SOLIDWORKS PCB is the new Printed Circuit Board Design Software from Altium [VIDEO]

Article by Lawrence Romine created/updated September 30, 2015

Do you know the true costs associated with a failed design collaboration process between your electrical and mechanical teams? Altium offers up a new reality for design collaboration with SOLIDWORKS PCB (Printed Circuit Board). Read on to learn more!

The True Costs of Failed ECAD/MCAD Design Collaboration

Every engineer knows the pitfalls that await when the electrical and mechanical sides of our design process fail to integrate their workflows and design data. But do we also understand all of the underlying costs associated with these design process failures? With the rising need for connected design experiences, we are at a unique juncture in the evolution of our design tools where collaboration features are becoming a daily necessity. As engineers strive to strike the perfect balance of aesthetic emotion and electronic functionality a design process that rewards experimentation, not penalizes experimentation, is surely needed.

The True Costs

It’s rare these days to find a mechanical design that exists in isolation with no PCB counterpart. As connected as the physical customer experience is, our ECAD/MCAD design collaboration process is commonly fragmented and separate, with both sides vying for control and struggling to communicate. And we all know what this leads to:

  • Missed time to market and budgets with design revisions slipping through the cracks and prototype costs skyrocketing from failed communication processes.
  • Wasted time and productivity with designers having to manage multiple revisions that could have been solved the first time with a properly implemented collaboration system.
  • Product experiences that are compromised during the design phase based on budget and time constraints vs. being iterated to perfection.

Tangible Pain

We engineers always love concrete data, so consider this the next time you are facing the potentiality of a failed design process:

The average company creating a moderately complex PCB requires 14.1 physical prototypes, at an average cost of $8,929 per prototype. Can your budget really afford numerous prototypes that fail to fit your mechanical enclosure because of a communication breakdown in the design phase?

On average, Engineering Change Orders (ECOs) cost $1,984 to implement during development, and $10,625 once a design has been released to manufacturing. How many ECOs has your company generated in the last year because your ECAD/MCAD designers weren’t on the same page?

Present Solutions

I’ve witnessed the engineering community waiting years for a viable solution to this collaboration problem between design teams. While there have been many noble attempts, most have fallen flat and we currently are faced with a very fragmented system with reliance on:

  • Tedious importing/exporting of STEP models between ECAD and MCAD design environments. This process is ripe with the potentiality for loss of critical design data during each translation, and there’s no way to track changes when files are passed back and forth.
  • Creating time-consuming paper dolls or 3D printed enclosures that pull high-value engineering talent away from their specialized tasks in a process that could otherwise be completed in a 3D software environment.
  • Unreliable communication methods. How many times have you sent your fellow designer an email for a design change, or left a note on their desk and just assumed it would be completed?

SOLIDWORKS PCB – A New Reality for Collaboration

At Altium, we’ve been studying this ECAD/MCAD collaboration problem for years, and have been carefully developing a solution that balances the productivity needs of both electrical and mechanical designers with the necessity for a constant communication flow. What did our years of work amount to? A new PCB design tool specifically made for direct integration with SOLIDWORKS® and a mechanical designers existing workflow – SOLIDWORKS PCB.

SOLIDWORKS PCB

SOLIDWORKS PCB software

When we looked at the traditional design environment in several companies, what we found is mechanical designers leading the workflow process, with the mechanical enclosure being the final determinant for how a design would come to completion.

Changing the mechanical designer’s tool would lead to a disruption in this traditional structure, and the weak link was clearly the PCB design tool being used that had no intelligent data connection with the mechanical environment.

Managed ECO Change Process

Managed ECO Change Process

SOLIDWORKS PCB Features

SOLIDWORKS PCB solves all of the old problems of design collaboration, incorporating a number of powerful features that intelligently link design data to keep both design teams operating at their highest peak of efficiency. With SOLIDWORKS PCB, you can:

  • Actively make changes to component placement, board shape, and mounting holes on your PCB directly in your SOLIDWORKS environment, syncing data with SOLIDWORKS PCB easily with managed ECOs.
SOLIDWORKS PCB Mounting Holes

SOLIDWORKS PCB Mounting Holes

  • Ensure that your design data is as accurate as possible by using SOLIDWORKS native Parasolid file format directly in SOLIDWORKS PCB. By using native lossless files instead of error-prone translations, Parasolid provides the most accurate representation of your design intent and keeps your mechanical and electrical data in sync.
Parasolid Support

Parasolid Support

  • Gain an even greater degree of control over your PCB design process with access to copper traces from your board designs. Native Parasolid board data provides a new-level of analysis capabilities directly within SOLIDWORKS with thermal, vibration and other simulations.
SOLIDWORKS PCB Copper Analysis

SOLIDWORKS PCB Copper Analysis

Take the next step

That’s just a small sampling of everything that’s possible in SOLIDWORKS for design collaboration. And with over 25 years of experience in PCB design, you can be assured the software includes all of the necessary power needed to easily handle today’s electronic designs. Check out all the features in SOLIDWORKS PCB and see what’s possible for your design collaboration process.

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Lawrence Romine

Lawrence Romine is a technology industry veteran with 16 years of experience. First as a design engineer and later moving into the business world working in the semiconductor industry and having spent the last tens years in EDA. Lawrence is currently the Global Director of New Business Development at Altium, Inc. In San Diego.