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Page 1

Tutorial - Getting Started with PCB Design
Modified by on 12-Dec-2014

Welcome to the world of electronic product development environment in Altium software. This tutorial
will get you started by creating a simple PCB project based on an astable multivibrator design. If you
are new to Altium software then it is worth reading the article The Altium Designer Environment, for
an explanation of the interface, information on how to use panels, and managing design documents.

To learn more about a command, dialog, object or panel, press F1 when the cursor is over
that item.

This tutorial has been updated for Altium Designer 15.0, but can still be used for earlier
versions by changing the folder references to suit the version you have installed.

The Design
The design you will be capturing, and then designing a printed circuit board (PCB) for, is a simple
astable multivibrator. The circuit is shown below, it uses two 2N3904 transistors configured as a
self-running astable multivibrator.

Circuit for the multivibrator.

You are now ready to begin capturing (drawing) the schematic. The first step is to create a project.

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Creating a New PCB Project
In Altium's software, a PCB project is the set of design documents (files) required to specify and
manufacture a printed circuit board. The project file, for example MyProject.PrjPCB, is an ASCII
text file that lists which documents are in the project, as well as other project-level settings, such as
the required electrical rule checks, project preferences, and so on. Project outputs, such as print and
CAM settings, can also be stored as project settings, or can also be defined in special-purpose
OutputJob files, which give better control and visibility into the output process.

Source schematic sheets and the target output, for example the FPGA, embedded (VHDL), library
package, or in this case the PCB design file, are then added to the project, with each one being
referenced by a link inside the project file.

Once the source design is complete it can be compiled and design verification performed. When the
source design is error free it can be transferred to the PCB workspace, using a process known as
design synchronization. The next phase is to layout the PCB in accordance with the PCB design rules,
the final phase is to generate the fabrication and assembly outputs.

The process of creating a new project is the same for all types of supported projects. This tutorial
focuses on PCB design, so we will use the PCB project as an example. We will create the project file
first and then create a blank schematic sheet to add the new empty project. Later in this tutorial we
will create a PCB and add it to the project as well.

To start the tutorial, create a new PCB project:

Select File » New » Project from the menus, the New Project dialog will open.1.
Note the list of available Project Types, confirm that PCB Project is selected. Ignore the2.
Project Templates, these will not be used for this tutorial.
In the Name field, enter the name of the tutorial, Multivibrator. There is no need to add the3.
file extension, this will be added automatically.
In the Location field, type in a suitable location to save the project files, or click Browse to4.
navigate to the required folder. Also enable the Create Project Folder option, this will create a
sub-folder below the folder specified in the Location field, with the same name as the project.

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The rule is now defined, click Apply to save it and keep the dialog open.6.

The default Routing Width design rule has been configured for the tutorial, a new rule is about to be added for power nets.

Routing Width and Routing Via Style design rules include Min, Max and Preferred settings.
Use these if you prefer to have some flexibility during routing, for example when you need to
neck a route down or use a smaller via in a tight area of the board. This can be done
on-the-fly as you route, by pressing the Tab key to open a dialog and access width/via
properties, or by pressing Shift+W to select an alternate routing width and Shift+V to
select an alternate via size. Note that you always remain constrained by the design rules,
you are not allowed to enter a value larger or smaller than permitted by the applicable
design rule.

Avoid using the Min and Max settings to define a single rule to suit all sizes required in the
entire design, doing this means you forgo the ability to get the software to monitor that each
design object is appropriately sized for its task.

Power Nets Routing Width

We will now add and configure a new design rule to specify the width that the power nets must be
routed. To set up this rule, complete the following steps:

With the Width rule-type, or an existing Width rule selected in the Design Rules tree on the left of1.
the dialog, right-click and select New Rule to add a new Width constraint rule.
A new rule named Width_1 appears. Click on the new rule in the Design Rules tree to modify the2.
scope and constraints.
Click in the Name field on the right, and enter the name Width_Power in the field.3.

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Next we will set the rule's scope using the Query Builder, to access this select the Advanced4.
(Query) option. Note that you can always type the query in directly if you know the correct syntax.
Alternatively, if your query is more complicated you could select the Advanced option, then click
the Query Helper button to use the Query Helper dialog.
Click the Query Builder button, then move through the steps to target objects in the 12V net OR5.
the GND net. The animation below shows the process of using the Query Builder.

Using the Query Builder to create the Query, once that is done the required Width can be configured (shown in the next image).

The Query Builder has been used to write a query that targets objects in the 12V net OR objects in1.
the GND net. Alternatively, you could have created a Net Class containing those 2 nets (called
Power for example), then written a Query that targetted objects InNetClass('Power').
Now that the Query has been defined, the last step is to set the Constraints for the rule. Edit the2.
Min Width / Preferred Width / Max Width values 0.25 / 0.5 / 0.5 to allow power net routing
widths in the range 0.25mm to 0.5mm, as shown in the image below.

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A variety of output file formats are supported, set the File Format option to Microsoft Excel6.
Worksheet. A number of Excel templates are included (and you can easily create your own), in
the Template field select BOM Default Template.XLT.
There are now two approaches to generating the BoM. You can generate it directly from this dialog7.
by clicking the Export button (enable the Open Exported option first, to see the result).
Alternatively, you can click OK to close the dialog, then back in the OutJob map the BOM to a PDF8.
Container. The Container will need to be configured to be Manually Managed, once that is done
you can click the Generate Content link to create the Excel format file and have it automatically
output as a PDF file.
Close the dialogs.9.

The report generation engine being used to generate a Bill of Materials.

For more information about Report Outputs and configuring your Bill of Materials, see Report●
For more detailed information about generating a custom Bill of Materials, see Generating a Custom●
Bill of Materials.

Congratulations! You have completed the PCB design process.

Further Explorations
This tutorial has introduced you to just some of the powerful features of your Altium electronic design
software. We've captured a schematic and designed and routed a PCB, but we've only just scratched
the surface of the design power available to you. Once you start exploring, you will find a wealth of
features to make your design life easier.

To demonstrate the capabilities of the software, a number of example files are included. You can open
these examples in the normal way by selecting File » Open Project from the menus and then
navigating to the Examples folder of your software installation.

Quickstart - PCB Layout
The Altium Designer Environment
Component, Model and Library Concepts

Page 78

Creating Library Components Tutorial
Multi-sheet design
Connectivity and Multi-Sheet Design
Multi-Channel Design Concepts
Design to Manufacturing
Generating a Custom Bill of Materials
Using Components Directly from Your Company Database
Tutorial - Integrating MCAD Objects and PCB Designs
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