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48 The PCB Design Magazine • January 2017 Matties: That's a great question. Can you answer that? Asfalg: These days we deal with a completely different type of de- signer. In the past we had electrical engineers who captured the design on a piece of paper or, further down the line, were responsible for sche- matic entry. Then they handed this over to a PCB design department or a service bureau. Those PCB de- signers are now my age or older. So these classic PCB departments have gradually faded away. The new de- signers are now responsible for much, much more. It is not simply about capturing the de- sign, rather they are responsible for the test strategy, the PCB design, and the manufactur- ing as well. When you look at a product's development cycle, these tasks are just 25 or 30% of the over- all picture, beyond which they have to deal with purchasing, check whether the right com- ponents are available, and so on. We need to help these engineers by provid- ing greater automation and more intelligent tools which can, for example, ensure drawings comply to a company's standards. That's the reason why Altium is bringing tools to the mar- ket to supply this new landscape of designers. In Altium Designer 16.1 we released Draftsman. This feature addresses exactly the point you just mentioned. With Draftsman we have a tem- plate-driven manufacturing drawing environ- ment. The person responsible for a company's design standards creates a template. Afterwards the designer just takes the PCB and drops it in, and you're done. Because all the intelligence re- garding company standards is in the template, the designer doesn't have to deal with it. Matties: How well does that work? Asfalg: Very well, and what's more, this addi- tional functionality is given to our subscription customers at no extra cost. I think this is a key point, because other companies will sell op- tions like this for $4,000–$8,000. That's one of the reasons why Altium is so successful, because people get a lot for their money when they are under subscription. We see this again with Acti- veRoute, included in our new Al- tium Designer 17 release. Charles Pfeil, a guru regarding autorouting technology, was heavily involved in this project. ActiveRoute is also part of the subscription and it's a revolution in PCB design. All EDA companies provide auto routing capabilities, but in many cases, and I'm sure you've heard this too, designers say, "I can't use this au- torouter because it doesn't do the job." The question is, why? Matties: That's the question I have. Why? It seems simple. Asfalg: It's very simple. If you have a really complex board, 32 layers with 6 power layers, you can use the autorouter without any prob- lem. But it's different if you are working on a computer board or consumer electronics. With this board, you may have two signal layers, plus power and ground layers. The horizontal/ver- tical structures don't work because you've got high pin-count devices and signal paths you have to follow. Using an autorouter with this approach doesn't get these designs routed and it doesn't work. The designer has to think up front regarding the design structure: placement, traces, signal paths, then how to arrange this with just two signal layers. These structures are always far away from horizontal/vertical ones. Now the challenge is, how can we auto- mate this but still give the designers full con- trol? This is exactly what ActiveRoute does. It has fully automated capabilities. The designer can take a bundle of 100 guides and say, "Start here and then I think it goes here, and here, and here. Now route." And ActiveRoute completes the task. It gives the designer full control, while taking care of anything that can be done auto- matically, so it's also fast. Matties: Does the skillset or education of a de- signer tend now to become less of a requirement because of the automation? THE EVOLUTION OF PCB DESIGN AND DESIGNERS Rainer Asfalg

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