MCAD Co-Designer: SOLIDWORKS®

Old Content - visit altium.com/documentation
This documentation is now considered legacy, and only remains useful to those who already have the extension and its functionality as part of their installations. The extension is no longer available, and has been replaced by SOLIDWORKS PCB Connector - distributed through SOLIDWORKS and their reseller network. Contact SOLIDWORKS.

The MCAD Co-Designer: SOLIDWORKS® extension upgrade is engineered specifically for collaboration with SOLIDWORKS®. With this upgrade, an electrical designer can export changes to the board design that are needed (and of value) by the mechanical designer. Conversely, the mechanical designer can float change proposals back to the electrical designer, who can then import those changes back into their design. Ultimately, this level of collaboration and integration brings harmony to the overall design process - a process that while traversing these two distinct parallel paths, ultimately delivers a single product to market.

The MCAD Co-Designer: SOLIDWORKS® extension is delivered as a purchased upgrade to your existing Altium Designer subscription.

Requirements for Collaboration

To collaborate between Altium Designer and SOLIDWORKS you need the following installed:

  • Altium Designer
    • Altium Designer 15.1 or later. When upgrading to Altium Designer 15.1, if using the Private License Server, you may encounter a message “The license is not compatible with this version… You may need to upgrade your license”. If so, you will need to update to the latest version of the Private License Server, available from the Downloads page of the Altium website.
    • SOLIDWORKS Collaboration extension. Installed as a standard Altium Designer extension (DXP » Extensions and Updates), this adds the collaboration capabilities and the SOLIDWORKS Collaboration panel into Altium Designer.
    • A valid license for Altium Designer, and a valid MCAD Co-Designer - SOLIDWORKS (R) license. The latter is added along with the regular Altium Designer license you use.
  • ECAD-MCAD Project Collaboration Server - validly licensed and installed on a computer that is accessible to both the Altium Designer and SOLIDWORKS installations.
The ECAD-MCAD Project Collaboration Server is powered by Altium Vault Technology and comes with two license files that essentially tailor its installation for collaboration purposes only. This licensing allows only those features and functionality required to collaborate between Altium Designer and SOLIDWORKS. If you already have an Altium Vault, you can simply use this instead. The key point to make here is that you are not required to purchase a separate install of the Altium Vault.
If you are using an existing Altium Vault for collaboration you will need to upgrade your vault to version 2.5 (or later), and will need to obtain a new license for it.
  • SOLIDWORKS
    • SOLIDWORKS from Dassault Systèmes. Both SOLIDWORKS 2014 and SOLIDWORKS 2015 are supported. NOTE: SOLIDWORKS 2015 service pack 3 has a critical bug fix that addresses a problem with intermittent crashes during initial import of board from Altium Designer to SOLIDWORKS.
    • Altium Designer-SOLIDWORKS Collaboration add-in from Altium, installed on the same computer as SOLIDWORKS. This adds the collaboration capabilities and Altium Designer Collaboration panel into SOLIDWORKS.
Altium Designer, SOLIDWORKS, and the ECAD-MCAD Project Collaboration Server will reside on separate computers. It is important to note that the Collaboration Server must be on a machine that is accessible by both Altium Designer and SOLIDWORKS, since it is this server that facilitates collaboration between the two.

The following sections take a look at the order of installation of the required entities, before collaboration can begin (assuming Altium Designer and SOLIDWORKS are already installed on their respective machines).

Watch the Installation Video

Installation - SOLIDWORKS Collaboration Extension for Altium Designer

Once you have upgraded your Altium Subscription to include the MCAD Co-Designer: SOLIDWORKS® extension, you'll need to download and install that extension. This can be found on the Purchased page of the Extensions & Updates view – one of several views available under Altium Designer's Home page. Access from the Admin view of the Home page, or by clicking the Extensions and Updates entry on the software's pop-out resources pane – accessed by clicking the  button.

The SOLIDWORKS Collaboration extension.

Once located, the extension can be installed in one of two ways:

  • From the summary-level Purchased page, by clicking on the  icon at the top-right of its entry. Hover the mouse over the download icon, to view details of the version available.
  • From its detailed page, by clicking the Install button.
Altium Designer will need to be restarted for the install to take effect.

MCAD Co-Designer - SOLIDWORKS (R) license

With the extension installed, you'll now need to select the license for it.

License configuration and selection is performed from the License Management view – one of several views available under Altium Designer's Home page. Access from the Admin view of the Home page, or directly using the DXP » My Account command. This is 'command central' for obtaining a license. Sign-in to your Altium account and view and select On-Demand licenses available to you. Add a Standalone license file. Or, connect to your Private License Server and use a seat from any of the associated Private Server licenses made available to you by your network administrator.

Whether using an On-Demand license, Standalone license, or Private Server license, the Available Licenses region of the page will automatically present the specific licenses available to you. Choose the MCAD Co-Designer - SOLIDWORKS (R) license that you want to use and then click on the applicable command, depending on how you want to use that license.

Locate and choose the MCAD Co-Designer - SOLIDWORKS (R) license from within Altium Designer's License Management view. In the
image an on-demand license of this type is available for use.

If using a standalone or private server license, and this has not yet been activated for use, an administrator for your Altium account will need to do so through the Altium Dashboard. For more details on how this is done, see License Activation. From the Licenses tab of the Dashboard, locate the applicable license (in the Extensions grouping of licenses) then click through to the detailed license management page. Once there, click the Activate button to generate and download the associated license file (MCAD Co-Designer - SOLIDWORKS (R) License <ActivationCode> R10.alf). For the Standalone license, you can then simply click the Add standalone license file control, then browse to, and add, your downloaded license.

Installation - ECAD-MCAD Project Collaboration Server

Main article: Installing the ECAD-MCAD Collaboration Server

Installation of the Collaboration Server is performed using the Altium Vault Setup wizard. This installer is accessed by running an executable – Altium Vault <VersionNumber>.exe. This executable is downloaded from the Downloads page of the Altium website, and can be saved anywhere on your hard disk.

Streamlined installation courtesy of the Altium Vault Setup wizard.

Installation - Altium Designer-SOLIDWORKS Collaboration Add-in

Main article: Installing the Altium Designer-SolidWorks Collaboration Add-in

Installation of the collaboration functionality into SOLIDWORKS is performed using the Altium Designer - SOLIDWORKS Collaboration Setup wizard. This installer is accessed by running an executable – Altium Designer - SOLIDWORKS Collaboration <VersionNumber>.exe. This executable is downloaded from the Downloads page of the Altium website, and can be saved anywhere on your hard disk.

Streamlined installation courtesy of the Altium Designer - SOLIDWORKS Collaboration Setup wizard.

The wizard also provides the ability - post installation - to optionally initialize your Collaboration Server (or Altium Vault). This involves:

  • Creating ecad and mcad users in the server, to cater for server/vault access (to 'get at' the collaborative projects) by the two sides.
  • Adding example designs (managed design projects), to a default Examples repository, created for the server/vault.

Connect to the Collaboration Server

With all the requisite elements installed, both Altium Designer and SOLIDWORKS must now sign into the ECAD-MCAD Project Collaboration Server (or Altium Vault). This is the last step before collaboration between the two parties can begin in ernest.

To sign into the Collaboration Server/Altium Vault:

  • In Altium Designer select Sign in Altium Vault from the DXP menu. In the Connecting to Altium Vault dialog enter the Server address in the form <ServerName>:<PortNumber>, and a valid Vault User name and Password
  • In SOLIDWORKS, if you are not logged in then you will be prompted to log into the Server/Vault whenever you perform an action that affects data being collaborated on, such as when you click one of the New Board Assembly or Pull Board From Vault buttons in the Altium Designer Collaboration panel. The Altium Vault Login dialog will appear, enter the Vault address in the form <ServerName>:<PortNumber>, then enter a valid user name into Login, and the associated Password. If you need to log into a different Server/Vault, click the  button on the top right of the SOLIDWORKS Altium Designer Collaboration panel and select Log Out, then click one of the New Board Assembly or Pull Board From Vault buttons to log into the other Server/Vault.
If the Altium Designer Collaboration add-in doesn't appear, you will need to access the Add-Ins dialog within SOLIDWORKS and make it active (enabling it at Start Up too). Then restart SOLIDWORKS to see the add-in appear in the toolbar, distinguished by the  button. It is this button you need to click to access the Altium Designer Collaboration panel.
To provide access to the ECDA-MCAD Project Collaboration Server/Altium Vault, suitable user accounts must be created. If you ran the initialization stage (with appropriately-checked options) after installing the Altium Designer - SOLIDWORKS Collaboration add-in, these users will already be created (ecad and mcad, both with default passwords of 123). If not, you will need to log into the Server/Vault in a web browser, using the URL http://<ComputerName>:<PortNumber> . The port number is defined during installation, the default is 9780. If you are logging into the Server/Vault on the PC that the Server/Vault is installed on, then the localhost identifier can be used instead, in the form http://localhost:<PortNumber>. Refer to the Browser-based Access and Management page for more information. 
When an Altium Designer project is created in the Server/Vault, the only User with permissions to edit that project will be the User that created it. You can share the project with other users on the Projects page of the Server/Vault.

Start Collaborating

That's it. Everything is now installed, and the two sides - Altium Designer and SOLIDWORKS - can now start collaborating. For more information on how this is done, see Collaborating between Altium Designer and SOLIDWORKS.

Got more questions, check out the FAQ page to learn more.

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