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32 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I JUNE 2018 together. You have the upside of being able to properly test and measure, and control supply chain issues, and design for fabrication and assembly if you have the ability of breaking up a large, complex product into small replace- able units. This is not just for electronics; this is not a new concept. It's done in every other indus- try. We know that just about every profes- sional PCB designer at some point is going to be designing a board, if they are not already, that's just one board in a larger sys- tem, and they may be involved in designing a larger system and integrating those modules. It makes sense that a mainstream professional development tool should have multi-board capabilities and shouldn't be considered a high-end feature. It took a while because it required a new 3D modeling engine for doing 3D properly and efficiently; bringing multiple large com- plex PCB designs into a single editor work- space requires a lot of memory and comput- ing power, otherwise the whole thing becomes unusable. So that was a big challenge for us, and it took some time, but we've finally been able to release that for Altium Designer 18. We took the company into IoT experimenta- tion in Shanghai. We've implemented stamp- based form-factor modules, and we were doing our FPGA development boards, the NanoBoard NB1, the NanoBoard 2, and NanoBoard 3000, which were all multi-board modular sys- tems that could reconfigure the platform. We encountered all the challenges that people have with manufacturing boards of different layer stacks, but how do you optimize that? Is there a way the tools can offer you a way of analyzing and checking layer stack compatibil- ity, so you can consolidate and make the best use of panel space fabrication? Shaughnessy: What are some of the challenges designers typically face in multi-board design? Jordan: One that is a real pain in the derriere is connectivity management. Connectivity management is a big piece of the problem, because it's so common for a component library in the CAD tool to look at the 3D model and the footprint (or decal or pattern, depending on what CAD tool you come from) with the mating face top down. The footprint for the conne ctors that you are using traditionally has them all numbered starting at the top left, anti-clockwise. In other words, you have a plug and you have a socket, and when the receptacle is reversed on the bottom side of one of the modules, because it's got it sandwiched down on the baseboard, your pin numbering is mirrored, and it's a problem. These cause headaches with managing pinouts. Then there's the other side of it where you want to be able to swap some things around to optimize the layout and routing on one of the modules,

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