PCB Design Tools to Promote Engineering Team Collaboration

November 12, 2019 Cadence PCB Solutions

Picture of a youth orchestra playing a symphony in true team collaboration

 

I have always been a big believer in promoting the arts in the education of our children, especially the art of music. My desire was never for the kids to become the next musical superstar, instead I was more interested in them learning the value of working together with others to create something important. 

When you are involved in a choir, band, or orchestra, everyone is involved and you are never sitting on the bench waiting for an opportunity to participate. Even the smallest parts are still crucial to the whole performance no matter if it is singing a solo, or playing a single note on a triangle. When all of these different musical pieces are working together, the resulting symphony of music is a beautiful experience.

Everyone knows that PCB design is becoming more complex as new emerging technologies demand more from designers, while at the same time design schedules are continually getting shorter. To stay ahead in the technology development race, it is essential that design teams find new ways of getting their team members to work more efficiently together. 

The traditional design model of waiting for each individual contributor to finish their work before proceeding to the next step in the project, needs to be updated. To shorten overall PCB design cycles and leverage the skills of the group more effectively, it is important to find new ways to implement and promote engineering team collaboration. Here are some ideas on how to do just that.

What is Engineering Team Collaboration?

Design engineers that are able to work together on one design at the same time is the foundation for engineering team collaboration. Instead of a serial design process where only one designer works on the project one step at a time, multiple designers will work together in parallel on different portions of the same design. 

This collaborative effort can drastically reduce the overall amount of time needed to complete the project. Another important part of the team engineering process is for design groups to adapt and change their current design workflows to maximize the benefits that team collaboration will give them. It doesn’t help to have the ability to synchronize multiple engineers working together if the workflow is designed for a serial process.

For team collaboration to be successful in printed circuit board design, it is necessary to have PCB design tools that allow for multiple design engineers to work together on the same PCB layout at the same time. Where traditional design tools and processes allowed for only one engineer to work on the layout at a time, team design tools and processes can be set up so that multiple designers are working on the layout simultaneously. 

Known as concurrent engineering or distributed design, this engineering team collaboration can be accomplished in a couple of different ways depending on the needs of the design. With the necessary technology and methodologies that team collaboration software tools can provide, design groups can realize some tremendous benefits from these new design processes. 

 

Multiple engineers in PCB layout with color-coded workflows

Multiple designers working on the same PCB layout at the same time and in real-time.

 

How PCB Design Tools Can Help Designers to Work Together

When using team collaboration in laying out a printed circuit board, there are two approaches; concurrent engineering and distributed design. With the distributed design approach, the master layout is broken up into different sections to be worked on by different designers. This works well with designs that have specifically defined areas of technology as one engineer can route the memory while another is placing and routing a power supply

Each designer can see the entire board, and with the ability to update the view can continually see the latest changes made by the other participants. Although this approach does require some setup and ground rules between designers, it is still a very effective method of team designing a PCB layout.

The other approach to team design is even better. Concurrent engineering allows multiple users to work on the PCB layout at the same time, but without the need to partition off individual sections. Instead, the board layout is shared amongst all the participating designers allowing each to see the other’s changes being done in real-time. This eliminates the confusion that can happen when one section of a partitioned design conflicts with the neighboring work being done by a designer on an adjacent section.

Concurrent engineering design systems are usually configured so that other team members can join immediately without the need to first re-partition the design. Team members can also leave just as easily knowing that their work is saved to the master design. PCB design tools with concurrent engineering capabilities also have the ability to manage other changes made to the design database. Modifications to the design rules, constraints, netlists, and other imported design objects are managed cleanly so that users aren’t over-writing or disconnecting each other from the master design.

 

Updating constraint listings in PCB layout software

PCB Designer pausing a layout session to modify and update the master constraints.

 

The Benefits of Team Collaboration in PCB Design

With PCB design tools equipped for engineering team collaboration, your engineers will be able to cut down on the time it usually takes for circuit board layout. Instead of relying on problematic communication between multiple work shifts, everyone can work together at the same time to complete the layout. 

You also won’t have to rely on older methods of collaboration that required users to read and write sections of the design into one another. This was often a difficult process to manage, and opened the door to all kinds of errors and conflicts with intelligent net and component  information. With true team collaboration features in PCB design tools, you will have the ability for your entire team to work together to achieve the best design results with greater speed and with less errors.

To step into this new world of team collaboration for circuit board design, you need powerful PCB design tools with advanced concurrent engineering functionality built into them. Allegro PCB Designer from Cadence now has the Symphony Team Design option that will give you the team design capabilities that we have been describing. With it your designers can work together seamlessly on the same PCB layout in true team design fashion.

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts.

About the Author

Cadence PCB solutions is a complete front to back design tool to enable fast and efficient product creation. Cadence enables users accurately shorten design cycles to hand off to manufacturing through modern, IPC-2581 industry standard.

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