HARTING and Altium collaborate on 3D circuits design

24th June 2024
Caitlin Gittins

The relentless trend of miniaturisation in electronics continues to challenge engineers to incorporate increasing functionality into progressively smaller devices. 

Traditional Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are approaching their physical limits, necessitating innovative solutions. One such solution is the 3D-Circuits technology, which integrates electrical circuits with three-dimensional mechanical parts. However, designing these intricate structures has been hindered by a lack of user-friendly design tools.

HARTING recognised this challenge and, with a pioneering spirit in 3D-MID, partnered with Altium, a renowned provider of advanced PCB design software. This collaboration has yielded two groundbreaking solutions: Altium Designer’s new 3D-MID design tool and HARTING's new standard product, the PCB Expander.

Revolutionising the workflow

Previously, designing 3D-Circuits was a complex and time-consuming process, requiring specialised software and expertise, which hindered the widespread adoption of the technology. The innovative 3D-MID design tool in Altium Designer removes these obstacles.

"The collaboration with Altium has been instrumental in making 3D-Circuits design more accessible and efficient than ever before," said Thomas Hess, Head of PM, Product & Technology Development at HARTING. "This tool empowers engineers to leverage their existing knowledge and workflows, reduces the time for the design and most important, compared to manual layout, it includes electrical design rules and schematic connectivity."

Key features of Altium Designer that streamline the 3D-Circuits design process include:

  • Leveraging existing assets: Engineers can use their standard library components and established schematic designs, eliminating the need to create new components specifically for 3D-MID applications, saving significant time and effort
  • Intuitive 3D design environment: The software provides a user-friendly interface for placing and positioning components directly on the surface of a 3D substrate, removing the need for complex 3D modelling expertise
  • Seamless connectivity routing: Connections are routed based on established schematic logic, ensuring design consistency and reducing errors
  • One-click manufacturing ready: Upon design completion, a single click generates all the production files required for manufacturing, streamlining the transition from design to production

Maximising space with the HARTING PCB Expander

The HARTING PCB Expander further enhances the space-saving capabilities of 3D-Circuits technology. This innovative product acts as an extension of the main PCB, eliminating the need for bulky subassemblies and intricate layouts that consume valuable space.

"The PCB Expander is a game-changer for engineers working in space-constrained environments," said Michael Mross, Project & Sales Manager at HARTING. "It allows them to pack more functionality into smaller devices without sacrificing performance."

The PCB Expander offers several benefits:

  • Maximised space utilisation: By offloading components to the PCB Expander, valuable space is freed up on the primary PCB, allowing for the integration of critical functions that would otherwise struggle for space
  • Simplified design complexity: The PCB Expander reduces the need for complex, expensive multi-layer PCB layouts, streamlining the design process and lowering overall costs
  • Seamless pick-and-place integration: The PCB Expander integrates with standard pick-and-place assembly processes, eliminating the need for additional or specialised manufacturing steps, resulting in faster production times and lower overall manufacturing costs
  • Seamless design workflow: The PCB Expander integrates effortlessly with Altium Designer, ensuring a smooth and efficient design experience from concept to production

A paradigm shift in design

The combined impact of Altium Designer’s 3D-MID design tool and HARTING’s 3D-Circuits technology extends beyond maximising space utilisation. This powerful combination enables engineers to create innovative and adaptable electronic devices, fostering a paradigm shift towards design efficiency.

"Our partnership with HARTING has allowed us to push the boundaries of PCB design software," added Jack Henriques, Product Manager at Altium. "The development of the 3D-MID design tool is a testament to our commitment to continuous innovation and supporting the evolving needs of the electronics industry."

This collaboration unlocks the full potential of 3D-MID technology, paving the way for a new generation of compact, high-performance electronic devices across various industries, from portable electronics and wearables to the Internet of Things (IoT) and beyond.


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