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Preparing the Board for Design Transfer

Summary
Tutorial TU0110 (v1.4) October 18, 2007

This tutorial shows how to define the board shape, configure the drawing sheet, setup the layers, and define any keepout requirements, in preparation for transferring the design from the schematic editor.

In this tutorial, we will look at what is needed to get started with a PCB design, such as creating and modifying the board shape and the sheet template, and defining any keepout requirements. We will also take a quick look at other PCB workspace setups that are required before you start placing components and routing, such as grids, layer stacks and design rules.

Creating and Modifying Board Shapes


The board shape defines the boundary, or extents, of the board in the PCB Editor. The board shape may also be referred to as a board outline and is essentially a closed polygon. It initially displays as a black area with the visible grid on by default when you create a new PCB document. It is used by Altium Designer to determine the extents of the power planes for plane edge pull back, used when splitting power planes and for calculating the board edge when outputting design data to other tools, such as the 3D viewer. When a new board file is created by selecting File New PCB from the menus, a default board shape is created, sized 6,000 x 4,000 mils. The board shape can be resized, or redefined, using the commands in the Design Board Shape sub-menu. PCB documents created using the PCB templates or the PCB Board Wizard have the board shape already correctly sized.

Importing a Board Shape


You can also set the board shape to match the shape defined by a set of objects on one of the PCB Editor's mechanical layers. Using this feature in combination with the ability to import DWG or DXF data from a mechanical CAD package, provides a method of transferring the board shape requirements from the mechanical CAD domain into Altium Designer.
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Preparing the Board for Design Transfer To import a DXF/DWG file into a newly created PCB: 1. Select File New PCB. 2. The new blank PCB will open. The black region on the sheet represents the board shape. We will now redefine the boards shape based on data in a mechanical file created as a .DXF (or .DWG) file in AutoCAD. All versions of AutoCAD from 2.5 to 14 are supported. Please note that the shape to be imported must be a closed shape and internal cutouts are not supported. 3. Select File Import. The Import File dialog appears. 4. Select the file format by changing the Files of type option to AutoCAD (*.DXF,*DWG). 5. Navigate to and select the file to be imported and click on Open. 6. The Import from AutoCAD dialog displays to allow you to specify how you would like the AutoCAD layers imported to Altium Designer layers. For example, you could map the AutoCAD 0 layer (left side) to Mechanical layer 4 in Altium Designer (selected from the drop-down list).

7. Check that the other import options are set correctly and click on OK. Track segments forming a board outline will appear on the nominated layer, e.g. Mechanical Layer 4. The imported data will automatically be scaled if it is larger than the current PCB workspace. Now that you have a closed boundary defined on a mechanical layer, you can use these objects to define the board shape.

Defining the Board Shape From Selected Objects


As mentioned above, you can define an enclosed boundary, using lines and arcs, on a mechanical layer (or any layer) and use these objects to define the board shape.

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Preparing the Board for Design Transfer To define a board shape from selected objects: 1. Create an enclosed boundary on a mechanical layer that will define the board shape you require. Use the placement commands such as Place Line or Place Arc to create your new board shape. 2. Select the new board shape boundary only. Use the Edit Select All on Layer command to quickly select all objects on the current layer [shortcut S, Y]. 3. Select Design Board Shape Define from selected objects and the board shape will be redisplayed to fit the selected boundary objects.

Modifying a Board Shape


You can change a board shape by redefining (redrawing) it or by moving the vertices. You can move the board shape around the sheet as well, with or without any placed objects. You can change the color of the board shape by selecting Design Board Layers & Colors [shortcut L] and selecting a new color for the Board Area Color in the System Colors section of the View Configurations dialog.

Redefining a Board Shape


You can redefine the board shape if it does not already exist or you want to draw it again from scratch. If you need to change the entire board shape, complete the following steps. 1. Select Design Board Shape Redefine Board Shape. The cursor will change to a large cross, the background will change to black and the original board shape will be displayed in green. 2. Click (or press ENTER) to create the corners of the new board shape. Press the SPACEBAR to change the corner style while you are defining the board shape. The Status bar at the bottom of the design window helps to locate the co-ordinates of the corners.

3. When you have defined the board shape, right-click or press ESC to finish. There is no need to fully close the polygon, as Altium Designer will automatically complete the shape by joining the first point to the last point placed. The visible grid will be drawn to fill the area defined by the new board outline.
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Preparing the Board for Design Transfer

Defining the Shape Using Jump Location


To accurately define the shape based on a set of dimensions, you can use the Jump Location shortcut keys instead of the mouse. To do this: 1. Set the origin to define the location of the bottom left of the PCB (Edit Origin Set). 2. Select Design Board Shape Redefine Board Shape and release the mouse. 3. Press the J key to pop up the Jump submenu and then press the O key to jump to the origin you just defined. Press Enter to define the first corner of the new board shape. 4. Press J, L to display the Jump to Location dialog. The X-Location field will be active, so simply type in the X location of the next corner of the board (do not touch the mouse). 5. Press the TAB key to move to the Y-Location field in the Jump to Location dialog and type in the appropriate Y value. 6. Press Enter to accept the values and close the dialog. The cursor will be at the correct location. Do not touch the mouse; simply press the Enter key again to define this corner. 7. Press J, L again to display the Jump to Location dialog, type in the next X coordinate, press TAB, type in the Y coordinate, press Enter to accept the values and press Enter to define this corner. 8. Repeat this process until all corners are defined, finishing back at the 0,0 origin. Again, do not touch the mouse; simply press Enter.

Moving Board Vertices


When modifying a board shape, e.g. resizing it, moving the board vertices will save you from having to redefine the entire board shape. 1. Select Design Board Shape Move Board Vertices. The board outline displays with editing handles and the cursor changes to a large cross, ready to select and move vertices. 2. Click on the vertex that you want to move and drag it to its new location. 3. You can create new vertices by clicking on the small crosses that appear midway along the line segments and dragging the new vertex into position. 4. Right-click or press ESC to finish your board shape.

Moving the Board Shape


Using the Move Board Shape command to reposition the board shape will move the board outline only. Any components and connections already placed will not be affected. If you need to reposition the board shape in relation to the design sheet, make sure the sheet is visible by enabling the Display Sheet option in the Board Options dialog (Design Board Options). See Using PCB sheets in this tutorial for more information about using sheets in Altium Designer. To move a board shape only: 1. Select Design Board Shape Move Board Shape and the board outline will appear floating on the cursor. 2. Drag the board shape to its new location and click to place. To move a board shape along with any components and connections already placed: 1. Select all (CTRL + A) or select the objects you need to move, including the board shape.

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Preparing the Board for Design Transfer 2. Click directly on a selected object and the cursor changes to a large arrow. Drag the selection bounding box to the new location on the sheet. Alternatively, select the objects required and select Edit Move Move Selection. Click within the selection to define a reference point, move the selection and click to place.

Using PCB Sheets


Sheets in the PCB Editor are a special drawing feature that represent the printed page and are controlled using the options in the Board Options dialog. When you create a new PCB file, a default sheet is automatically created with the default size of 10000 x 8000 mil. It is not shown initially but, when displayed, it appears as the white shape behind the board outline. Most of the PCB example files supplied with Altium Designer (C:\Program Files\Altium Designer 6\Examples) display the board on a white sheet which includes a border, grid reference and title block that have been drawn on one of the mechanical layers, Mechanical16. By placing objects on mechanical layers and then linking those layers to the sheet, you can create your own drawing templates that can be displayed or hidden. Sheets that include a border, grid reference and title block can be added to PCB files by copying from the existing PCB templates (C:\Program Files\Altium Designer 6\Templates).

The sheet size and location of the sheet can be defined manually by the Size and Location settings in the Board Options dialog. The sheet can be also be resized automatically to fit the objects on linked mechanical layer(s) when you select View Fit Sheet or you can use the Design Board Shape Auto-Position Sheet command to recalculate it when the contents of the linked mechanical layers change.

Displaying the Sheet


To make the sheet is visible in the PCB Editor: 1. Select Design Board Options and enabling the Display Sheet checkbox in the Sheet Position section of the Board Options dialog.
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Preparing the Board for Design Transfer The sheet can be hidden at any time by disabling the Display Sheet checkbox. All linked mechanical layers will also be hidden. Click OK.

2. Select View Fit Sheet to display the sheet [shortcut V, H (View Sheet) or Z, S (Zoom Sheet)]. A white space appears around the board shape with the default size of 10000 x 8000 mil.

3. You can change the color of the sheet by selecting Design Board Layers & Colors [shortcut L] and selecting a new color for the Sheet Area Color and Sheet Line Color in the System Colors section of the View Configurations dialog. You can save any custom views you create as view configurations, which you can re-use time and again. 4. If you have drawing template information such as a title block and border grid that you have drawn or imported onto a mechanical layer, link these layers to the sheet in the View Configurations dialog. Then select Design Board Shape Auto-Position Sheet to automatically match size sheet to just enclose the objects on the chosen mechanical layers.

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Preparing the Board for Design Transfer

Defining the Sheet From an Existing PCB Template


You can define the sheet, including the sheet border, reference grid and title block, at any time by copying the objects from the supplied Altium Designer PCB template documents and pasting them into your PCB design document. Altium Designer includes a set of pre-defined PCB templates located at C:\Program Files\Altium Designer 6\Templates. Use the sheet size templates only, i.e. A.pcbdoc through to A0.pcbdoc. 1. Open the PCB document that you want to add the new sheet size to. Make sure that the existing default sheet is displayed to help you place the new sheet by pressing V, H (view sheet) or Z, S (zoom sheet). 2. Open an existing PCB sheet template that will fit all the objects on your PCB, e.g. A2.pcbdoc. To do this, click on PCB Templates in the New from Template section of the Files panel. If this option is not visible, click on the up arrows to the right of each section in the Files panel to contract the other options. The Choose existing Document dialog displays.

Navigate to the PCB templates folder (C:\Program Files\Altium Designer 6\Templates), select A2.pcbdoc (for example), and click Open. The template is opened as a new PCB design document in the design window, named PCB1.PcbDoc. 3. Select all the contents of the template file (CTRL + A) and copy (CTRL + C) the contents to the clipboard. Click once to set a copy reference point. Close Pcb1.pcbdoc without saving. 4. Switch to your PCB document by clicking on its tab at the top of the design window. Paste the new sheet into the existing PCB using CTRL + V. The contents of the template are pasted onto Mechanical16 layer. 5. Now we need to show the Mechanical16 layer and link it to the sheet. Select Design Board Layers & Colors to display the View Configurations dialog. Click on Show, Enable and Linked to Sheet.

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Preparing the Board for Design Transfer

6. Turn on Single Layer Mode to always show the sheet regardless of the status of Single Layer Mode as enabled in the View Options tab of the View Configurations dialog. Click OK to close the dialog. 7. Finally, we can size the sheet to include the sheet border. Press V, H (to view sheet) or Z, S (to zoom sheet). The sheet fits to the extents of the objects on the layer linked to the sheet, i.e. it fits to include the sheet border defined on the Mechanical16 layer. 8. You can now modify the title block, for example, by switching to Mechanical16 layer and adding or deleting objects. The sheet will resize to include all objects when you press V, H (view sheet) or Z, S (zoom sheet) again. You can save any custom views you create as view configurations, which you can re-use time and again.

When you are working with layer-specific objects, such as defining the keepout requirements on the Keepout layer, switch to Single Layer mode to hide the contents of all other layers. Press SHIFT + S to switch to single layer mode. Press SHIFT + S again to restore the display of all layers.

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Keepouts
As well as the board shape, you should also define a placement and routing boundary around the edge of the board. This is done by placing objects on the keepout layer. Objects placed on this layer define 'no-go' zones for components and routing. Typically, you would define a shape just in from the edge of the board to restrict components and routing from being placed to close to the edge of the board. You can also define other routing and component keepouts areas for mechanical objects such as screw heads, or other mounting requirements. Keepout boundaries can be defined using any standard objects, such as lines, arcs, fills and regions.

A board keepout is also automatically included when using a PCB manufacturers template to create a new PCB, e.g. AT or Eurocard. The sheet size templates, e.g. A2.pcbdoc, do not include keepouts.

Defining an All-layer Keepout


If you create a new PCB in the following ways, you will need to define the keepout yourself by: selecting File New PCB from the menus, or clicking on PCB File in the New section of the Files panel, using the PCB sheet size templates, e.g. A2.pcbdoc, by choosing PCB Templates from the New from Template section of the Files panel.
Track placement modes are available when defining a keepout. Press SHIFT+ SPACEBAR to cycle through the modes. Press SPACEBAR to toggle between Start and End modes. Use BACKSPACE to remove the last placed track segment. Press TAB to display the Line Constraints dialog and change properties.

Only a default board shape is created by these commands, so the keepout has to be added once the board shape has been defined. To define a keepout that applies on all copper layers: 1. Click on the Keep-Out layer tab so you will be placing the tracks on this layer only. 2. Select Place Line. Click to define the vertex points of the keepout and create the closed shape.

3. When you have finished placing keepout tracks, right-click or press ESC to exit line placement mode.
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Defining a Layer-specific Keepout


You can also define layer-specific keepouts on any copper layer. To do this: 1. Click on the layer tab of the required layer. 2. Define the boundary or area of the keepout area by placing layer-specific keepout objects (Place Keepout submenu). Layer specific keepouts are simply standard objects with the Keepout attribute enabled. They are displayed in the same color as the layer, with a keepout colored edge. Note that layer-specific keepout objects are not included in the Gerber or ODB++ output files.

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Setting Up the PCB Workspace


Now you have created your board shape, sheet and any keepout boundaries, we will take a quick look at setting up the grids, layers and design rules in the PCB Editor. Then you will be ready to start designing your board.

Grids
You need to ensure that the placement grid is set correctly before you start positioning any components on the board. Other than the components, all the objects placed in the PCB workspace are aligned on a grid called the Snap Grid. This grid needs to be set to suit the routing technology that you intend to use. To set the grids: 1. Select Design Board Options [shortcut D, O] to open the Board Options dialog.

2. Set the values of the Snap Grid and the Component Grid using the drop-down lists or typing in the value. The Snap Grid is usually set to a either a multiple or a fraction of the component pin pitch, e.g., to route a track between the pins of a component with a pin pitch of 100 mil, a Snap Grid of 25 mil could be used. The Component Grid controls the placement of components only. 3. Note that this dialog is also used to define the Electrical Grid. The Electrical Grid operates when you place an electrical object; it overrides the snap grid and snaps electrical objects together as soon as they come within the defined grid range. 4. You could also set two different Visible Grids as well. These are for visual alignment only. Click OK to close the dialog. 5. When you wish to change or override the grids, you can use the shortcut keys, e.g. G to pop up the Snap Grid menu, or SHIFT + E to toggle the Electrical Grid on or off.
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Preparing the Board for Design Transfer

Defining the Layer Stack and Other Non-electrical Layers in a View Configuration
The PCB Editor can display the PCB model in 2D or 3D modes with definitions for layers, surfaces, colors, visibility and other items, known as view configurations, available from the View Configurations dialog. You can save any 2D or 3D view configurations for use time and again. Select Design Board Layers & Colors [shortcut L] to display the View Configurations dialog. 2D mode is a multi-layered environment that is ideal for normal PCB design routines such as placing components, routing and connecting. 3D mode is useful for examining your design both inside and out as a full 3D model (3D mode does not provide the full range of functionality available in 2D mode). You can switch between 2D and 3D modes through File Switch To 3D or File Switch To 2D [shortcut 2 (2D), 3 (3D)]. If you look at the bottom of the PCB workspace, you will notice a series of layer tabs, most of the editing actions you perform will be on a particular layer.

There are three types of layers in the PCB Editor: Electrical layers these include the 32 signal layers and 16 plane layers. Electrical layers are added to and removed from the design in the Layer Stack Manager dialog (Design Layer Stack Manager). See Using the Layer Stack Manager below for more information. Mechanical layers. There are 16 general purpose mechanical layers for defining the board outline, placing dimensions on, including fabrication details on, or any other mechanical details the design
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Preparing the Board for Design Transfer requires. These layers can be selectively included in print and Gerber output generation. You can add, remove and name mechanical layers in the View Configurations dialog. You can save any custom views you create as view configurations, which you can re-use time and again. Enable the Only show enabled mechanical layers checkbox to limit the list to only enabled layers. Before a Mechanical layer can be used, it must be enabled. Toggle the checkboxes in the Enable column to specifically make that mechanical layer part of the PCB file's database. Only enabled mechanical layers can be part of the database. You cannot disable mechanical layers that have design objects on them. To edit a mechanical layer name, click to select the name and press F2 to edit it. The Show checkbox allows you to control the visibility of a mechanical layer. The Display In Single Layer Mode checkbox causes that layer to be displayed when Single Layer Mode is used (SHIFT + S). Enable the Linked To Sheet checkbox to relate a mechanical layer to the PCB sheet object. Related linked mechanical layers are hidden when the Display Sheet option is disabled (Board Options dialog). They are also used to determine the extents of the sheet when the Auto-position sheet option is chosen in the Board Shape sub-menu. Special layers. These include the top and bottom silkscreen layers, the solder and paste mask layers, drill layers, the Keep-Out layer (used to define the electrical boundaries), the multilayer (used for multilayer pads and vias), the connection layer, DRC error layer, grid layers and hole layers.

Using the Layer Stack Manager


Simple designs can be routed as a single-sided or double-sided board. If the design is more complex, you can add more layers by using the Layer Stack Manager dialog. Three kinds of layers signal layers, internal plane layers and insulation (substrate) layers can be added to the layer stack. These must be correctly specified if you intend to perform a signal integrity analysis. 1. Select Design Layer Stack Manager [shortcut D, K] to display the Layer Stack Manager dialog.

2.

New signal and plane layers can be added to the design as required, by selecting an existing layer and clicking the Add Layer or Add Plane buttons respectively. New layers and planes are added

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Preparing the Board for Design Transfer below the currently selected layer. Once the required layers have been added, use the Move Up and Move Down buttons to configure the layer stack. 3. Double-click on a layer name to edit the properties of that layer (alternatively, select the layer and press the Properties button). Layer properties, such as copper thickness and dielectric properties are used for signal integrity analysis. 4. The stack-up style refers to the order of the insulation layers through the layer stack. Three default stack-up styles are supported Layer Pairs, Internal Layer Pairs and Build-Up. Changing the layer stack-up style changes the way that the core and prepreg layers are distributed through the layer stack. Select the preferred stack-up style from the drop-down list located at the top-right of the dialog. Defining the stack-up style is important if you plan to use blind and buried vias, or perform a detailed signal integrity analysis of the design. If you require blind and buried vias, you must define the allowed drill pairs by clicking on the Configure Drill Pairs button. 5. Click OK to close the dialog. For more information about the Layer Stack Manager, press F1 when the dialog is open.

Setting up Design Rules


You are now ready to set up your design rules in the PCB Editor (Design Rules) using the PCB Rules and Constraints Editor dialog.

Alternatively, you can use the Design Rule Wizard (Design Rule Wizard) to get started. By creating a complete set of design rules at this stage, not only will the online DRC (Design Rules Check) flag you immediately when violations occur, but you will actually be prevented from creating violations in the first place. The autorouter, when running, will look to the design rules you have set up as well. Once you have created a set of rules that can be reused in similar projects, such as preferred track widths or a minimum clearance between components, you can import and export individual design rules by right-clicking in the Design Rule tree in the PCB Rules and Constraints Editor dialog. For more information, refer to Specifying the PCB Design Rules and Resolving Violations article.

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Ready to Transfer the Schematic Design to the PCB?


Before transferring the schematic information from a schematic document to the new PCB, make sure: your PCB file is part of the same .PrjPCB project check to make sure that all the libraries required for the PCB footprints are available. For more information about using libraries, refer to the Component, Model and Library Concepts article. Once the project has been compiled (Project Compile Project) in the Schematic Editor and any errors in the schematic fixed, use the Design Update PCB Document command to generate ECOs that will transfer the schematic information to the target PCB. For more information about updating a PCB, refer to the tutorial, Getting Started with PCB Design.

Revision History
Date 9-Dec-2003 18-Jul-2005 12-Dec-2005 8-Jan-2007 18-Oct-2007 Version No. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Revision New product release Expanded and updated for Altium Designer, and document name changed Path references updated for Altium Designer 6 Incorrect menu reference fixed Updates for Altium Designer 6.8

Software, hardware, documentation and related materials: Copyright 2007 Altium Limited. All rights reserved. You are permitted to print this document provided that (1) the use of such is for personal use only and will not be copied or posted on any network computer or broadcast in any media, and (2) no modifications of the document is made. Unauthorized duplication, in whole or part, of this document by any means, mechanical or electronic, including translation into another language, except for brief excerpts in published reviews, is prohibited without the express written permission of Altium Limited. Unauthorized duplication of this work may also be prohibited by local statute. Violators may be subject to both criminal and civil penalties, including fines and/or imprisonment. Altium, Altium Designer, Board Insight, CAMtastic, CircuitStudio, Design Explorer, DXP, LiveDesign, NanoBoard, NanoTalk, Nexar, nVisage, P-CAD, Protel, SimCode, Situs, TASKING, and Topological Autorouting and their respective logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of Altium Limited or its subsidiaries. All other registered or unregistered trademarks referenced herein are the property of their respective owners and no trademark rights to the same are claimed.

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