26 May 2015

Altium Designer extension enables seamless SOLIDWORKS collaboration

Altium has released a new extension for its flagship PCB design tool, Altium Designer. MCAD Co-Designer: SOLIDWORKS helps to facilitate collaboration between mechanical and electronic design teams with integrated design data, a managed change environment for design revisions, and lifecycle management for component creation, among other features.

“ECAD/MCAD collaboration has always been a major pain point for designers that everyone has been trying to alleviate,” said Peter Ricci, Head of PCB at Altium. “With the MCAD Co-Designer extension, we’ve done it, and we’ve done it better than anyone before us. This is a huge step forward in making Altium Designer the best tool for a collaborative design process, and not just another electrical design tool that can be swapped out for another.”

Current trends in product design are requiring a more tightly interwoven design process between electrical and mechanical design teams. With the introduction of intelligently connected products, customers are experiencing products in a unified fashion, with the mechanical and electrical elements forming one cohesive whole.

While this process has been merged from a consumer perspective, the back-end design workflow for these products still relies upon dated processes where design teams work in isolation. This has led to a number of inefficiencies for product development, including reliance on imperfect file translations, costly prototype creations, and unmanaged communication methods.

The MCAD Co-Designer extension for Altium Designer aims to eliminate the current barriers between electrical and mechanical design teams by tightly integrating the design data between ECA D and MCAD software environments.

By integrating directly with SOLIDWORKS, the MCAD Co-Designer extension allows mechanical and electrical designers to work side-by-side in a collaborative process on projects without having to interrupt their existing workflow efficiencies. This extension includes a number of features for design collaboration, including:

  • Managed design revisions. Designers now have the ability to make changes to component placement and board shape in their respective design environments. Changes are then pushed through a new ECAD/MCAD project collaboration server, which notifies the designer of changes made to a design and provides the option to accept or reject changes as desired.

  • Integrated design data. With design data being linked between Altium Designer and a mechanical designer’s software environment, designers can now export board assemblies to MCAD software with included copper information, allowing mechanical designers to perform thermal, vibration, and other mecha nical simulations.

  • Distinct workflows and lifecycles. The MCAD Co-Designer extension allows electrical and mechanical designers to maintain their existing workflow productivity with no int erruptions to their design environment. Component models and electrical data can be worked on independently in both design environments, and completed design data can then be joined into a unified component model.

“The MCAD Co-Designer extension adds a number of new design efficiencies to an already highly-productive design environment in Altium Designer,” said Jason Hingston, CTO at Altium. “We’re really excited to see how design collaboration begins to evolve organically between electrical and mechanical designers when there’s no longer that divisive wall between the two design environments.”

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