Using Hierarchical Schematic Design to Stay Organized and Synchronized

Alexsander Tamari
|  Created: February 21, 2017  |  Updated: December 17, 2020

schematic design example

New Altium Designer® users may not fully understand the benefits of organizing schematic sheets into a hierarchical top-down or bottom-up perspective. Read on to learn how to keep your design project organized and synchronized with circuit schematic hierarchies.

New Altium users may not fully understand the benefits of organizing schematic sheets into a hierarchical top-down or bottom-up perspective. As a result, users often proceed with simple (flat) schematic designs without giving a second thought to project organization. This approach can often lead to a disconnected schematic design process, especially in multi-sheet designs where net connectivity has to be maintained across multiple schematics.

What is Hierarchical Design?

A hierarchical design within Altium can be defined as a design where the sheet-to-sheet relationships (the structure) in the design is represented, with sheet symbols representing the lower sheets in the design hierarchy. The symbol represents the sheet below, and the sheet entries in it represent/connect to the ports on the sheet.

In Altium, starting a hierarchical design requires the creation of sheet symbols. A hierarchical sheet symbol is an electrical primitive, used in design reuse to represent a sub or child sheet in a hierarchical PCB schematic. Sheet symbols also include sheet entries, which provide a net connection between parent and child schematic entry sheets, similar to the way that ports provide connections between schematics in a flat-sheet design. The sheet symbols can be used to organize multiple schematics on a large design and provides users with the overall flexibility to schematic view net connections across their entire project.

In the image below, the sheet symbol is defined by an orcad schematic capture designator. This can be used to set the category of the design, with its respective design file name linked to a particular printed board schematic sheet. When defining the entries in the sheet symbol, the sheet entry names are then linked to the same name in their sub sheets.

generic-sheet-symbol-with-sheet-entry

Generic Sheet Symbol with Sheet Entry

Easy Design Navigation

In a hierarchical design composed of multiple sheet symbols, each with its own respective design entry, it’s very easy to navigate to a particular sheet of the project by using Ctrl + double clicking on a sheet entry. This will focus on a particular net-named port on its respective sheet and allows users to view its connection.

top-level-sheet-hierarchical-design

Top Level Sheet of Hierarchical Design

Create Your Own Hierarchical Design

In a multi-sheet design, it may be difficult to schematic view connectivity and show the project viewer the overall design structure. That’s why it’s extremely beneficial to use sheet entries to define a hierarchical structure. This will allow project users to save time to eliminate the headaches associated with multi-sheet design, as they proceed to design review for production.

Using hierarchical schematic designs in Altium is easy when you download a free white paper.

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Hierarchical & Multi-Channel Design

About Author

About Author

Alexsander joined Altium as a Technical Marketing Engineer and brings years of engineering expertise to the team. His passion for electronics design combined with his practical business experience provides a unique perspective to the marketing team at Altium. Alexsander graduated from one of the top 20 universities in the world at UCSD where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

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