You guys need to plunk 3 K down and purchase the ELECTRA router. Then learn to use it. I never like to hear "WE ALWAYS ROUTE BY HAND". That tells me you are designing small boards, or dont know how to use a router. or you are simply farming out a design that should take you about half the time.
First of all, I will probably buy -- or at least try -- Electra, particularly based on Mr. Reagan's report. Unless Altium buys the router before I can get to it.... I'd much rather have a good router, better than the present router, than the development tools that come with DXP that I'm never going to use.
(I'm not criticizing Altium's decision to include those tools, it may be quite a good one, given the target market of the Protel, but my own subset of the market doesn't need them and would prefer to have a version of the program that does not include them. More accurately, we work with people who might very well use these tools; but what we need is more like PCAD, i.e., a tool for printed circuit design specialists. Only it would need to be Protel, i.e., fully interoperable with the full Protel suite, unlike PCAD, which, last time I looked, can only interoperate with Protel though sometimes problematic file translations.)
However, actual routing is normally not the biggest part of PCB design. If you are doing a lot of large boards, this may not be true, but the difference that even a very good autorouter would make to the bulk of designs we see is not all that great. Still, $3000 is not all that much if the router is good. I paid almost that much for the Router Solutions router -- Bartel's router sold in the U.S. -- more than 10 years ago, and that router paid for itself with a couple of jobs.
If a board is going to involve 8 hours of manual routing, it might be autorouted very quickly, but 8 hours is still just a day, and if it isn't *my* day but someone else's day, then it boils down to cost, it is not going to have a big impact on delivery. I.e., do I farm out the routing to another person or to a program? That depends on the cost of the program, how much routing I'm going to do in a year, and the hour rate of the person.
Mr. Reagan's previous comments about the advantages of having the router be separate are valid, except that the Protel license and protection is such that you can have multiple installations of Protel. I'm not sure whether or not it would be a technical violation of the license to install and run Protel independently on another computer, but if the purpose were merely to multiprocess, and not to evade licensing (i.e., to have multiple simultaneous users), there would be no violation in intent, and Altium has generally been supportive of multiple installations, such as having another installation on a notebook to take home. Now, if you've got only a single license, and the two computers have a live network connecting them, the program might refuse to run the second instance, when it detects the first running instance, but it is pretty easy to pull the network plug for that time.... What the program doesn't know won't hurt it.... So when the second computer is finished routing the board, save the files, shut down Protel, and plug in the network cable to access the routed board.
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