XF reads both ODB++ database and .brd files, allowing users to import printed circuit board (PCB) geometry from circuit layout design tools, such as Cadence's Allegro PCB Design package. XF enables the customized construction of three-dimensional PCB representations and facilitates the data exchange between many applications in the PCB industry.

Check XF Application Preferences

Application Preferences

The location of Cadence's extracta executable is required in order to open Allegro .brd files so users must install Cadence's Allegro PCB Designer package on the machine running XF prior to setting the application preferences. XF cannot find and configure the executable automatically, so the location must be set manually by selecting Edit ❯ Application Preferences and working under the External Tools tab to specify the executable's directory under Cadence Extracta.

Importing an ODB++ database does not require any changes to XF's application preferences.

PCB Import Window

Import a PCB file.

Users can import a PCB file by selecting FileImportPCB ❯ and choosing either ODB++ or Allegro .brd. Selecting a file and clicking Open will open the PCB import window, where tabs and columns provide the available import options. One or more selections made on the left side of the window are displayed on the right side of the window for visualization purposes.

PCB Import window.

Some settings appear in the import window regardless of which file format is imported. The database ID enables XF to identify solid geometry as either an ODB++ database or .brd file to use for the merging function, and it appears as the assembly name in the project tree.

The Refresh and merge existing parts option should be checked when users wish to update an existing PCB assembly with a new version of the file. With the option selected, XF imports the new file and combines it with the existing PCB assembly while maintaining material assignments, grid definitions, and other modifications set by the user. This option is grayed out if no existing database files are found in the XF project.

The preview pane on the right side of the window displays the selections made on the left, and includes two tools for adjusting the view. The Zoom to Extents tool adjusts the view to include the space to which the import extends.

The Pan and Zoom tool allows users to move the view closer or farther using the mouse wheel, or click and drag to move the import in any direction without rotating.

When checked, the Render Selection on Top option places selected layers and nets before deselected items for increased visibility of deeply nested entities.

At the bottom of the window, the Import button imports settings that were previously exported and saved as an .xml file.

The Export button writes the tab settings to an .xml file. Users can import this file at a later time and avoid having to reselect the subsets.

Layers Tab

The Layers tab lists the PCB layers contained in the imported file. Users can select the layers to import and then modify their properties.

The following table summarizes the layers tab columns displayed for each file type during import.

Import Layer Type Material Thickness Layer Thickness Substrate Thickness Conductivity Permittivity Loss Tangent
.brd X X X X X X X
ODB++ X X X X

Users who do not want to select individual layers for import can click the buttons in the upper-right corner of the tab:

PCB import Layers tab.

The Import column lists the contents of the file in ascending order beginning with the top layer. Users decide which layers to import into XF by checking the box associated with each desired layer.

When importing an ODB++ file, layers with the assigned types signal, power, ground, drill, or mixed are checked by default, but can be deselected by clicking the associated checkbox.

The Layer Type column categorizes the layers according to specifications associated with the imported file type. Both .brd files and ODB++ databases require that each layer be assigned a type.

A .brd file designates three different types:

An ODB++ database has numerous designations, among which are signal, power, ground, drill, and mixed.

In the Material column, each layer is associated with the material it was assigned in the imported .brd file. Upon import, XF changes any .brd material names that match existing names but conflict with XF's material properties. This column is unavailable with ODB++ imports because these files have no material information attached to their layers.

The Thickness column displays the thickness of each layer contained in a .brd file. This total value provides the thickness of either a conductor or dielectric because they appear in separate rows, making it unnecessary to display each type's thickness in a different column. Users can edit the thickness values, if desired.

ODB++ imports combine conductors and dielectrics associated with the same layer into one row, but provide separate information for each type using different columns. The Layer Thickness column displays the thickness value for the metal parts contained in the layer. The Substrate Thickness column provides the dielectric thickness value.

Conversely, .brd imports separate conductors and dielectrics into different rows and have three columns that provide information for both types. Each column's value is editable for both types, but is only applied when the column's parameter and the row's type are used together.

The Conductivity column uses the conductivity parameter for conductors, and it is the only column used for both conductor and plane type layers. The permittivity and loss tangent columns remain active but their values are not applied.

The Permittivity column uses the parameter for dielectrics, and is used in combination with the loss tangent column for dielectric type layers. The conductivity column remains active but its value but its value is not applied.

The Loss Tangent column uses the parameter for dielectrics, and is used in combination with the loss tangent column for dielectric type layers. The conductivity column remains active but its value but its value is not applied.

Below the tab's columns, the Add Z Fixed Points option determines whether or not manual fixed points are added to the grid per layer in order to resolve the geometry adequately in the mesh. By default, the checked option activates the Per Metal Layer and Per Substrate Layer fields so that users can enter the desired value for each. Both fields are inactive when the option is unchecked.

The Total board Thickness displays the sum of the imported file's metal and substrate layers.

Nets Tab

PCB import Nets tab.

The Nets tab lists the PCB nets contained in the .brd or ODB++ file's imported layers. Users must select the desired nets, as well as their associated layers in order to successfully import and then modify net properties. Users who do not want to select individual nets can use the Import All and Import None to include or exclude all nets, respectively.

Imported .brd files separate nets by default, but when importing an ODB++ file, the import window includes a Separate column. Users can check the box associated with each net they would like to import separate parts for each layer. Users who do not want to select each net individually can use the Separate All and Separate None buttons at the bottom of the tab to include or exclude all nets, respectively.

When selected, the Boolean Nets option at the bottom of the tab combines nets and removes lines inside geometry for a cleaner appearance. It increases the import time, but the resulting geometry is less complex and easier to work with.

Crop Tab

PCB import Crop tab.

The Crop tab provides three options for importing subregions rather than the entire board:

Selecting Crop to Area enables the Set, Finish, and Reset buttons. The Set button provides two modes for defining polygon-shaped subregions, and applies the following options:

Either clicking Finish or pressing Esc closes out the options for defining polygons, and clicking Reset deletes all polygons.

  • Zoom the view during specification using the mouse wheel.
  • Pan by holding the Shift key while clicking the mouse.
  • Under the Nets tab, choose nets to be rendered before defining polygons for better visibility while drawing.

Wrap Tab

PCB import Wrap tab.

The Wrap tab includes options for creating flexible PCB geometry while importing either a .brd file or ODB++ database. Both formats provide a flat representation of the PCB that can be wrapped onto a target that must be created as a sheet, not a solid, before beginning the import process.

When checked, the Wrap option at the top of the tab enables the following settings:

Log Tab

PCB import Log tab.

The Log tab displays output from either Cadence extracta or the ODB++ database. This is where any errors while creating a 2-D shape will be reported.