EDA Tools Software-supported review process shortens time to market

Autor / Redakteur: Günther Schindler * / Gerd Kucera

As viewing tool, PCB-Investigator takes care of the communication between designer, manufacturer and assembler of PCBs and maintains the information exchange about parts and nets of the layout.

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Figure 1: In PCB-Investigator from EasyLogix, you can switch from 2D to 3D views at any time. The spatial effects of every design decision can be visualised immediately. As the example shows, the housing too (blue) can be managed like a component in the ODB++ data collection. The yellow blocks are placeholders with ‘worst-case’ space requirements for components for which a decision still has to be made between different suppliers.
Figure 1: In PCB-Investigator from EasyLogix, you can switch from 2D to 3D views at any time. The spatial effects of every design decision can be visualised immediately. As the example shows, the housing too (blue) can be managed like a component in the ODB++ data collection. The yellow blocks are placeholders with ‘worst-case’ space requirements for components for which a decision still has to be made between different suppliers.
(Credit: Schindler & Schill)

Data from various experts is processed, exported and imported in different systems on the road from circuit diagram through to electronic product. The transfers, imports and exports are prone to errors. Review sessions with PDFs and printouts are often the only tool available for correcting errors.

But thanks to PCB-Investigator, every participant in the process now has a CAD system at their disposal, which can be used to merge PCB data from various sources and analyse and visualise it interactively. The result is review processes that are more reliable, more efficient and paperless.

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‘Can’t be assembled this way. Please check the data.’ This task regularly presents developers with major problems symptomatic of an industry-wide weakness in the process. Development, layout, circuit board production and assembly, quality assurance, purchasing, sales – everyone in these departments works on the same product.

But they use different systems that focus on various aspects in non-uniform data formats. Monitoring is indispensable, given that errors may occur at every step in the workflow every time data is exported to different CAD software or a different machine.

The challenge is that because there is no uniform tool chain, reviews are conducted using PDFs. This means that every aspect requires a copy of its own. What’s more, details are difficult to identify, the zoom function is cumbersome and multiple diagrams cannot be displayed side by side. As a result, review processes based on printouts are enormously time consuming and costly, while still remaining error-prone.

PCB-Investigator from EasyLogix addresses this set of problems. The tool consists of user-friendly, flexible CAD/CAM software that offers unified, interactive visualisation for every area of development and production. The advantage is that departments involved in the process continue to work with their specialised systems, but communication across departmental and process-related boundaries is based on PCB-Investigator.

Designing Paperless and interactive

In turn, PCB-Investigator is based on a well-known, established data format: ODB++. This format is designed to transmit PCB design information between engineers and producers as well as between design tools by different CAD and CAM providers. In ODB++, all PCB production data is stored in a single record. PCB-Investigator uses this format as a database and consolidates all the data for the development process and production sequence.

What makes PCB-Investigator unique is that data visualisation is not limited to conductor tracks and surfaces, but also includes all available information about components, networks and the stack-up of the layout and makes it accessible to the user. Layers and data objects such as components, pins, networks and copper elements can all be accessed easily for evaluation or modification. Furthermore, the tool is able to work with the following file formats: IPC2581, GenCAD, IPC365, Gerber, Excellon, Sieb&Meyer, DPF, DXF, raster (BMP, JPG, PNG, TIFF). Whereas the visualisation possibilities of ECAD systems are limited, PCB-Investigator displays drill data, exposure data and assembly data at the push of a button in any desired combination of information levels. The software can directly display anything that can be extrapolated from the combined PCB data, whether questions concerning Design Rule Checking, PCB production, assembly, soldering masks, insulation distances, clearances or leakage currents. Want to investigate an individual network path? Simply select it in the application and zoom in.

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