When I first started talking to customers about SOLIDWORKS Electrical, I was often met with the question of “does this package help us with Printed Circuit Boards?” While I could offer options, like CircuitWorks, I never had a full solution to provide customers that could do board design. However, as of July 1st, that is no longer the case. SOLIDWORKS has announced the release of SOLIDWORKS PCB, design software, powered by Altium, to quickly document your boards and have them work seamlessly with SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Design.
Kevin and I recently did a webinar on this product, but I wanted to write up a quick blog to share the features and functions of the software that excited me as I was learning the tool.
The coolest feature and one of the biggest advantages of SOLIDWORKS PCB is that it is part of the SOLIDWORKS ecosystem. This means that products are going to work together and interact with one another. So if my board designer needs to add a component, the component will be added to my 3D assembly in SOLIDWORKS through a project based push/pull interface. As seen in the video, the board designer moved a component onto his traces, using the Connector interface, they pushed the information to the SOLIDWORKS user, and they were able to see the part move, accept the change and automatically update their design.
The software automates many of the steps in the design process so that designers can focus on design integrity and not the monotonous tasks of software. The built-in Engineering Change Order process ensures that no changes get overlooked or added accidentally. Pushing the library components from schematic design to the board layout is a button click away. Once we have our components placed on our board, we can click Autoroute to quickly see how our board can be produced. The video shows the traces avoiding a keep out area in the middle of my board, as well as the addition of vias where required. Now this may not be my optimal design, but it certainly helps me understand if it makes sense to move a component to the other side of the board, or flip it 180 degrees. While some designers like to take different approaches, I like to use Autoroute as my starting point, make any adjustments to the layout and then fine-tune my traces. Having an idea that a project may need 5 vias makes it much easier for me to plan ahead.
Reports and Outputs
Much like SOLIDWORKS Electrical, this product comes with multitudes of customizable reports. These include Design Rule Checks (left) for circuit integrity across routing, manufacturing and placement. We can then compile our schematic and board design based on these rules. When we are happy with our design, we already know we can send it over to SOLIDWORKS 3D to insert it into an assembly or edit the board shape. If we are looking to send this to a board manufacturer, they may need program specific file types. By using our Project Outputs (right), we can quickly create a BOM, page prints, fabrication files (Gerber, NC Drill, ODB++), validation reports, as well as a STEP export if we are looking for a CAD neutral file.
Overall, I’m very excited to be using SOLIDWORKS PCB and learning all its capabilities. Check out the webinar recording below and please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask some questions about the software. We can’t wait to share it with you.