Starting with Altium

To better prepare myself for jobs, I’ve been trying to get into Altium. As I go through more and more job applications, I have started to realize I need to learn this sooner than later. It maybe sounds surprising that through 5 years of EECE I never had to use Altium, or never chose to use it.

For schematic building I have always used Circuit Maker 2000. A little outdated, but that was what I learned to Spice with. Later I played around with LTSpice, but the controls are quite different from Circuit Maker that I was more comfortable with. My first impression of Altium was it’s toolbar’s similarities with LTSpice.

Below are some notes for other people who are in a similar position.


Getting Altium as an UBC Student

Now, I had to do some digging. But something I didn’t know was that UBC EECE offers a digital license on their server. At this point in time, I’m not sure how long I have access for. I assume it is until my EECE account expires, not my CWL account.

To start, you would have to go to https://download.ece.ubc.ca. There you will see a landing page:

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There you will find a link to the downloads page, along with a README on how to setup the license. If you are like me, graduated and no longer on campus that often, you can setup VPN to access UBC Servers. You can find all that information here:


Learning Altium

I was lucky in immediately finding some good resources on learning Altium quickly. I used a combination of two resources:

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I watched the video at 2x speed to get the gist of things so I could get started quickly. He also occasionally inserts some good advice like parallel bypass capacitor selection that I will show below.

The second resource I would suggest as a starter is:

In the guide, you will be taught how to build the circuit below:

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Instead of following through the whole document, I scrolled through quickly to look at some pictures of the interfaces they used, and directly started building the schematic and PCB from the circuit above and information from the videos.

This method forced me to recall what I learned from the video, struggling a bit at times, but just enough guidance on the side to complete the project. Overall, building the circuit above took me about an hour and a half to learn and figure everything out.


Results

Like learning Solidworks for the first time, it was a lot of fun and the basics most certainly aren’t as intimidating and hard as I had imagined. I probably should’ve tried this earlier.

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Side note: Altium in my opinion is definitely a easier software to start with than AutoCAD or Solidworks. Though their functionalities are quite different. However, what I did barely scratches the surface of what Altium can do, and I really want to try Altium’s SPICE capabilities. In my experience, the hardest part of SPICE software is generally figuring out how to setup the simulation. Building schematics have rarely been hard.


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