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ECAD WorkGroup Manager - Using Altium


ECAD WorkGroup Manager - Using Altium

Hello all,

After years of administering Windchill and Creo at Alcon, I'm on my own working with several companies to optimize their use of Windchill and related.

I've recently contracted with Altium, working with the developmennt team. Several of Altium's customers have asked for "better integration with Windchill." This week we installed Windchill at Altium for this purpose and started some processes of more precisely defining success in this area.

Please look for 4-5 Altium employees to request membership to this group soon - and some active discussions / possibly surveys.

thank you


Hello Mike,

I am not an Altium employee, but one of the customers that has asked for "better integration with Windchill". I attended PTC Live 2014 and was disappointed with the lack of information regarding ECAD integration. It seemed to me that PTC has been mostly focused on MCAD data thru Creo software. The company I work for contracted an outside independent to help us integrate Altium with Windchill, thru the use of ECAD Work Group Manager. Since I am the ECAD Librarian, I was involved in the process and would like to be part of your development group discussions.

Thank You,

Kitty Hines

Can I ask what you are using for library management? Are you using Altium Vault? Does it now replicate to other sites?


Wayne Beck

Hi Wayne,

No, we are not using the Altium vault. We are using Excel exports from PDMLink for Database Libraries in Altium Designer. WT Parts, ECAD docs & 3D models (*.prt) all associated in PDMLink and linked thru added Altium attributes.

ME dept manages the prt's


Sorry if this is a "newbie" question/comment. I've looked at using Altium in the past and it didn't work out for our orginization, so it's been about 4 years since looking at Altiums data structure.

I seem to remember that Altium had an XML data format. If that's the case, then could you use some of the XML data exchange aspects of Windchill? I know that's how Windchill talks to Cadence (which is what I'm using). It might be a case where PTC has worked with Cadence to talk to the specific XML format that the Allegro tools use and may not have gone through that work for Altium. Just throwing that idea out there.


That is exactly what I'm hoping they are able to accomplish.

Thank You for the input.

Hi Pat and all,

That is pretty much the case. We are starting to work closer with Altium now and will be investigating what type of future integrations we can support for this customer base. As of right now there is no direct integration with Altium Vault and Windchill that I know of.

I would like to eventually have a meta data synch between Vault and Windchill There is also some discussions about making the check-in process to Windchill direct from Altium as well. Think "hidden ECAD Workgroup Manager" to some extent. I would be interested on any thoughts in these areas here.


Mark (ECAD Solution Manager, PTC)

As always, Mark, you're on top of things.

Hi Mark,

I'm so glad you are working with Altium on this integration project. My collegues and I think it's a great idea to Check In/Out through the Altium interface. The only thing we have a problem with is using the Altium Vault. For those companies that use the vault, I'm sure they will love this option. We have a different situation because our ME Dept needs to maintain control of the MCAD models and drawings (Creo). We also need to maintain the parameter values of each component for our Purchasing/Sourcing dept. Anyway, we are currently using ECAD WT Parts, exported data from Windchill to Excel spreadsheets, and created Altium database libraries. Can you also look into integrating without using the vault? In a sense, PDMLink is our vault and we'd like to keep it that way. But there is room for improvement and further integration with Altium Designer. We'd like to offer our assistance in anyway you may need help. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Thank You So Much,


Hi Mark

We are just moving over to Windchill and have been investigating how best to integrate Altium. We are using the Generic ECAD type because we want to keep all the Altium source together (PCB + Schematic).

At the moment we are only working with Documents but later in the year want to integrate the library as part of the Part and BOM implementation. This would give us a great advantage being able to create new parts in Windchill and use them in Altium. A method to allow Windchill to be used as the Altium Database woudl be fantastic.

Also tighter integration from within Altium and the ability to launch the Altium project from within Windchill would be great. ECAD generic does not allow this.

The changes in 10.2 are a definete step forward.

Please keep us informed on the progress and I am happy to get involved with feedback on proposals.

Steve Caine (GE Oil & Gas)


Steve and other Altium users,

I would like to point out that managing Altium data with separate board and schematic objects IS possible. A simple reconfiguration of the Altium directory structure is required - it's not OOTB Altium, but we have implemented it at several customers and it works well. Note that with this configuration, Altium can be launched from the WGM.

I would also like to note that managing the data as generic ECAD, prevents the use/creation of Visualization and thumbnails on the Windchill server. Not really a big deal for those with Altium licenses, but downstream data consumers would have access to design data for viewing and comparison with Creo View ECAD. The common event we see here is PCB Assembly engineers comparing solder paste masks between versions to insure a new paste screen is/isn't needed - or something similar.


Scott Claes


I’m novice in Windchill and I want to ask about an idea to implement Altium Designer Vault and Windchill partial integration/collaboration.

PTC  Windchill can cover whole product structure, including not only electrical components, assembled PCBs, cables but also all mechanical parts. And more: firmware, manuals, packages and all other items related to product could also be managed by PLM. Storing versioned datasheets and other part characteristics is easier managed by Windchill.

From the other side Altium Vault repository, which is fully and deeply integrated with Altium Designer is very well optimized for electronic engineers, so it doesn't make sense to use PTC Windchill as engineering repository for ECAD files.

With assumption that MCAD files will be managed by Windchill and ECAD files by Altium Vault, it is necessary to share some data between both repositories. Metadata, like part’s values, dimensions, weight, company’s stock numbers, availability, prices, manufacturer’s ordering codes, supplier’s codes, picture views, and many other data should be shared between PTC and Altium. Versioned 3D models (e.g. in STEP format) shall be transferred from Windchill to Altium for 3D view; information and some kind of data about new or modified footprints shall be provided by Altium for Windchill to allow creation or update 3D models of electrical parts or PCB assemblies. Because Altium offers really effective component searching across many suppliers around the world, such data could be uploaded from Altium to Windchill. Datasheets of electronic parts are also easier and faster entered via Altium environment.

And finally, not all company members require Windchill licenses. Purchasing needs only output data from Windchill as production documentation with partlists. Production needs in addition working instructions and test procedures which could be available from web interface without heavy license. Electronic engineers do not need licenses at all if Windchill could upload metadata (with revision status) and 3D models to Altium environment.

The basis of such concept is store in Windchill only released production data of electronic items. Similar for software: only versioned firmware executable codes (together with Software Configuration Index and software tools and procedure description for burning) shall be managed by Windchill. Using Windchill as repository for software development is very expensive and not optimum due to limited integration with software development tools.

So, what is your comments/suggestions about such integration idea?

There are integrations between Windchill and some ECAD vaults.  I think the only one that is an actual PTC product though is the Cadence EDM Library Manager.  This does a lot of what you say.  It synchronizes the libraries between the PTC Windchill instance and the Cadence EDM library instance.  You can sort of pick and choose when you configure it for what gets synchronized and what does not.  To do the same with Altium, I think there is some custom code required.  In the background of the Cadence/PTC integration, there are three main things going on.  1) Cadence has an import/export feature to directly edit the ECAD Database 2) PTC has a custom infoengine task that can directly edit the Windchill database and 3) Both of these features can read/write an XML file that is used to translate between the two.

I think you would need to create the #1 and #2 items above (probably keep with something pretty generic like XML for the actual data transfer medium), but you should be able to do it.