Putting managed content to the test

April 12, 2016 Ben Jordan

The release of Altium Live along with the Shanghai and Hobart managed content services marks a significant shift in the way electronic product development should be done.

The concept of managed content services using cloud publishing is new to our industry - I mean, it has been sort-of tried before by others but never successfully executed. I believe we now have the right solution.

At this time, as more and more users connect to AltiumLive and start gazing into these managed vaults, it is imperative that we demonstrate the quality of the data within these services. To that end I have just completed a new reference design for a PCI-Express 4-port RS-485 interface adapter, for this purpose.

Why a 4-port serial interface? The irony, of course! Those of you who have worked with our front-line support in years past would have at some point seen the "old" 4-port serial interface example - based on the ancient 8-bit ISA bus. It comforts some of us to know that we have officially banned our applications engineers from using the old ISA bus 4-port serial interface example in webinars and demos! But it’s still there!

This 4-port RS-485 serial interface design, being PCIe-based, is intended to be a little humorous. However it is in fact a legitimate design, with real industrial applications.

Shortly, I'll be spinning this into a mini-webinar video to walk Altium Designer® users through the process of designing with managed sheets and components from the Altium content services. I have to say that ,for me, this process has been an absolute pleasure.

Because I was using managed content throughout:

  • there were several sections of the design I did not have to "re-engineer" because they had been manufactured before (on the NB3000) and I knew they worked.
  • every component had a valid footprint and 3D model, and synchronized from schematic to PCB every time without any hassle.
  • the template from the Shanghai made the PCB setup just minutes instead of days, not to mention that I did not have to spend hours poring over the PCI-SIG PCIe physical specifications.
  • I was able to use items from three vaults for the one design (Shanghai, Hobart and the Altium Hardware Development Team vault) - all links to all items were retained, and whether working at home or in the office, the links were there; I was able to update my design as Dave Read's team in Shanghai made a revision to the templates, and as I made new items for a few new components used within the design in the Hardware Dev. Team vault.

In all, this whole design went very smoothly and I'm almost ready to make prototypes. I believe strongly in Altium staff using the content we have produced as much as possible, and showing customers and subscribers that the content is good and trustworthy. Nothing does that better than a real bit of hardware that is operational.

As the Altium Hardware Development Team makes the transition from the legacy system to using the Hardware Team Vault we will see more value and a huge amount of credible, re-usable design content added. At this time the transition is under way, and soon design elements from our own products - the NB2, NB3000 and many new circuits in the pipeline - will be available to our subscribers for rapid product development.

To our content development team leaders - Dave Read, Rowland Washington, Jason Hingston and Steve Howell - thanks so much for the effort you and your teams have been putting into this content.

To our subscribers - do not hesitate to contact me directly, or better - post your questions on the AltiumLive Forums, if you have any, relating to accessing and using managed content from the managed vaults.

About the Author

Ben Jordan

Ben is a Computer Systems and PCB Engineer with over 20 years of experience in embedded systems, FPGA, and PCB design. He is an avid tinkerer and is passionate about the creation of electronic devices of all kinds. Ben holds a Bachelor of Engineering (CompSysEng) with First Class Honors from the University of Southern Queensland and is currently Director of Community Tools and Content.

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