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January 29th, 2014:

3D Bodies View

For previous boards, I’ve never had a need for it, but Altium provides a neat feature for modeling the 3D bodies of your components. While many hobby boards will have plenty of space and components with a very simple vertical presence, certain projects and components may be a little more complicated. In my case, a few components, would stand off from the board allowing space to place certain components underneath them. Often this would be enough space for a microcontroller or flat parts but not enough space for headers, connectors, and larger capacitors.

When designing a component in Altium, you have the option of specifying a number of “3D bodies” in addition to the pads and silk screens that you are probably already familiar with. These 3D bodies give you the ability to specify in a fairly simple way the vertical component of the part. While nowhere nearly as sophisticated as a 3D modeling program, this is quite sufficient for describing the basic shape of a component in 3D including overhangs, shaped extrusions, cylindrical buttons, and even spherical bodies.

The most basic benefit of using this feature is that you get access to a much more powerful component placement rule check that takes into consideration the 3D bodies, when available. The other benefit is that you can now get a better feeling for what your board looks like in 3D view.

led_200_pcb3d

 

Last, but certainly not least, this 3D PCB can be exported in a format that is compatible with 3D modeling software so that you can better model either multiple circuit boards or the PCB’s participation in an enclosure.