web workspace provides a central repository for all your design data, and anyone on your design team can access your design data without emailing a single ZIP file or using a FTP service.

You can easily invite your manufacturer into your Concord workspace and give them access to your design data for a PCB design review. Your manufacturer can quickly pinpoint any required design changes and provide detailed comments without downloading a single file. Your manufacturer can also access your layout and your mechanical design, and they can make any required changes. Any comments and design changes can then be pushed back to the Concord workspace for final review.

Altium Concord Pro provides these important design collaboration features and much more directly within Altium Designer. When you use Altium Designer, you’ll also have access to the industry’s best layout and routing features in a rules-driven design environment. You’ll also be able to instantly create your manufacturing documentation and send it to your board house for fabrication.

Fusing Altium Design and Altium Concord Pro gives you the only platform that makes your important design documentation accessible from anywhere. If you’re ready to speed through your next PCB design review and streamline your data management processes, it’s time to try Altium Concord Pro.

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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