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    PCB Design Review and Collaboration in Altium Concord Pro

    Zachariah Peterson
    |  April 8, 2020
    PCB Design Review and Collaboration in Altium Concord Pro

    Remote collaboration tools are everywhere these days, and now designers have access to a convenient collaboration system for electronics design. Whether you’re part of a design team, or you need to quickly execute any design changes recommended by your manufacturer, you need cloud collaboration tools that are immediately accessible within your PCB design application.

    Now with Altium Concord Pro, you’ll have access to a cloud-driven design interface that is accessible within Altium Designer. This process might sound difficult, but all it takes is an Altium Concord Pro license and an Altium 365 login. Here’s how you can quickly get started collaborating on a new PCB design project and how your team can easily push changes to a design without having to manually send files to each team member.

    Starting the PCB Design Collaboration Process

    In this tutorial, I’ll assume the role of two designers, one who is looking at a design through Concord’s web interface, and another who is working on the design in Altium Designer. After creating my Altium 365 profile, I can easily log into the server and access my Concord workspace. From here, I can create a new project for my design and make it accessible to collaborators. I can also create a new project in Altium Designer and select “Altium Concord Pro” as the location. You’ll need to make sure you’re logged in to your Concord web instance using your Altium Designer credentials.

    Deploying an Existing Project on Altium Concord Pro

    I’m going to take an existing project and deploy it in my Concord workspace so that it can be accessed by a collaborator. To do this, I’ll create a new project directly in Altium Designer and set Altium Concord Pro as the project location.

    Creating a new Altium Designer project for use with Altium Concord Pro
    Creating a new Altium Designer project for use with Altium Concord Pro

    After creating the project it will appear in my Projects panel, just like any other project I would normally access in Altium Designer. At this point, you can start adding my existing files to your new project. To do this, just drag your schematics and PCB files into the Projects panel.

    Once you’ve added these files to the project, you’re ready to push these files to the Concord workspace. To do this, right-click on the project instance in the Projects panel and select Version Control → Commit Whole Project. This will bring up the Commit to Version Control window (see the image below). To push the entire project to the Concord web instance, you’ll need to select Commit and Push in the dialog box. Read more about commits and pushes in this article. When the process completes, you’ll see a green checkbox next to the files in the Projects panel.

    Pushing a project from Altium Designer to Altium Concord Pro
    Committing a project to version control in Altium Concord Pro

    After the push process completes, you can go back and make edits to your PCB or schematics if you like. The image below shows my existing schematic after applying some edits. Once I’ve applied the relevant edits, I can push them to the Concord server. To do this, right-click on the modified file and click Version Control → Push.

    Pushing edits from Altium Designer to Altium Concord Pro
    Pushing edits to the Altium Concord Pro web instance

    Viewing a Project in Your Concord Workspace

    After the project has been pushed to your Concord workspace, a collaborator with access to the workspace can download the project files directly to their version of Altium Designer. Alternatively, a collaborator can log into the web workspace and view the project files in their browser. The collaborator can also add comments to the project. Things like suggested design changes and component replacements can be placed in the comments window, and another designer will see these comments when they view the project in Altium Designer.

    Once a collaborator logs into the online workspace, they can select the Projects tab and they will see the default projects, as well as your new project in the browser window. My USB Charger project is shown below.

    Available projects in Altium Concord Pro
    Default projects and the new project in the Altium Concord Pro web instance

    At this point, double-click on the new project to open it in the Concord workspace. You can right-click on various portions of the PCB layout or the schematics and add comments to the design. Once you add comments, they will appear in the project as a bubble above the relevant portion of the design. Traces, planes, mechanical layers, or any other element in the PCB layout/schematic can be commented in this way.

    Commenting a project in Altium Concord Pro
    Adding comments to a project in the Altium Concord Pro web instance

    Viewing Comments in Altium Designer

    Any comments to the project made in the web instance will be accessible within Altium Designer. To check for any updates to the design in Altium Designer, simply right-click on the project file in the Projects panel, and click on Version Control → Refresh. This will download the latest data from Concord directly into Altium Designer. Once you open the PCB layout or schematics, you should see the new comments. The image below shows the comments on my layout in the PCB Editor in Altium Designer.

    New comments on a refreshed project in Altium Designer
    New comments in Altium Designer

    The designer can now make the suggested changes, add their own comments, and resolve the comments as needed. Once the edits are made, these edits can be pushed back to the Concord server using the Commit and Pull command (see above). This process can continue back-and-forth between multiple designers until a design is completed.

    When multiple designers are collaborating, a user with Admin privileges in the Concord web instance will have full access to tracked revisions within the Concord workspace. In some upcoming articles, I’ll show how PLM information can be brought into the Concord workspace and how collaborators can bring their design into popular MCAD tools.

    If you’re in the design review phase, or you’re mid-way through a design, the push-pull interface in Altium Concord Pro™ is ideal for PCB design collaboration. You can access these features in your web browser and directly in Altium Designer®, or you can deploy an Altium Concord Pro instance on a local server. This gives a distributed team a simple way to collaborate on a new design without sending design files through email, FTP, or other inefficient cloud sharing tools.

    Contact us or download a free trial of Altium Designer® and Altium Concord Pro™. You’ll have access to the industry’s best MCAD/ECAD co-design, PCB layout, documentation, and data management features in a single program. Talk to an Altium expert today to learn more.

    About Author

    About Author

    Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to electronics companies. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University. He conducted his Physics M.S. research on chemisorptive gas sensors and his Applied Physics Ph.D. research on random laser theory and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensing and monitoring systems, and financial analytics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written hundreds of technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies. Zachariah currently works with other companies in the electronics industry providing design, research, and marketing services. 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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