In the 'bad old days' we used to spend a lot of time measuring and eyeballing PCB designs to see if everything would fit as intended. Naturally this led to many errors and iterations the first time anything new was tried.
Since Altium led the way with native 3D design capability in their PCB Design Software some 10 years ago, it has been an indispensable in how modern PCB’s are designed.
Figure 1 – The classic PCB view – It is great for routing traces, but it’s all flat, you really can’t tell if your footprints or parts placements are going to collide or not until the first hardware gets built and by then its too late.
No more endless hours making detailed measurements and transferring from one tool to another, guessing if things will fit together. Now, just press the ‘3’ key in Altium to look at the parts and PCB in 3D mode and see instantly how it all fits, then press ‘2’ to get back to the flat PCB view to route traces. This is especially true with connectors, which have historically been a real source of confusion and errors for decades. Actually starting with a 3D model of the connector and placing it on a PCB, then placing the mating connector on this will catch most of the reversed connector errors before the first hardware gets made wrong.
Figure 2 – A 3D view of a small GPS Logger prototype. Now that’s instant parts placement verification. Press the ‘3’ key in Altium to get an instant 3D view of your PCB design.
Figure 3 – The prototype GPS logger – it all fit together perfectly thanks to Altium’s native 3D capability.
About the project: A client needed a quick GPS Logger prototype to gain valuable system experience with and to start writing code for. Using a few off the shelf modules from Adafruit (Their Ultimate GPS Breakout and Feather Wing Display breakout), plus a small custom processor and memory board, a quick prototype was put together in a week that allowed the system to be tested and firmware to be developed all before the final design was finalized. This rapid prototype, instant feedback, really speeds up the completion of projects and leads to less errors and problems down the road.
Just say no to PCB tools that don’t give you instant / native 3D capability!
We design custom: Analog, RF and Embedded systems for a wide variety of industrial and commercial clients. Please feel free to contact us if we can help on your next project.