Don’t Just Resolve Your New Year, (PCB) Design It

January 16, 2018

Large 2018 spelled out with a jumping person as the 1 against a sunset

 

 

History contains many valuable lessons to learn, but this is the time of year when many people consider the future. You deserve some congratulations for going through your 2017: you learned new designs, tackled challenges, and did everything in your power to make 2017 your most successful year yet. The only thing left for 2018 is reaching higher and accomplishing even more. Don’t let yesteryear’s success limit your current ambition; keep pushing harder for better results and allow some of Altium’s PCB design resolutions to inspire a smart, less effortful approach to design that you may not have considered yet. Things change rapidly, and while I would never suggest a change for just the sake of change, at the very least, empower yourself to do so much more with your designs with a little overview of what's available. You may even discover keeping some of your harder resolutions will be much easier with some power-ups on your trusted PCB design tools.  

 

Losing That Excess Wait in Your PCB Design Resolutions

I can’t talk about my resolutions without starting out with those pesky extra pounds, creeping their way into our lives like those extra cookies that end up on my plate mysteriously after dinner. I’m happy that my children are a bit older now because let me tell you, the chimney is looking a bit more snug to Santa these days. The extra weight can really slow us down in our day-to-day functions, but so can too much wait: don’t waste your time standing around, counting the minutes until a process is complete, especially not with your PCB design software.

 

 

Sand running through the bulbs of an hourglass measuring the passing time

Stop waiting! Step up to high-performance design tools and finish that routing now.

 

 

In order to work at my highest proficiency, I have resolved to lose this unnecessary wait. Fortunately, the exhausting exercise and fad diet programs advertised on the TV are not the answer to losing undesirable wait in my PCB designing. The answer instead is to step into PCB design software that features performance optimization with 64-bit architecture and multi-threading that will trim the wait that has been slowing me down. No more Jillian Michaels, and no more step climbers—if my designs are built for speed, then I am too.

 

Be More Active. Take the Faster and Higher-Quality Route with ActiveRoute

Having massive, looming, long-term goals has never particularly worked out for me. Sure, it gives me something to reach for, but oftentimes I’m demotivated by February with their daunting untouchability. Instead, I’ve found breaking them up into smaller, more reachable goals lets me plan to achieve them smarter, and stay more active in tracking my progress.

 

 

active female closeup

Pretty much looks like my wife, but I'm not so disciplined

 

 

It didn’t take me long to consider that, hey, if I’m going to rout my life like this, I might as well use active routing in my PCB designs too. PCB design software which features automated routing tools that will give me constraint-driven hand-routed results, and that I can manually direct at the speed of an auto-router, will help complete my designs faster and ahead of schedule. Goodbye failure, my old friend — I won’t be talking with you again.

 

Ditch the Clutter

My closets, garage, and office area are all a mess. The modified pirouettes I execute to avoid piles of clutter and a sleeping dog get old after a while, and make me realize that my PCB design software could use a good scrubbing of its clutter too. Older PCB design software has so many different options in their layout tools that I have to dig around for the particular tool I need half the time. Cluttered information and layout views that aren’t organizationally optimized are subtle hindering facets of your design process: wasting time, causing undue frustrations, and even forcing you to makeshift workarounds.


A collection of photos for DIY electronics isolated on white background

Clean up your computer with PCB design software that has an up-to-date GUI

 

 

Don’t let your old software force you to leave your interface to your imagination, resolve to clean this clutter up by investigating modern up-to-date PCB design software. With features such as an intuitive graphical user interface that will take the clutter out of my design work, Altium Designer makes it easy to get work done without delays. And with global search and filter capabilities, the frustrations of being unable to find the tool you need are left in the past, too.

Stay Focused

Yes, I am tired of looking at the same old tired worn out windows and menus on my desktop.

 

Nothing feels worse than clicking open your interface and feeling like you’ve instantly been sent back to 1993 but still maintaining those twenty odd years of stress. It’s time to refocus my vision and not get lured into the same old game of complacency by using PCB design software that looks as old as I felt yesterday morning. I need something new to make me feel like a kid again (wishful thinking, I know).

 

focusing sun on plastic dino

Maybe this isn't the best way to nurture my inner child

 

To that end, resolve to start working with layout tools that are designed around today’s graphical interfaces and not stuck in the rut of outdated operating systems. Not only should CAD tools perform well, but they should look like they perform well too. Let’s hear it for modern UI meets unified design, the best of all worlds to keep your eyes and mind both fresh and focused.

 

Stop Your Designs from Going Up in Smoke

It’s time to stop smoking! This is one of the most common resolutions that people have on their yearly lists, and it comes in at number 5 here on my list of work resolutions. I’m not talking about smoking on the job, although if you are doing that I would encourage you to give it up.

 

Instead, I’m talking about those preventable, and incredibly unfortunate events of your work going up in flames (or smoking, sizzling, and exploding). When your PCB shorts, there are plenty of causes like improper heat distribution, incorrect routing, solder bridges, and overall power distribution network failures.

 

 

smoking board

Don't smoke, not like this

 

 

Designing a PCB with the correct distribution of power can be a real challenge, and for most of us, the only help that we’ve had available was our own “best guess”. This can quickly turn a “smokin’ hot” PCB into a board that is too hot and smoking. Visual power analysis is way more reliable, scalable and honestly, it just looks really cool.

 

Using a power distribution network (PDN) analyzer in my next design will make it so that I can easily see through a visual interface how the power on my design is being distributed. Interactive and organized visuals of your design will put a quick stop to any PCB smoking.

 

 

Work Smarter, Not Harder

 

I am all for bigger and better puzzles, but sometimes it just takes too much work and too much time and I can't help but wonder isn't there a smarter way? When I am working on a full system design that involves multiple boards, I don’t want to have to balance the puzzle of the interconnections in my head or manually scribble calculations.

 

As far as I’m concerned, that is what the design system is for. Yet in the past, I have had to do just that by designing separate boards and then tracking their connectivity outside of the design system, usually in a pretty manual way.

 

 

Hand and technology puzzle isolated on white background

Design puzzles are easier and more intuitive using the right software

 

Now that has all changed and I’m using a PCB design system that allows me to work with confidence on complicated multi-board design puzzles in one environment. This way I can put the puzzle solving portion of the design into the hands of the design system where it belongs.

Powerful multi-board design capabilities and a rich 3D engine allow you to render design models and assemblies faster than ever, and with better realism to ensure your entire system gets manufactured correctly.

 

Stop Gambling and Ensure Part Availability with ActiveBOM

 

If I’m having a good day, I might stop at the gas station and grab one of those one dollar scratch-off lottery tickets. If I’m having a great day, I might risk it big with a two, or even a five dollar scratch-off. I don’t keep track, but I’m positive my return on these gambles is not great.

 

 

gambling scratches with coin

Itching the gambling scratch(ers)

 

 

Throttling back on gambling in my work is something that I’m much more concerned about, though. It’s one thing to lose a dollar every now and then, but losing track of critical parts in my design and their manufacturing availability can lose many, many dollars. I couldn’t tell you how many times that I’ve been surprised when a certain component was not available as I thought it was.

 

It’s time for me to stop gambling like this and put automation to work for me, because I need the power of a great tool to manage risk. Using design software that will link my bill of materials up with the parts that are actually available is an easy way to keep my resolution and kick this gambling habit for good.

 

Communicate Better with Draftsman for Documentation

Some of my favorite moments are going through photographs and videos of months and years past and being reminded of the loving and silly antics that me, my family, and my friends have gotten into. I often resolve to do a better job of documenting key moments of my life, and I think that I do pretty well with all the photographs and videos that I have.

 

 

family photos

My favorite artifacts are photos of my family

 

 

It got me to thinking if I’m doing as good of a job documenting my PCB designs. Often there are inconsistencies in the drawings that I create, and I’ve fielded a few complaints from manufacturers for data that was unclear or even missing.

 

 

High Power PCB Design Tools, Hot on Last Year's Christmas list and now a New Year's must-have

 

 

I have resolved this year to move to design software that will help me out with auto-generated drawings that are based on user-created templates. Not only will this help me to create consistent drawings each and every time without garbled or missing data, but I’ll be able to create those drawings much more quickly as well.

 

Travel More and Attend AltiumLive

Exploring new, fantastic destinations can be both enriching, fulfilling, and teach you a lot about yourself and your motivations. Travel plans always seem more rigorous than their reality: a phone call, or a few clicks away.

 

While your travel agent might not have the Altium user conference on their radar, of course, we would be happy to point you in the right direction! AltiumLive is Altium’s premier user conference and event aimed at Altium users. With two locations, one in San Diego and the other in Munich, Germany, you can travel to fantastic destinations and surround yourself with a lively environment.

 

 

A smiling man holding a briefcase on a beach

You can even fit in some sunshine and outdoor activities if you attend the San Diego conference.

 

 

Learn, connect, and get inspired to design your next great product at AltiumLive 2018: Annual PCB Design Summit. This one-of-a-kind event features two days of live workshops, professional development courses, and exciting industry keynotes to help you achieve success through every stage of the design process.

 

One of the keys to success in the New Year, or at any time really, is to be grateful when good things come your way. I have a great reason to be grateful this year because the answers for all of these professional resolutions are available to me right now in Altium Designer 18.

 

Altium Designer is PCB design software that is designed around a 64-bit architecture for high performance in order to reduce design time. It comes with ActiveRoute to give you manual routed results at auto-routed speeds and has a redesigned graphical user interface that is easier to use.

 

With the ability to create multi-board designs in the same environment, you will be able to leverage the power of Altium Designer to handle the complexities of these puzzles. You will also be able to eliminate the gamble or risk of part availability by linking directly to your part suppliers with ACTIVEBOM.

 

Altium Designer also gives you options for an easy to use visual power analyzer, as well as Draftsman to help you auto-generate drawings. It is an incredible level of power with just the right balance of features to speed in a tool that clearly puts PCB designers first.

 

 

Register for Our Virtual Workshops

Would you like to find out more about how Altium can help you with your professional New Year’s resolutions? Attend a free virtual workshop and start using Altium Designer today.

 

 

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