The days when design was mostly about mechanical assemblies is over. It is hard to imagine a product today that doesn’t include any electronic components. Most of modern high-tech products can be easily called “software and PCB wrapped in plastic”. In such context, the trajectory of companies providing solutions to design PCB is especially interesting.
Check my last year article MCAD+ECAD and intelligent lifecycle can give you an idea about what is multi-disciplinary data and why is it really hard to manage.Modern products are creating significant amount of complex design and manufacturing planning challenges. The core cause of that is in an increased product complexity, integration of multi-disciplinary data, introduction of IoT and connected technologies.
I’m following vendors of ECAD/ PCB design systems and I can see an interesting trajectory. They are forming bundles. Here are few data points – Siemens PLM acquired Mentor Graphic. It was a big news just a little than few months earlier this year. As a result of this acquisition, I can see how Mentor Graphic systems will be bundled with Siemens PLM tools.
To assist with this, Autodesk has just introduced a preview of functionality that links the CAD layout and schematic design tools in Eagle with Fusion 360’s mechanical design. Whether it’s loading a PCB layout from Eagle and populating a Fusion 360 assembly or using Fusion’s tools to design the basic layout or tweak component positions and pass that data back to the PCB design environment.
In such context, Altium is one of the most interesting company. Altium is offering ECAD/MCAD collaboration package integrating between two worlds – MCAD and PCB). Altium press release from September announced integration with all 3 mainstream MCAD vendors – Solidworks, Autodesk Inventor and Solid Edge. Read more here.
My favorite passage is about seamless integration between Altium and Solidworks
SolidWorks Modeler for Altium Designer. By transferring data directly between Altium Designer and SolidWorks programs running on the same PC, designers need not use intermediate files to synchronize design changes and facilitate engineering change orders (ECO). This approach eliminates translation issues, saves time and provides a more detailed model of the PCB design in SolidWorks. By including PCB copper layers in the transfer, the design in SolidWorks can then be used as a starting point for more advanced mechanical CAD operations, such as thermal simulation.
If I check the landscape of all vendors, I can see how MCAD and PCB vendors created bundles – Autodesk + Eagle, Siemens PLM + Mentor Graphic, Solidworks + Altium. Here is the thing… while Eagle and Mentor Graphics are both acquired companies, Altium is independent. Which raises a question about future trajectory of Altium and potential of being acquired by Dassault Systemes / Solidworks. In the recent Dassault Systemes call with financial analysts , Beranard Charles of DS mentioned great partnership Solidworks developed with Altium:
And last but not least, we continue to expand our cooperation with third-party software. One of them is Altium. We can do circuit board design extremely well integrated, and we can provide solutions which are more than just the Solidworks desktop.
What is my conclusion? I can see future even deeper integration and interoperability developed between MCAD and PCB design vendors. While Solidworks is clearly one of the most interesting markets for Alitum to expand, it is also an opportunity for Dassault Systemes, / Solidowkrs, to provide a complete MCAD+PCB bundle. Altium was on the acquisition spree for the last 2 years acquiring companies such as Ciiva and Upverter. The last one supposed to give to Altium technology to develop future PCB design tool in a browser – the expertise that probably is missed at Solidworks. Will Dassault System Solidworks and Altium make a perfect couple in the future? There is a certain probability for that. Just my thoughts…
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Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.
Picture credit Solidworks blog