What is xSignal?


An xSignal is a designer-defined signal path between two pads within the same net or adjacent nets separated by series termination components, designed specifically to satisfy Matched Length design rules. Tips on what is xsignal?

To create an xSignal, select its start and end pads in Nets mode before running the Create xSignal command. Your new xSignal will appear under the PCB panel’s xSignals mode.

xSignal Analysis

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To create an xSignal, access the Multi-Chip Wizard through either the main menu or PCB layout panel right-click, and choose an input component and destination component before clicking “xSignals Wizard”. This tool will analyze potential paths between these components while taking into account any nets selected along their paths as well as any signals that might arise between them as well and the length of any branches that might form along these routes.

The results will be displayed in the xSignal Analysis dialog box along with their purpose and descriptions. Each xSignal can be identified using its name or sequence of letters and numbers as well as belonging to one of several xSignal Classes; this helps you organize them more easily when creating design rules.

After you’ve finished analyzing an xSignal, the PCB Layout panel allows you to create one. By clicking on the xSignals icon and running the Create xSignal command, a signal will be named using its source and destination components, with their names separated by hyphens – you can edit its name further in the xSignal Mode of the PCB panel.

xSignal Creation

There are a few ways of creating an xsignal, but the most common is to use the xSignals >> Create xSignal from Selected Pads command. This immediately creates a single xsignal between the selected pads (footprint) – the start pad and end pad. The new xsignal will be listed in the xSignals mode of the PCB panel.

You can also run the xSignals Wizard from the main menus or by right-clicking in the PCB layout, selecting xSignals >> Run xSignals Wizard and specifying the source and destination components. The Wizard uses a component-oriented approach to identify potential xsignals. You select the source component and the nets of interest, and the software analyzes all the possible paths from these pads to the destination, including through a series of passive components and any branches.

Once the analysis is complete, all potential xsignals are identified and listed in the xSignals region of the dialog. The xSignals are associated with an xSignal class if one is specified. You can choose an existing xSignal class or create a new one using the Object Class Explorer dialog.

Depending on the complexity of your design, you can select individual xsignals to modify their properties – for example, you can select an xsignal and change its Matched Length rule or its Scope. You can also select multiple xsignals and change their properties in batch.

You can also use the xSignals mode of the panel to view a list of all xSignals created by the software, and you can change the xSignal classes they are associated with in the Object Class Explorer dialog. This is particularly useful when you have many signals that you want to configure, but don’t want to edit them all individually. This way, you can select the signals that you need and create or update a class for them, which makes it much easier to manage them. The xsignal that you select is highlighted with a yellow line in the xSignals mode of the panel. The software also highlights the route between these two nodes or pads in blue – this represents the path that the software thinks the signal will take, based on the current topology defined for the net – in this case, it is the default Shortest topology.

xSignal Classes

Classify Signal Classes Associating multiple Signals Together via One Rule” Classify Signal Classes are collections of signals associated with one rule that can be easily edited using tools within the PCB panel, enabling designers to easily apply complex rules across large groups of signals – for instance requiring all signals with equal lengths which are required when transmitting over long distances between adjacent components – often required in high-speed designs where signals travel through various termination components and branches can present challenges for designers.

To create an xSignal class, access the PCB editor and use the xSignals panel with the xSignal Wizard. It offers several modes for creating xSignals depending on what kind of circuit design is taking place – custom multi-component interconnect mode, DDR3/4 memory interface mode, and USB 3.0 modes provide their own sets of xSignals classes and Matched Length rules that you may choose from when using it.

When running the xSignal Wizard, select two pins from different components and input pins from a third component as output pin and target input pin respectively. The Wizard will then identify all necessary xSignals; their list can then be seen under “xSignals” within your panel’s “xSignals” area if selected – along with their lengths (the sum of individual placed track/arc segments that form their route plus any vertical distance traversed via vias).

Select xSignals can also be easily associated with one or more classes using the management buttons, or by right-clicking in the xSignals region and choosing “Add Class from the context menu.

Once a class has been created, it can be applied to any xSignal in the xSignals panel by simply right-clicking and selecting “Apply xSignal Class”. This will apply all relevant class rules directly to that xSignal as well as to its connections; additionally, its rules will help scope applicable design rules during interactive tuning tasks in PCB Panel.

xSignal Matched Length

Altium Designer provides an xSignal feature that allows designers to treat high-speed signal paths as single objects that can be scope-matched for length. For instance, if an electrical signal starts at one IC pin and terminates on a resistor before continuing through another pin into a capacitor – treating the entire path as one single xSignal can give designers precise control over exactly how long each net must be for proper operation of their circuits.

xSignals are especially useful for differential pairs, where signal traces should have similar lengths to prevent timing mismatches that cause data latching at incorrect states in the receiver. This requirement is key in many high-speed protocols like Ethernet and USB. Furthermore, this technique can also be applied across a group of signals by creating one single xSignal for all in its entirety and then applying this in the scope-matched length design rule.

Length matching can be achieved by specifying a tolerance value in the xSignal Matched Lengths panel of the Design Rule Manager, either as a percentage or time value; signal/pair lengths will then be displayed in yellow and red to help identify violations to this length/matched length design rule.

Use the xSignals Wizard to quickly set up a group of xSignals that are automatically scope-matched, eliminating the need to individually check each net. This feature is particularly beneficial when matching differential signals for signal integrity purposes in high-speed designs such as Fly-by or T-Branch DDR3 memory layouts.

To use the xSignals wizard, first select either Differential Pair or Single-ended Net Name in the Net Routing – xSignal Matched Lengths Panel of Design Rule Manager. Next, use the xSignal Wizard’s first page of the panel to select source and destination components for each signal/pair; its length-tuning algorithm will adjust each length component automatically (such as series termination resistors or routing paths from T junction to destination component), along with total routed length (including all tracks arc segments or vertical distance traversed via vias).

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