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PCB/PCBA knowledge PCB&PCBA Design

Altium Designer is a basic PCB layout design software for almost every beginner who is occupied in the PCB industry. Although this software involves several functions, some still waste a lot of time because they only master simple functions. Hence, this article is to show some tips for Altium Designer beginners to solve common PCB layout problems and improve the PCB layout design efficiency.

Table of Contents

What is Altium Designer?

Altium Designer (AD) is a kind of electronic design automation software for printed circuit boards. It is developed by Australian software company Altium Limited. Altium Designer has several main functions including schematic capture, 3D PCB design, field-programmable gate array (FPGA) development and release/data management. It also has interactive 3D editing of the board and MCAD export to STEP.

We have collected some common scenarios and corresponding solutions when we are using Altium Designer.

Scenario 1: Messy components shown on Altium Designer

The schematic diagram is drawn, while the imported PCB components are in a mess. You have to look for them one by one against the schematic diagram. This situation can be solved through Cross Probe.

Problem 1: Scaling
It can be discovered that the component detected by the probe will be largely zoomed in on the PCB, which causes the entire page only showed this component. After we have found the component, you need to zoom out of the view which greatly affects the experience.


Here are 3 solutions for you to use Cross Probe without zooming in on the component.

①Click [Panel] in the lower right corner of the screen, and choose [Navigator], A window will pop out.

Click [Instance window], then right-click and uncheck [Zoom On Objects]. The problem is solved. In this way, it will not zoom in on the entire screen, and you can also choose the Cross Probe function based on your needs, including Dim, Zoom on objects, and selected.

②However, it is still a bit troublesome to press to enter the Cross Probe mode every time. In fact, there is an easier method.

Directly select Cross Select Mode. Click Tools – Cross Select Mode (shortcut key: Ctrl+Shift+X). Then the component can be selected directly in the schematic diagram.


③First, open the interactive design, and then select the modules to be laid out in the schematic diagram (at this time, the relevant components in the PCB view will be selected), then enter the PCB view, select [Tools-Component Placement-Arrange within Rectangular]

Finally, draw a box at the position to be placed to indicate the limit, and then Altium Designer will automatically layout your components. It’s so convenient and improves our design efficiency.

Compared with the second solution, the components are shown up one by one and need to be placed manually, while the third solution is arranged directly for you according to the area.


Problem 2: find the components one by one
Even if we can select the components in the PCB through the schematic diagram, there are often hundreds or thousands of components. And it is inefficiency to find and click one by one. Here we demonstrate how to layout all the capacitors in the figure below at once.


Method 1:
First select the components you want to layout in the schematic diagram.
Then click on the PCB window interface (Please make sure the components are still selected at this time).
Click [Tools], select [Component Placement], and sub-menu select [Reposition selected components].

In this way, the components that are selected could be shown up without finding them in a lot of categories.


Method 2:
You can also set shortcut keys according to your personal preferences.

Scenario 2: Set different Rules for different networks

For example, in a PCB with a relatively high voltage network, it is necessary to carefully consider the Clearance of its Layout (Clearance requirements of different layers can be different); At this time, we all need to set different Rules for some individual networks.

You can filter the Rules you want to set individually through Custom Query, but it is more troublesome.

Under this situation, it is appropriate to use the Parameter Set tool. For example, let’s set the Clearance spacing of the network indicated by the arrow in the figure below to 20mil.


The rule of Clearance in this network is set. It’s not only can set the Clearance, other Rules can also be set. If you want to set the same rules for all the networks in an area, you can place a Blanket frame to select the area, and then set the ParameterSet.


Scenario 3: Separately check a certain part of the wiring

Have laid out too many wires on board, how to check the wiring of a certain part separately according to the function.

You can use Net Class to solve this problem. Refer to the method mentioned above: use the ParameterSet mentioned above to set the Net Class of the network, and then view it separately in the PCB panel.


Scenario 4: Export schematic diagram

It can not only export 3D models (This function can also be realized through screenshots in the 3D view), but also export outlines (including various perspectives) and display the label of each original. It is convenient to find components when doing manual welding.


To create this view, you need to create a Draftsman file first. Then keep the default parameters and click OK.

Then select the Draftsman file and click Place.

Board Assembly View is the assembly view, that is, the outline drawing. You enable to set the scale, viewing angle, etc.

Board Fabrication View is the view of the board made without components



Have no clues to design your printed circuit boards? IBE Electronics is your go-to source. 

IBE also has professional PCB layout design teams and provides related design services. If you are interested, please contact us. IBE has been serving the contract manufacturing (OEM/EMS) industry for more than 18 years in China. The service includes Electronic Design, PCB Fabrication, SMT and PCB Assembly, Components Sourcing, Prototyping, Box Build, and Turnkey Solution.

We have a range of PCB capabilities and a professional team that can meet your customized needs. To learn more about IBE, contact us, request a quote, or continue exploring our website. If you have other suggestions for Altium Designer, feel free to leave your comment below.

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