Version 6.3 of the Altium Designer environment is targeted directly at those looking to migrate from competing PCB design systems, including OrCAD and PADS. Altium Design 6.3 includes a number of enhancements to entice a switch, as well as features that accelerate design for current users.
Users of legacy point-tools will benefit in general from Altium Designer’s system orientation, which includes full FPGA development capabilities as well as PCB design capabilities. The unified development environment is intended to allow users to make the transition from “board designer” or “embedded designer” to “systems designer.”
But what makes Altium Designer work so well for OrCAD or PADS PCB users? For one, there’s a new PADS library importer, which enables users to seamlessly import PADS footprint libraries to Altium Designer. It’ll import ASCII library files from PADS versions up to PADS PowerPCB 2005. For the OrCAD side, Altium’s existing OrCAD importer has been enhanced in v6.3 to support OrCAD design components that include simulation data. This includes both simulation-ready schematics and schematic libraries.
There’s also a unified PADS/OrCAD importer that creates integrated libraries from a combination of OrCAD schematic symbols and PADS footprints (patterns). This importer also includes a wizard that supports the importing of OrCAD schematics and PADS PCB documents into a single Altium Designer project in one operation.
Existing Altium Designer users who install v6.3 will see a significant boost in graphics performance for the PCB editor. This comes by way of a new hardware-accelerated graphics engine that makes use of Microsoft’s latest DirectX technologies. Users can expect speed increases of around 20X when zooming and panning, making the redraw speed on design documents virtually instantaneous. It also brings native support for 3D rendering directly in the PCB editor, which enables “real-time” design visualization.