Mentor puts 3D design at the heart of PCB place and route

Mentor Graphics has made its move into 3D design for PCBs with a tool which brings the power of 3D visualisation into classic PCB place and route design.

3D mechanical kernel integrated int o PCB electrical design tool

3D mechanical kernel integrated int o PCB electrical design tool

This is the first of a number of changes to the firm’s Xpedition PCB design tool, which are planned for this year.

“We have integrated a 3D mechanical kernel into the tool,” said Charles Pfeil, engineering director in the systems design division of Mentor Graphics.

Many years in the making, Mentor has given the tool four million 3D component models.

“The biggest impediment to 3D design has been the availability of models,” said Pfeil.

The company is adding 100k new part numbers to the model library every three months.

“It is also possible to input new component models as STEP and SAT files,” said Pfeil.

But not all PCB design benefits from 3D. Component placement and mounting rigid-flex circuits in an enclosure benefit from 3D visualisation and design constraints, but track and via routing is still best implemented in 2D.

Mentor has decided to closely couple the 2D and 3D elements of the PCB design to make it more accessible to the engineer.

“2D and 3D environments are the same and this is a huge advantage,” said Pfeil.

This latest version of the PCB design tool, which represents a six year development, also includes a new approach to design automation, a new graphical user interface and systems-level design capabilities.

For example, a feature called Sketch Router is intended to give the user a greater level of manual control over the automated routing process.

“Fully automated routing is still not sufficient, and needs a manual element,” said Pfeil.

Automated design, for example, does not make the most efficient use of track vias through the PCB.

“In high speed circuit designs the number and position of vias is a major issue so it is important that the designer retains manual control over via placement,” said Pfeil.

There is also automated routing of differential pairs with phase and length matching, symmetrical pad entry and curved traces, rather than 45 degree angled traces.

“We believe the automation of length and phase tuning will be a radical change,” said Pfeil.

Mentor has also added to the component placement process by allowing the user to create hierarchical component sub-groups such as DSP, processor, memory and I/O.

But it is the 3D design capability which will catch the eye with this latest release, which is the first of a number of enhancements to the Xpedition tool set planned for this year.

“The aim is to reduce electrical/mechanical design iterations by specifying 3D design constraints and providing dynamic checking during the placement process,” said Pfeil.

The Xpedition PCB design tool will be generally availability by the middle of the year.






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