Altium Designer makes ultra-high-performance design move faster at Spectrum Integrity: Page 2 of 3

July 18, 2012 //By Michael Ingham, Spectrum Integrity
Spectrum Integrity designs ultra-high-speed digital, RF, and microwave PCBs which, at 20 to 110 GHz and beyond, are among the most challenging applications in industry. Its customer design challenges require a proprietary “outside the box” process. Yet at the same time, the company must interface with industry standard component libraries as well as the design review processes of its clients.
suites.

Automation

Automation within Altium Designer PCB layout helps streamline steps within the design process. For example, the application can apply real-time updating of split power planes during the course of design, saving manual retouching of those planes during design changes. “With our old tools, we would have to manually un-pour and re-pour power planes every time there was a change,” says Ingham. “The pour feature in Altium saves us 75% of our time in this step.”

Perhaps the biggest efficiency improvement occurs in data management. The version control features are very important to Spectrum Integrity, because RF designs often require multiple versions stretched across a very extensive review process. In addition, Altium Designer imports and exports across many popular formats, and includes a free design viewer. As Ingham explains, “It’s the nature of our designs to produce many versions to share and review.” His team has found that even the relatively simple task of creating PDF check plots has saved considerable process time and prevented the need for a third party program.

Results

Except for two customers using legacy software, Spectrum Integrity now produces all of its designs using Altium Designer. “We can now use a mainstream tool for our ultra high- performance design work, and customize it so we don’t have restrictions on getting creative,” says Ingham.

Altium Designer’s ease of use and comprehensive training made adoption quick and painless. “The program was fairly intuitive and we were able to be productive after just a few days of study,” says Ingham. “Using the numerous available materials and very helpful videos, my engineers quickly became productive without the need for attending a dedicated training class. They were proficient in about half the time it took for learning PADS.”

Customer design reviews are much more efficient with Altium Designer due to the design viewer and automated PDF feature. “The ease of review allows customer reviews to be much more efficient

Design category: