Panel Builder

DRC Ribbon Menu The Panel Builder Plug-in is the perfect tool to plan and create production panels.

Panel Builder

By clicking on the Panel Builder symbol, the following dialog will open:

1. Clicking on "Add a new Step" enables you to create an additional step.

2. "Import Step" allows you to import a new design / step from another file.

3. "Create Panel (Simple)" is described separatly and in detail under the post "Create Panel (Simple)".

4. "Create Panel (Intelligent Nesting)" is also explicitly described in an extra post.

5. "Edit Step" is an additional functionality to be used to individually place the origin. 

6. The "Drag and Drop" option allows you to manually place the steps on your panel. Clicking on it, the following dialog will open:

  • Minimum Distance: Minimum Distance to another step that should not be deceeded.
  • Distance to Profile: Minimum Distance to the profile.
  • Show Measure Lines: Measure lines for a better handling of drag & drop.
  • Use Orientation Elements: Orientation elements for facilitating drag & drop.

7. Clicking on a step in the list, you can transform the selected step by rotating it or moving it in individually set intervals.

  • Minimum Distance: Minimum Distance to another step that should not be deceeded.
  • Distance to Profile: Minimum Distance to the profile.

8. This list shows all steps currently placed on the relevant panel with its most important information.

9. Clicking on "Set Fiducials" allows you to define markers on your panel. The following dialog will therefore open:

  • You can either use the values from the panel border or from the origin of the border.
  • If you want to place markers, you can select the starting point (left-top, right-top, left-bot, right-bot) from which they are to be placed and - if needed - the interval (X offset) that defines the spacing of the placement.
  • You have the choice between four default marker symbols; you can also load another symbol out of the default options or choose an own symbol from a library if needed.
  • You can also choose to add a mask opening; the size of this opening can be adjusted individually in mm.
  • Before setting the fiducial markers (Click on "Set Fiducials"), you have to select the propriate layer/s where you want or need to place the markers.

10. "Add Routing" is used to define the routing for your panel. Clicking on "Add Routing" will open the following dialog:

  • On the top of the dialog, there are four symbols to be further explained (from the left to the right):
    • 1. Symbol: For checking for components placed nearby.
    • 2. Symbol: For setting the cutout on your mouse position. To multiselect, you have to use shift key; to deactivate snapping, you have use alt key.
    • 3. Symbol: Use for multiply cutouts.
    • 4. Symbol: Use to clean double cutouts.
  • Routing Layer: Choose the layere you want to use for routing.
  • Routing Size: Select the size of the routing.
  • Cutout Length: Adjust the length of your routing.
  • CMP area: Set the size of the area not to have any components within it when routing.
  • There are three further options that you can select before creating the routing layer: 
    • Clear Layer to create a new layer in case of different milling thicknesses, 
    • Ignore Holes,
    • Only in Panel Profile.
  • After the creation of the routing layer, you can "Use Mouse Click" to define a cutout for each mouse click. You just have to click on the intended routing part to set a cutout.

11. For defining holes on your panel, click on "Set Holes". The following dialog will be opened:

  • Like described in "9. Set Fiducials", this dialog works practically analogously.
  • There is the possibility to decide for the hole shape for each position (left-top, right-top, left-bot, right-bot) by clicking on : You can either decide for an oval form or a round shape. 
  • You can define the diameter of the holes to be set in mm. 
  • To set the holes like defined before, just click on "Set Holes".

12. "Set Profile" allows you to define the profile of your panel. The following dialog will be opened when clicking on it:

  • You have the option between setting the contour according to a rectangle or a manufacturing edge: Depending on your choice you have to set different parameters.
  • Rectangle: You have to define the x and y axis as well as the width and height of your profile in mm. If needed, you can select to use rounded corners (you therefore have to define a suitable radius)
  • Manufacturing Edge: You have to define the size of left, right, top and bottom of your profile in mm. You can also decide for rounded corners.
  • By clicking on "Accept", the current size of all active layers will be calculated. If there is no active layer, all loaded layers will be used instead
  • By clicking on "Set by all Outlines/Objects", all loaded objects will be used for the calculation.

13. Here, you can add another step on your current panel by choosing the step out of the provided list options. You are able to select each step that has been defined for this design.

14. Clicking on "Apply" applies all changes made by you on your currently opened design. 

Create Panel (Simple)

There are two ways to quickly create simple panels.

Generation according to scheme

Main window

The two tabs switch between the generation according to the schema and the simple automatc generation. For simple automatic generation see Simple Automatic Generation. The red bordered window shows an already created schemata. The displayed schemes can be filtered by number, only those with a certain number of PCBs can be displayed. Expressions such as ">4" or "<=12" are also allowed to display only schemes with more than four or equal to or less than twelve PCBs. In the field "Panel Name" the name of the panel to be created is entered.                                                                                                                                                                                            To create a utility according to one of the schemes, either select the scheme and click on the "Create Panel" button, or right-click on the scheme and select "Create Panel" from the context menu (see next picture). The small rectangles are the individual PCBs. The number in the rectangles is the rotation of the corresponding PCB and the yellow lines mark V-Shears.  

This view shows the context menu when right-clicking on a schema. The selected schema is bordered in orange.

  1. Edit Pattern: Opens the editor for editing schemas with the selected schema.
  2. Delete Pattern: Deletes the selected schema.
  3. Create Pattern: Opens the editor to create a new schema.

Schema Editor

This image shows the editor for creating and editing schemata.

1. With "Count Y" and "Count X" the number of PCBs can be set between each other (Y) or next to each other (X). A click on the button "Refresh Preview" will update the view 3.

2. The  following settings can also be defined:

  1. Distance to Edge: The distance of the PCBs to the outer edge of the panel.
  2. Distance between Steps: Distance between the PCBs.
  3. V-Shear Distance: Distance between the PCBs at V-Shears.
  4. Panel Name: Name for the benefit. This setting is optional and overwrites the name in the previous chapter´s window.

With the "Export" button, the schema can be exported as an XML file. The button "Save" saves the schemata in the directory of the design. The key combination                     "Ctrl+S" can also be used to save the schema.

3. The view contains a preview of the schema. With the checkmarks V-Shears can placed between the corresponding rows/columns. The number fields can be used to adjust the angles of the individual fields of the schemata. To edit several fields at the same time, they can be selected with "Shift+left-click". A right-click on one of the fields opens the following context menu. 

 4. The button "Chessboard Pattern" selects the fields according to a chessboard pattern. The button "Reserve Selection" inverts the selection. A click on "All" selects all fields of the scheme. A click on "Row" selects all fields which are in the same line as the field previously selected by right-clicking. The button "Column" works like "Row", but selects all fields of the same column. All selections can be combined by holding down the shift key.

In the submenu "Set Angle" a common rotation can be assigned to all selected fields. 0°, 90°, 180° and 270° are available for preselection. By clicking on the "Custom" button, any angle from 0°-360° can be specified and assigned at 1° intervals.

 

Simple automatic generation

With the help of this tool, simple labels can be created quickly and automatically. The PCBs are arranged according to their surrounding rectangles to save as much space as possible.

  1.  "Panel Name" defines the name of the generated user. With "Used Step" the design to be used can be selected.
  2. You can choose whether the PCBs should be placed in a certain rectangular area ("Panel Size") or in a grid-like manner for generation according to a scheme (see above).
  3. Brutto Width indicates the total width of the blank, "Brutto Height" the total height. The upper field at "Manufacturer Edge" defines the minimum distance of the PCBs to the upeer and lower edge of the blank. The lower field is the minimum distance to the right and left edges. The net values show the available dimensions after deducting the minimum distances. If the "Allow Rotation" check mark is set, the PCBs may be rotated to achieve better use of the area.
  4. The Router fields set the distance between the PCBs when no V-Shear is used. The fields "V-Shear" are the corresponding distances if V-Shears are used. In both cases, the right field is the horizontal distance and the left field is the vertical distance. Which distances are used is determined by the check boxes.
  5. If the option "Step Count" has been selected for 2., you can set how many PCBs are to be places horizontally or vertically next to each other. The rotation can also be activated or deactivated via a check box.
  6. The Step on Origin option places the PCBs so that the lower left corner oft the lower left PCB is exactly at the coordinate origin. If the "Bounds on Origin" option is selected, the bottom left corner of the panel edge will be at the coordinate origin. A click on "Create optimized Panel" creates a panel with the above configurations.

Create Panel (Intelligent Nesting)

The Nesting Panel Optimizer automatically generates space-efficient panels from one or more designs.

Settings

1. The desired design can be selected in the dropdown menu and added by clicking on the "Add" button in the set number. The currently selected design in the main window is preset. Please note that you should set the expected number that fits the use. Otherwise it can take a long time until a good solution is found. In the "New Panel Name" field, enter the name of the panel to be created.

2. In this window, the designs to be placed are listed with their set number. The dimensions (width x height) of the design are displayed in the right column. 

3. Here, the dimensions of the blank can be entered. "Gross Width" corresponds to the total width of the blank, "Gross Height" to the total heigt. The net values refer to the area minus the distance that must be kept to the edge (see 4.).

4. These settings define minimum distances to the edge and between the designs.

  1.  X Left: The minimum distance to the left edge of the blank.
  2.  X Right: The minimum distance to the right edge of the blank.
  3.  X Top: The minimum distance to the upper edge of the blank.
  4. X Bot: The minimum distance to the bottom edge of the blank.
  5.  Distance Between PCBs: The minimum distance between single PCBs.

5. These buttons can be used to define areas on the panel which should remain free. The "Add from Selection" button creates areas from the objects selected in the main window and adds them to the list. Areas that are not within the use are ignored. Both buttons open the window below. New areas can be created and existing ones edited or deleted in the opened menu. The coordinates at "Position" refer to the center of the area.

6. If the check mark for "Allow Rotation" is not set, the PCBs are not rotated to achieve a possibly better utilization. If the check mark is set, the following options are available:

  1.  Any Rotation: The PCBs can accept any angle in 1° increments relative to the original design.
  2.  Multiple of 90 Degrees: The PCBs are not rotated or rotated 90°, 180° or 270°.
  3.  Multiple of 180 Degrees: The PCBs are not rotated or rotated 180°.

7. Via "Max. Calculation Steps" you can set the number of attempts after which the calculation should produce a better result. "Max. Calculation Time" indicates the maximum time the calculation should run before it is set automatically. The time limit can be deactivated if desired.

8. This switch starts the automatic generation with the settings made.

 

Running Time

When the automatic generation is started, this windows opens. It provides an overview of the current status of the calculation.

  1. The loading bar indicates that the calculation is still in progress. Above this, there is the maximum number of PCBs placed so far and next to it, you will find the number of the current test, as well as the maximum number of tests. The "Cancel" button can be used to interrupt the calculation at any time in order to select the best intermediate result. A small preview of the currently best use is shown in the red bordered area. The yellow markers represent the previously defined keepouts.
  2. In the log window some small values of the intermediate results are displayed. Below, there is the used are of the original blank and the minimum square area occupied by the placed PCBs.

 

Result

As soon as the automatic panel generation has been aborted or completetd, one or more desired results can be selected in the following window to create a panel in the main window.

  1.  One or more results can be selectd from this list by clicking. The currently selected result is displayed in the preview window on the right.
  2. If the check mark is set, all selected panels are generated by pressing "OK". Otherwise, only the single or first selected result will be generated.