It may seem counter-intuitive, but the ECAD design of printed circuit boards (PCB) usually begins in the MCAD world. That’s because PCBs must be enclosed for a couple of reasons. First, people like products that are appealing and user-friendly and that’s the purpose of the enclosure. For example, it’s hard to buy any home appliance that doesn’t contain some electronics. However, users interact with appliances by pushing buttons or turning knobs. These are designed in MCAD. Second, even in the case where screen icons and voice commands are replacing mechanical switches and buttons, the internal components of a PCB are very sensitive, and enclosures ensure that they are protected from contaminants.
Therefore, the ECAD designer needs to know the area available to work with. This definition is called a board outline or shape. MCAD designers should have an understanding of where the buttons, switches, connectors, etc. should be located on the product. They also should define how the PCB should be secured to the enclosure, so the location of the mounting holes must be provided. Finally, the MCAD designers should define locations on the PCB that require particular clearances.
So if you’re an ECAD designer, how do you collaborate with your MCAD counterpart using Collaborative Designer for Altium?