Altium Designer and Altium 365: Transforming PCB Design with Matthew Lightsey
One of the biggest challenges facing small printed circuit board (PCB) design firms is the limitation of affordable software tools.
Electrical engineers often don’t have access to comprehensive systems that allow them to design, co-design, and source parts or share projects during each stage in the development cycle. Many available tools are often incomplete, requiring additional modules that increase complexity and costs exponentially.
Matthew Lightsey, founder and principal designer of Granite Summit Designs, based in Warwick, Rhode Island, is no stranger to this challenge. His firm specializes in designing custom PCBs, used in everything from data acquisition systems, high-resolution printers to mobile TV and broadband satellite receiver/transmitters. The designs are used in commercial, industrial, aerospace and defense industries.
In his lengthy career as an electrical engineer working for major corporations, Matt had access to all of the big PCB design tools, but his frustrations were limited to using the software itself. When Matt began to research using similar tools, he discovered that the more comprehensive the solution, the higher the price tag. Cheaper solutions were inadequate for professional design use, geared more towards hobbyists than PCB design companies.
When the time came for Matt to start his own design firm, he did not want to have to settle for less professional tools just because he was about to become a one-man design house. After struggling with a high-end PCB software tool that required purchasing multiple modules, infusing his workflow with needless complexity and high costs, Matt made the switch to Altium Designer®.
As Matt recollects, “Were it not for the comprehensiveness and affordability of Altium, I might still be working in a corporate job. The bigger PCB design software systems cost so much more—some of them as much as $81,000 per year, and the entry-level priced ones felt like they were geared towards hobbyists. Altium Designer is an all-in-one-tool that costs less than the annual maintenance plans of the software I was using before switching. It’s got all of the features I need and then some, but it’s not sold at defense-contractor prices.”
Altium Designer featured all of the capabilities Matt needed in one place, from placement and routing of critical circuits and signals to an easy handoff to an external layout team. With Altium 365™, Matt has a world of new possibilities at his fingertips. Altium 365 offers a new design experience connecting engineering desktop tools, including Altium Designer and Altium Concord Pro™, via an effortlessly accessible cloud-based platform.
Seamless Design and Part Management with a Single Tool and More
As a design consultant, Granite Summit Designs focuses on designing schematics that are then laid out in-house or sent to different companies for layout. Matt creates unique designs with parts libraries for his different clients, so having a unified design environment of Altium Designer with an integrated library system of Concord Pro is vital for streamlining his own processes.
Unique parts and schematics are Matt’s forte. As he elaborates, “Most of the work I do involves highly irregular PCB shapes that fit into tight housings with a lot of height restrictions that vary across the boards. I never get to design a regular PCB board with unlimited height, they are always double-sided with minimal free PCB space, so every place and route task is a challenge.”
Matt elaborates, “For me, mechanical integration is essential because I don’t design square boards. I do schematic, high-end designs, microprocessors, high-layer boards and industrial-grade temperature boards. Having Altium Designer for schematics and layouts, signal integrity and BOM tools have been essential for my business.”
Altium Designer’s advanced 3D modeling capabilities make it easy for Matt to see his designs come to life. Altium 365 makes this even easier by giving him the flexibility to share designs with clients and collaborators whenever and wherever he needs to. The addition of Concord Pro inside Altium 365 has given Matt the ability to organize disparate libraries into a single source.
As Matt explains, “Even though I’m just one person, I work with many companies, so I have integrated part library projects. With BOM and part supply built in, it’s easy to find parts in Altium Designer, but Concord Pro is making this even easier. It’s been helping me pull everything together versus searching through multiple libraries every time I want to reuse component parts.”
Matt continues to rely on Altium Designer for all of his PCB designs. With the latest addition of Altium 365, he’s discovering new features that will make his process even easier, including collaboration and co-design to bring his clients, design and manufacturing partners all on the same page.