Altium Designer Tutorials

Altium Designer is a schematic and PCB design software that allows electronics engineer to simulate and create an electronic system. It has wide range of electronic design automation feature required for professional designs including FPGA, easy to search components via vault, multiple PCB layer design and many others.

Below is an overview of how to start a project with altium designer. Also you can directly view all tutorials following this link- Altium designer tutorial Archive

Getting Started with Altium Designer
With Altium designer you can create PCB project, FPGA project, Core project, Embedded project and Script project.

Suppose we want to create a Printed Circuit Board(PCB) for some electronic circuit. In this case we select the PCB project.

Briefly, the overall process is the designing PCB for an electronic circuit is to create a schematic, perform simulation of the circuit, design the PCB board and generate PCB design files, manufacture the PCB and then solder the electronic components onto the PCB board.

Schematic Design

The first step is to create a new PCB project in Altium Designer. To do this, go to File > New > Project > PCB Projects as shown in the Fig 1 below-
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Fig 1: Add new PCB Project
 A newly created project tab with default project name will appears on the left side as shown in the figure. To name the project and to save the project, right click on the default project icon and select "Save Project As" that appears and give the project some name and save it in some folder. This is as shown in Fig 2.
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Fig 2: Name and Save the project
Once a project is created give the project some name and save it in some folder of your choice. An example is shown in Fig 3.
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Fig 3: Project Name and Saving in Folder
 The next step is to add schematic to the project. To do this right click on the project icon> Add New to Project > Schematic as shown in Fig 4.

Fig 4: Add Schematic
Now a Schematic Sheet will appear. Now we have to add electronic parts or components onto the schematic and connect them with wires.
To add new component, you can either go to the Place menu and select Part or you can click on the Part icon. Doing either of these will bring up a Place part dialog box as shown in Fig 5.

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Fig 5: Add new component
Now start searching and placing components onto the schematic and Perform necessary simulation. After simulation and correct results are obtained start the PCB design.

PCB Design Steps Overview
  1. Add New PCB Document and Save all Documents
  2. Import Schematic components to PCB layout tool
  3. Resize Room, Drag it onto the PCB board area and Draw PCB Board
  4. Set the Origin
  5. Configure the PCB layer
  6. Check the Design Rules
  7. Place components in the Board
  8. Route the traces
  9. Create PCB files for Manufacturing

1. Add New PCB Document and Save all Documents
Right click on the project, add new to project and select PCB. Also save all documents (Schematic, Project and PCB file) to synchronize the PCB and schematic.
    2.  Import Schematic components to PCB layout tool
    -To transfer the schematic components into the PCB layout editor, (ensure PCB editor is active)go to Design > Import Changes From <Project_Name.PrjPCB>. 

    -This brings up the list of components in the schematic to be transferred to the PCB tool. Click on "Execute Changes" to verify that everything selected is ok. Then close the dialog box.

    3. Resize Room, Drag it onto the PCB board area and Draw PCB Board
    Move to the component selection room on the right side of the dark space. You can move the entire component room.

    Re-size the room to approximate PCB board size that you want. Then go to Design > Board Shape > Redefine Board Shape. Once this is done make the PCB board by clicking on one corner and start placing other corners for the board to obtain a rectangular board shape. To toggle between the corner angle(45 or 90 degree) press "Shift+Space".

    4. Set the Origin
    Set the origin to one of the corner such as the bottom left corner. To do this go to "Edit > Origin > Set" and click onto the desired corner or place of the board.

    5. Configure the PCB layer
    Configure the PCB Layer by going to "Design > Layer Stack Manager" and set to two layers which is also the default layer value.

    6. Check the Design Rules
    - Configure the Design Rules, by going to design "Design > Rules" for manual settings (or "Design > Rules Wizard" for configuring the rules with wizard).

    7. Place components in the Board
    Now move the component around and place them appropriately on the PCB board to suit best routing path according your guess and experiences.

    8. Route the traces
    When the components are placed you can start routing the board. You can route the trace manually by selecting the Interactively Route Connections button. Or you can use the auto routing feature.
     This will complete the PCB board layout with components.

    9. Create PCB files for Manufacturing
    Now the next and final step is to produce the Gerber file and Drill file for manufacturing the PCB board.
    To create the Gerber pcb manufacturing files, go to File  > Fabrication Outputs> Geber Files option. A new window will appear which lets you set up the Gerber file options such as the units(inches or millimeter) and the various layers such as the Top overlay silkscreen, the top solder and top layer that you can include. Once these gerber settings is configured click ok to generate the Gerber. This will open in a new Camtastic document for the Gerber file.

    Similarly to create the NC drill files, go back to the PCB design file and then to File > Fabrication Outputs > NC Drill Files option. Now set up the units and other NC Drill file options as required. This will then create a camtastic document of the NC Drill file.


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