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Altium presents 2020 PCB design roadmap

May 22, 2017

Altium executives are hitting the road to demonstrate the company’s current products and lay out their roadmap to 2020. They came to Boston Friday to describe products including the Altium Designer 17, CircuitStudio, and CircuitMaker ECAD products for PCB design as well as the Altium Vault data-management tool and PDN Analyzer (powered by CST) for power-delivery-network analysis. Next up will be Atina, an ECAD package that adds collaborative tools to Altium Designer capabilities. Presenters emphasized that as you innovate in the age of IoT, you shouldn’t have to wrangle with the design process. Altium’s goal is to let you focus on what you care about—“designing really cool stuff.”

Altium CEO Aram Mirkazemi described his company as having built one of the first to build affordable PCB layout tools—specifically for Windows, as the Mac failed to gain traction in the engineering community. Altium, he said, was first with realistic 3D visualization for rigid and flexible PCBs. Although Altium is ECAD-centric, the company works to facilitate communications with the MCAD and PLM worlds.

“The heart of the IoT is electronics,” Mirkazemi said, adding, however, that changes to current technologies will be needed to effectively produce an estimated 50 billion connected devices. Altium Designer occupies the center of an effective strategy for IoT design, he said, with the Octopart and Ciiva acquisitions adding support for search and discovery and for connecting design to manufacturing.

Mirkazemi described Altium products as related to a four-quadrant graph with the y axis representing complexity and the x axis representing levels of collaboration. At the bottom right sits cloud-based CircuitMaker, a free tool that provides access to reference designs and that promotes collaboration among the CircuitMaker community. With CircuitMaker, however, your IP is exposed to the entire community.

In the bottom left column sits CircuitStudio, a package designed for the engineer who designs PCBs from time-to-time. It’s affordable and intuitive, providing the capabilities necessary to capture a schematic, lay out boards, and send manufacturing data to a fabricator.

In the top left quadrant—for individuals performing complex designs—sits Altium Designer. The top right is currently empty, but around October it will be filled with Atina, which adds collaborative tools on top of Altium Designer’s ECAD functionality.

Also in October, Altium expects to release Altium Designer 18. The new version will build on version 16’s support for 64-bit operating systems. It will transition to a Microsoft C# compiler and make full use of multithreading and system memory.

Ted Pawela, chief marketing officer, noted that if asked what tools engineers use, they will often simply say “Altium,” not “Altium Designer.” So he wanted to emphasize that CircuitMaker and CircuitStudio are not stripped-down version of Designer but rather tailored for their respective audiences. The goal, he said, is not to sell a stripped-down product and subsequently up-sell customers with features they come to need.

In that case, why offer a free product? To continue innovation, Pawela said, Altium needs to capture and bring to the mainstream ideas that might bubble up in the maker community but that the commercial world may never think about. He also cited the mobility and flow of people—the students of today may be the engineers of tomorrow working for commercial companies.

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