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14 The PCB Design Magazine • October 2015 In addition to all of these challenges, design- ers have to be efficient three-dimensional puz- zles solvers because time-to-market is still a vital- ly important objective. After all, time is money. So how do today's designers balance the technical and timing demands? There isn't one answer. It requires efficient use of the CAD tools, floor planning and effective communica- tion with all parties involved. Fortunately, Cadence Design Systems, Men- tor Graphics, Altium and other PCB CAD soft- ware developers continue to make great strides at improving the capabilities of PCB layout tools. This has made it much faster to route differential pairs, create shapes or replicate cir- cuits. And while they strive to make user inter- faces logical and easy to use, many capabilities aren't as obvious. Today's designers must continue to study CAD tools to leverage these improvements. We request that our 30+ designers share time-saving or technique improvements that they discover with fellow designers to help drive efficiency within our service bureau. In addition to the inherent CAD tool capa- bilities, time saving features such as "alias" and "function" keys can be set up to save strokes and mouse travel time. With Cadence Allegro, you can use the CTRL _key within the command to capture additional functionality or right-click the mouse for additional functionality to ex- pand/contract shapes, modify padstacks, place, replicate, alternate symbol, refresh symbol in- stances or create groups [1] . Beyond optimizing CAD tools, some third- party tools can be very helpful for driving ef- ficiency by providing additional automation. One that we have found to be effective is dal- Tools, which works within Allegro to provide a variety of time-saving macro functions during the layout process. More than 80 commands are available in this tool, but some of the most fre- quently used are: • Cut/Stretch • Copy/Change • Shapes (multiple features) • Dangling Lines • Place/Highlight (by schematic page) • Compare • Mirror • GND ring/coax • Silkscreen (checks) • GND Fence • Text • Diff pair highlight • Backdrill Communication is a critical component of design efficiency, including how clearly defined the design requirements are, both mechani- cal and electrical. Poorly documented require- ments can result in missed expectations and re- work that can add time to the design effort. We are finding that more and more layout design- ers are working remotely from their engineer. Freedom CAD actually performs 99% of our lay- out support remotely from our customers' engi- neers. We, like many organizations, utilize Web conferencing tools such as WebEx, GoToMeet- ing and Google Hangout, to name a few. These tools enable screen-sharing and drawing, which greatly reduces the obstacles of working remote- ly. Web conferences can be set up in seconds by either party and enable real-time collaboration to view and talk through issues without resort- ing to lengthy e-mails, which can cause delays. Kick-Off Time When we are not local to the engineer, we use Web conferences to hold a kick-off meeting between the layout engineer and the electrical engineer and others related to the design, to walk through it. This provides the opportunity feature DON'T BE HELD HOSTAGE BY DESIGN CYCLE TIME " beyond optimizing caD tools, some third-party tools can be very helpful for driving efficiency by providing additional automation. "

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