Concord Pro and the Library S.M.A.R.T. Rule Part-1

October 8, 2019 John Watson

Introduction

The saying goes that “The lead dog always has the best view.” When it comes to the race of the ECAD Software companies, for many years, Altium has led the pack. They got to that prized position for several reasons.The main reason, I believe, is that they provide a vast collection of tools for the PCB Designer. When you look more in-depth at precisely what the various ECAD Software companies offer, their basic features are the same. All the ECAD software packages have a schematic capture, PCB Layout, and a way to export your Gerbers. It is when you look at the add-on tools, that a particular company stands out. 

Altium has consistently provided the top of the line features and add-on tools. The release of Altium Concord Pro™ is a game-changer. In a rather short time, Concord Pro has become prevalent in the industry. I was speaking to several designers just a few days ago who had just started using Concord Pro, and their comments were that they didn’t know how they had worked without it before, an assessment I fully agree with. 

For those of you who may not have heard of Concord Pro yet, it is a new software package which is a  consolidated resource solution to the problem of how to store and manage every part of your PCB design. Although Concord Pro focuses on components, keep in mind that it is an excellent resource for other things needed throughout the PCB Design process. With providing support for PCB Project Libraries, Design Tools, reusable blocks, and much more. In my particular situation, we put together a section called a resource library where we uploaded documents and articles, which became one of the most visited. 

As the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. That is why Concord Pro is so essential, and I believe it will become one of the most critical resources to the designer; we finally have a software package that can keep up with the many changes in our industry. 

The S.M.A.R.T. Rule of Library Management

Anyone who has read my material is familiar with the S.M.A.R.T. Rule of Library Management. The Singularity, Managed, Architecture, Reliability, and Traceability. These are the minimal requirements for all library management systems. Concord Pro has been designed specifically to support the S.M.A.R.T. Rule.

Another beneficial aspect of Concord Pro is that it’s ready to use right out of the box. There was minimal setup necessary, which was great to see. Whatever ECAD software we use and we want especially to set-up something in a particular way, but it turns out the software does not support it, or it is complicated to accomplish. Concord Pro is powerful enough to do whatever is necessary. That is the focus of these blogs—demonstrating how Concord Pro supports that S.M.A.R.T. Rule.

Space does not allow us to cover all the rules, so we’ll focus on two of the standards (Singularity and Managed) in this particular blog and the other three in part 2. 

Concord Pro and the S.M.A.R.T. Rule- Singularity (First Pillar)

Nothing causes more problems for the PCB Designer than trying to work from multiple libraries and sources of information. We must work from a single source of truth, as they say. I’ve never fully understood why engineers need their own “personal” libraries. However, it is one of those things that when left unchecked becomes a significant problem which gets quickly out of hand and may have some considerable associated costs. 

A single server is used to set up Concord Pro, which is easily accessible to anyone who needs it. That should be the only permitted resource for all PCB designs. That may sound to be a rather strict rule, but it is necessary to maintain the integrity of the PCB designs. Of course, it does not stop anyone from creating and using rogue libraries. 

A little hint here, use Item manager to make sure that the bad libraries don’t sneak into your design—one of those “Tools” that has launched Altium above their competitors. 

A person standing with a puzzled and annoyed expression with seven vaults of components around him

Having a lot of unmanaged libraries can cause confusion and ultimately waste your time when figuring out which component is which.

Concord Pro the S.M.A.R.T. Rule Managed (Second Pillar)

I have said it before. I do not know which is worse, having multiple libraries, or having a single unmanaged library. They both lead to the same result: more bad PCBs to use as coasters for your coffee cup.

As you recall, the parts of the Managed pillar is Revision, Lifecycle, Roles, and Permissions. Fortunately, Concord Pro comes with preloaded and ready to use examples of each, or you can customize them for your specific situation. 

Revision and Lifecycle

Concord Pro is a very efficient and flexible program that allows creating any desired Revision and Lifecycle Scheme. 

Altium Concord Pro interface for Revision Naming Schemes under the BCS PCB Build tab.

Altium Concord Pro BCS PCB Build allows you to build revision schemes very easily.

A couple of guidelines to follow when dealing with them... First, early in the process, you want to set-up the structure of the revision systems. Keeping in mind that there are more than just components and PCB projects in Concord Pro, and not everything uses the same plans. So, it is a good practice to first determine what and how you intend to use Concord Pro, and then to identify and set-up both the Revision and Lifecycle

schemes that apply to each item. It is difficult to change this once you start using it. Concord Pro can be customized with each revision scheme. Another reason to organize this beforehand is that the best practice is to have only a single plan for each item.

Lifecycle Definitions interface in Altium Concord Pro.

Lifecycle Definitions options in Altium Concord Pro allows you to create new lifecycles and set content types for them.

In the Lifecycle Definitions interface, go to Content Type, then tick the Control Revision Naming Schemas per Content Type checkbox.

A very handy feature of Concord Pro is that you can control revision schemas individually for each content type as shown here.

Conclusion

I walked into my garage looking for a ball-peen hammer to do some work around the house. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find it, and for a moment considered using the handle of a metal wrench. However, I caught myself and thought how stupid that would be. Why? Because the handle of a wrench was not the correct tool to do the job. In the same way, Concord Pro is the correct tool for its job, and there is no substitute. 

I like to use that term because a tool brings out the talent of the person using it. With such a fantastic tool— Concord Pro in the hands of the best PCB Designers and Engineer—we are going to see some of the most amazing innovations we could ever imagine.  

We will finish this in Part-2. See you on the other side.

Would you like to find out more about how Altium can help you with your next PCB design? Talk to an expert at Altium and learn more about making design decisions with ease and confidence. 

About the Author

John Watson


With nearly 40 years in the Electronic industry with 20 of them being in the field of PCB Design and engineering, John has stayed on the cutting edge of the PCB industry as a designer/Engineer and more recently as a trainer and mentor. His primary work has been in the Manufacturing field but it has also expanded to several PCB Service arenas. As a veteran, he proudly served in the Army in the Military Intelligence field.

John is a CID Certified PCB designer. Presently pursuing his Advance CID certification. Now as the Senior PCB engineer at Legrand Inc, he leads the PCB Designers and Engineers in various divisions across the United States and China.

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