Whats New in Altium Designer 6.9

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Summary
{excerpt} Altium Designer 6.9 brings significant refinements to 3D PCB Visualization combined with a number of smaller enhancements and improved system-wide support for existing technologies. Many of these improvements are based on feedback directly from you, the engineers and designers developing designs in Altium Designer. {excerpt}

Altium understands that improving the electronic product design platform isn't just about adding new features, but also about refining and strengthening existing ones. Electronics technology moves fast and your design systems need to keep up.

Altium Designer 6.9 delivers a number of enhancements designed to increase your effectiveness, improving features you depend upon to deliver better designs faster. PCB Visualization has been further enhanced with new 3D STEP technologies. STEP, the STandard for the Exchange of Product model data is becoming a preferred standard for ECAD to MCAD data exchange - allowing transfer of 3D models between CAD applications.

Embedded tools support for FPGA developed continues to improve, enabling you to take advantage of core technology from your favorite third party vendor. Expanding options for peripherals, this release delivers two new and one updated peripheral cores as well as context-sensitive help support for C keywords and standard functions.

With this release, new web updating through the web portal will be introduced as a means of taking advantage of a wide range of future online services yet to come!

These are just some of the new enhancements delivered by this significant new release of Altium Designer. To learn more about the new capabilities and productivity benefits offered in Altium Designer 6.9, read on!

Seeing is Believing - Read More and Watch Demos of Altium Designer

Altium's DEMOcenter gives you the opportunity to walk through the extensive design capabilities of Altium Designer featured as individual demos, each only taking a couple of minutes, making this a quick and easy way for you to browse the areas of most importance to you.

If you'd like to read more about updates in Altium Designer, as well as watch short videos about some of the exciting new features, then visit the What's New in Altium Designer page on the website and enjoy the action. Click the link below to read more and watch the videos.
http://www.altium.com/Evaluate/DEMOcenter

New - STEP Models into 3D Bodies

When visualizing PCBs and components in 3D, it's now possible to import 3D STEP models to represent component bodies to provide further realism. STEP models can be loaded directly into component footprints in the PCB Library Editor.
The associated3D Body dialog now features a Model section allowing you to load, update or remove STEP model files quickly and easily. New commands in the PCB Library Editor Tools menu and 3D Body dialog have also been introduced to accurately manipulate and orient STEP models in the 3D workspace.

Figure 1. Amazing transformation of your component bodies in 3D using STEP models are now possible.
Viewing the models is easy - once you're in 3D mode, hit the 'L' shortcut key to bring up View Configurations dialog and turn on the Show Step Models checkbox.

New - 3D STEP Export

Altium Designer 6.9 expands new STEP support to include exporting a 3D STEP format file to your preferred mechanical CAD system. With the introduction of 3D Visualization in the PCB Editor, complete boards can be exported as 3D STEP AP214 file format.

Figure 2. Export options allow you to customize output according to all or selected components, Step models or Extruded Component Shapes, and All or selected Holes.
The new 3D export feature is launched from the PCB Editor, File » Save As. Simply change the Save As file type to Step File (*.step,* .stp) and press Save.

New - 3D Origin Marker

New tools in Altium Designer 6.9 help accurately orient and position imported STEP Models in the 3D workspace, the first of these being the 3D Origin Marker.
The Physical Materials page of the View Configurations dialog has options to display an origin marker when in 3D view mode. The marker represents the 0, 0, 0 positions for the X, Y, and Z-axis respectively.

New - Transparent Layer Mode Options

Further complementing the capabilities of PCB Visualization, additional options in the PCB Preferences give added flexibility when working with Transparent Layer Modes.
Layer ordering allows more control over the layer drawing order for transparent layer modes.
Full Brightness and Ordered Blending (shown below) enables the current or selected layer to appear on top of other layers (according to the Layer Drawing Order) in transparent layer mode and also for the colors of objects in transparent layer modes to have improved brightness and contrast.

 

 

 

Figure 4. Transparent Mode is shown with Full Brightness on the left, and in Ordered Blending on the right.

New - 3D Shadow and Object Color by Layer

This effect can be easily added to your 3D design through the Preferences dialog giving enhanced visibility in dense designs. Shadowing can only be seen when viewing the PCB from above which helps prevent confusion between the viewing the top and bottom of the board.
As a complement to shadowing, there is also Object Color by Layer option in the Physical Materials page of the View Configurations dialog that allows display of objects either in their system-based 2D layer color or using the colors specified in the dialog

New - 3D Image onto Clipboard

3D image to clipboard takes a snapshot of the main design window view in 3D and stores it as a bitmap on the Windows clipboard for pasting into other applications. Whatever is displayed in the main window of Altium Designer (bar panels and dialog boxes) is what will be placed on the clipboard. You even have control over the resolution of the bitmap image.

New - Jumper Connections

New jumper feature allows you to set a jumper connection (physical connection between pads but not using tracks on PCB, a separate wire instead) between pads on a component. This is especially useful when crossing tracks on a single layer board.
Jumper connections define electrical connections between component pads that are not physically routed with primitives on the PCB. These are especially useful on single layer boards, where a wire is used to jump over tracks on the one physical layer, or even as complex as designing with a 'crossover' switch. The Design Rules Checker will not report jumper connections as unrouted nets.
Pads within a component can be labeled with a Jumper ID value from within the Pad dialog. Pads that share the same Jumper ID and electrical net tell the system that there is a legitimate, although physically unconnected, connection between them.

New - Units Toggle

Many dialogs now feature a units toggle control in the top-left corner that will change the units of measurement currently used in the dialog between the metric and imperial. Shortcut CTRL + Q can also be used in dialogs where this control is present. Toggling units at any time does not affect system accuracy as all numerical calculations are carried out at system resolution.

Improved - Special Strings

Especially useful for design documentation, special strings act as placeholders for PCB design or system-based information and are only populated with information when generating manufacturing output data.
To use a special string on a PCB, place a string object and set its text to be one of the special string names. Special strings provide manufacturing records for the software build number of the version of Altium Designer that was used during output generation and for the current revision number of the document.

  • .Application_BuildNumber - places the version of Altium Designer on the PCB document that the PCB is currently loaded in. When generating Gerber output, this string will record the software build that the design was created on.
  • .VersionControl_RevNumber - once placed, displays the current revision number of the document. Version control must be used for this string to contain any information.
  • .Computer Name - places the name of the machine that the PCB is currently loaded on.
  • .Pattern - displays the names of the component footprints used on the PCB.
  • .SlotHole_Count - once placed, displays the number of slotted holes on the PCB.
  • .SquareHole_Count - displays the number of square holes on the PCB.

Improved - Publish to PDF

If you publish a specific set of documents to PDF on a regular basis, you can now use a Batch flag to specify your document set and run the Batch Publish to PDF command. Batch preferences are saved to the Output Job File. You can create multiple Output Job Files with different batch preferences for the same project to suit your needs.

Figure 12. Access the Batch Publish to PDF command from the Tools menu or by right clicking in the Output Job Editor and selecting it from the pop-up menu that appears.

New - Design Refactoring

Making changes on the fly and restructuring your schematic design is more flexible than ever with Design Refactoring. Design Refactoring converts existing Schematic Sheets into Device Sheets, and converts Device Sheets into Schematic Sheets. Parts can also be converted to ports, and parts can be converted to sheet symbols although it's worth mentioning in this instance that the Unique ID isn't maintained as one part may be converted into many ports.
Subcircuits can be moved easily between schematic sheets as well. Refactoring of sheets is performed at the Sheet Symbol or Device Sheet Symbol level. Design Refactoring automatically maintains synchronization with the rest of your design, ensuring that subcircuits in the schematic are always linked to their physical instances in the PCB through the maintenance the Unique ID of all subcircuits.

Figure 10. Converting a Schematic Sheet into a Device Sheet using the Refactor feature
Found in two convenient locations, Refactoring commands can be launched from both the Edit and right-click menu in a schematic document.

Figure 11. Converting a Sheet into a Device Sheet Symbol using the Refactor feature

New - Web Updates

It will now be possible for you to create, manage, and directly access your own account, taking advantage of a wide range of future online services. The first of these online services, available in Altium Designer 6.9, is the ability to obtain web updates.
From the Home Page, simply log into your account using your SUPPORTcenter credentials (available through your local Altium Sales and Support Center or Reseller). Then, use the Check for Updates link to get the latest updates.

New - FPGA Peripheral Cores

Expanding your options for peripherals, Altium Designer 6.9 adds support for three new peripheral cores. For schematic-based design of your main processor system, all peripherals can be found in, and placed from, the FPGA Peripherals integrated library (\Program Files\Altium Designer 6\Library\Fpga\FPGA Peripherals.IntLib). For a design incorporating an OpenBus System, all components can be found in, and placed from, the OpenBus Palette panel.
Corresponding core reference documents can be found in the Help directory (\Program Files\Altium Designer 6\Help).

WB_USB

The WB_USB peripheral provides the interface between a processor in the FPGA design and an external USB Interface device, for subsequent communications over a Universal Serial Bus (USB). The peripheral has been built specifically to interface to the EZ-USB SX2™ device (CY7C68001, from Cypress Semiconductor). This high-speed (USB 2.0) USB Interface device has a built-in USB transceiver and a Serial Interface Engine (SIE), which automatically manages the USB protocol.
If you are using Altium's Desktop NanoBoard NB2DSK01, the USB-IrDA-Ethernet Peripheral Board PB03 features a CY7C68001 device.

WB_BOOTLOADER

The WB_BOOTLOADER peripheral provides the ability to automatically load (or bootstrap) from serial Flash memory on the Desktop NanoBoard NB2DSK01. The device provides the interface between the NB2DSK01'S SPI bus and independent SRAM on the daughter board. Provided the device is enabled for boot operation, then as soon as the design is programmed into the daughter board FPGA (or an external reset is issued if already programmed) the content of the serial Flash memory device will be copied into the SRAM.
The device is configurable in that you can specify where in SRAM the content copied from the serial Flash memory is to be written, and the size of the memory involved in the copy.
The WB_BOOTLOADER can also be used as a standard SPI Controller, with an optional interface to a processor in your design, enabling the processor to communicate with slave SPI-compatible devices external to the FPGA in which the design is running. Operating as an SPI Controller, the device is functionally identical to the SPI_W peripheral.

WB_I2S

Altium Designer's WB_I2S Configurable Wishbone Audio Streaming Controller is used to facilitate data transfers over the inter-IC sound (I2S) bus. The I2S bus - developed by Philips as a dedicated serial link for digital audio - allows a standardized communication medium for an ever-increasing array of digital audio devices.
The WB_I2S is an enhanced version of the legacy I2S_W peripheral. As part of its configurable nature, it allows you to enable, and define, a much larger hardware buffer. With larger FIFO buffers, interrupts can be disabled and simple periodic polling of the state of the Transmit and Receive buffers performed instead. Additional internal registers are used to store the values for the pointers to the Head and Tail of each buffer, enabling you to ascertain how many samples are currently available to be read in the Receive Buffer, and how much sample space is available for writing new samples in the Transmit Buffer.
Like the I2S_W, the WB_I2S provides for transmission and reception of data. Unlike the I2S_W however, you can configure the WB_I2S to just transmit data or just receive data.

Improved - Xilinx EDK Support

Altium Designer 6.9 now supports the following later versions of the Xilinx EDK (Embedded Development Kit):

  • 8.1 and 8.2
  • 9.1 and 9.2

New - Context-sensitive C language help

Altium Designer 6.9 brings with it F1 context-sensitive help support for C keywords and standard functions. Simply highlight part of the keyword or function of interest, in the C coding editor, to access related information directly in the Knowledge Center panel.
The information can also be found in the C Language Reference.

 

 

 

 

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