Desktop EDA provides two bi-directional 3D modeling solutions for Altium users who also use SOLIDWORKS.
1) Altium Modeler for SOLIDWORKS – use this if you can have SOLIDWORKS and Altium available on the same PC
This installs inside the Altium Designer application and allows you create Assemblies from your PCB’s and also allows you to perform live bi-directional updating between Altium and SOLIDWORKS.
2) IDF – use this if SOLIDWORKS and Altium Designer are on separate PC’s
IDF is an electronics industry standard for the interchange of design data between PCB CAD and Mechanical CAD tools. IDF files are used to interchange PCB design data between PCB and Mechanical CAD tools.
For the SOLIDWORKS PC, Desktop EDA provides the SOLIDWORKS IDF Modeler. This is a SOLIDWORKS Gold product that installs inside the SOLIDWORKS application. It allows you to create an Assembly from IDF files and also create IDF files from an Assembly.
For the Altium Designer PC, Desktop EDA also provides the IDF Modeler for Altium Designer. This installs inside the Altium Designer application and allows you to both create IDF files from your PCB design and also create or update a PCB from IDF files.
Desktop EDAs IDF solution allows you to model copper and silks screens even though these functions are not normally supported in IDF. Also, this product supports the automatic conversion of your embedded step models into SOLIDWORKS parts
Altium provides bi-directional IDF support, why should I use Desktop EDA’s product?
Desktop EDA has mature, industry proven IDF technology – this is the core of our IDF tool for Altium Designer. Our product also has additional features such as allowing you to model conductors and silk screens in SOLIDWORKS (provided you use the Desktop EDA SOLIDWORKS IDF Modeler).
If you would like to test the Altium IDF commands, here is where you can access them:
|Import IDF||File>Import >IDF Board|
|Export IDF||File>Export>IDF Board|
Altium provides 3D Modeling capabilities via Bodies and Step, why should I use a 3rd Party Tool?
Altium provides some excellent functionality to allow you to visualise your PCB in 3D while you are designing it. If you need to take your PCB into SOLIDWORKS, Altium provides an Export to Step command. When the resulting Step file is opened in SOLIDWORKS, it looks great and if all you are aiming to do is confirm that your PCB fits in the housing, and provided your design is not very large, you have a solution.
Altium Step Assemblies do not support copper or silk screens.
If you make a change in your PCB, to send that change to SOLIDWORKS you need create a new Step File and import it into SOLIDWORKS. If you have set up mates or other relationships in your SOLIDWORKS product assembly, these will have to be re-established when the Step model has been opened in SOLIDWORKS.
If you want to actually use SOLIDWORKS to design the shape of your PCB in the context of the product assembly, or you want to be able to make changes to your PCB once you have your PCB in SOLIDWORKS, the Altium approach falls down.
The full bi-directional functions provided by Desktop EDA will allow you to design in 3D rather than view in 3D.
Also, even though the Step file format works reliably, if you have the choice of working with native SOLIDWORKS parts or Step files, most SOLIDWORKS users would opt for native parts. The Desktop EDA solution allows you to work with native parts.
SolidWorks sells a product called SolidWorks PCB Connector, how does this compare with the Desktop EDA ECAD/MCAD solutions
This product has similar capabilities to the Altium Modeler for SOLIDWORKS which has been under continuous development for over 10 years.
Below are a number of observations we have made based on our evaluation:
- Installation is complicated as you need to install the Altium vault in addition to the product itself.
- Multi-layer PCB’s are not supported.
- Silk Screen and Solder Mask are not supported.
- You create a simple assembly and perform bi-directional interaction, but if you want to model copper, you use the save as Parasolid function to create a separate part form the one you use in the bi-directional functions. This is “untidy” and you cannot perform updates on a SolidWorks PCB part with copper.
- For Rigid/Flex, Desktop EDA creates an assembly in which each PCB in the Rigid/Flex design is a separate assembly. This allows you to include each PCB as separate BOM items.