Light bulb outside

Discovering New Uses for Board Modeler with MCAD Design

Once in while you come across a feature or application that you find a new use for when you least expect it.

Recently, I was working on a project with an electronic design group and we decided to start the 3D modeling of the complete assembly to start some joint analysis with the mechanical engineering team. So we fired up Board Modeler and started to insert STEP models for the components and connectors on the board. As usual, I searched to see what models were already available in the existing mechanical library and we found most of the connectors, but luck was not on our side when we searched for the BGA or DIP packages (or for any board-level components) that matched the parts used on the board.

Light bulb moment

Like most folks, I started searching for the models on the silicon vendor web pages and even conducted Google searches, but we had little success in finding the correct package models we wanted to use to complete our 3D assembly. That’s when the light bulb came on. We opened the 3D Model Wizard within Board Modeler and were able to take the dimensions from the datasheet, and use the values to automatically create 3D parts for the missing components on our design. We spent only 15 minutes characterizing 10 unique packages, and created the models within seconds.

3D Model Wizard for a DIP package

Once we completed the 3D modeling of our assembly, we created a STEP output file to share with the mechanical team while we concurrently did some other collision testing and measurements within the product enclosure.

Expanding scope

After the mechanical team completed their review, we received some great feedback. Not only was the team able to accomplish accurate analysis of the product on the MCAD side, but they asked how we got the 3D models for the ICs and some of the connectors on the board (it was also helpful for them to have the electrical data like traces and vias for their analysis). So we set up a meeting and shared the capabilities for the 3D Model Wizard in Board Modeler (also available in Board Modeler Lite for CADSTAR) and both engineering groups agreed that this could be used to help create their library to support both MCAD and ECAD 3D assembly analysis; especially since the mechanical engineering group did not have an easy-to-use utility to create 3D models for components and connectors. We also identified that if the models were mapped to a common or existing part numbering system, we could automatically populate the board with the models to save time and effort in the mechanical and electrical design of their product.

This was one of those fortuitous situations where we were able to take an existing solution and expand its scope to add more value to the overall product design cycle.

Placement of 3D models generated from the 3D Model Wizard on the PCB created using Board Modeler – select to enlarge

Have a similar experience to share?

Do you have any similar stories you’d like to share about products where you were able to find a new use for a feature or application where it was least expected? Please share your story with us by commenting on this post.

Written by

Humair Mandavia is the chief strategy officer at Zuken, responsible for the SOZO Center, Zuken’s US R&D division in Silicon Valley. His responsibilities include working with industry-leading companies in the automotive, IoT, and other key technology sectors to help drive the latest innovations in electronic design to the market. A member of the Zuken team since 2004, his past roles include solutions architect, product manager, and director of engineering. Professional experience includes working as hardware design engineer at ADC Telecommunications designing ATM and SONET applications. Mandavia received his bachelor of science in electrical engineering and his MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas, and is a current board member for Si2.

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