Last year, for various reasons, we decided to take the plunge and move over to Expedition. I had had exposure to Expedition previously under the old VeriBest guise and I knew DxDesigner from my old PADS days, so I was well positioned to handle the change over.
The first and most obvious question we need to answer is what to do with legacy designs. Do we pay for, or try to convert them ourselves? Or do we maintain a Boardstation seat to handle sustaining engineering tasks? In the end it was decided that the most cost effective solution was to keep BS designs where they were - For the time being at least. Only new product and complete retracks would be put onto expedition.
Second, libraries, how do we recreate the extensive work we had put into our libraries in expedition?
For DxDatabook entries, we wrote a script to extract the information needed for each component type, from Boardstation catalogs. This was piped into a SQL database.
I am sure there are ways to translate symbol graphics, properties and mapping files into Expedition, but I do not believe there is an easy way to do it. In addition to this, regenerating symbols by hand as it were allows you to review your libraries, which will contain a legacy of symbols stretching back a decade and beyond. It gave us a chance to review the way we draw symbols, what properties we use by default and when and so on. To this end, we wrote a spec on how to create a symbol which ensured that every single symbol was drawn in the same manner, to the same scale.
In order to decide what symbols were essential and what symbols were perhaps less important, we extracted, from our MRP system, a list of the most used parts and cross matched those part numbers to symbols - Giving us a priority list. We could then see which symbols were going to be unlikely to be required for new product, and therefore not waste time recreating them.
Where we recreated symbols, we ensured that we used the same pin names and symbol names as the Boardstation libraries, in order to expedite processing of Boardstation mapping files to help create Expedition Parts.
Padstacks were recreated manually, it would have been a fairly easy process to ASCII out pads from Boardstation and import them into Expedition (using a handy little program called "geom2cell") but we wanted to take advantage of the Padstack Editor in Expedition, which, vastly reduced the size of our padstack library.
Cells were the easiest task. We simply created ASCII files of geometries per partition, and then ran them through the geom2cell program, and since we have named the newly created Expedition padstack library in the same way as our Boardstation one, the conversion was painless, and with a few click we had a fully populated cell library.
Expedition part creation was a mixture of manual and automatic processes. We wrote a script to look at Boardstation catalogs and cross match those to Boardstation mapping files, and it then creates an ASCII file in Expedition Part format. We then ASCII in that part to the relevant partition and check that the symbol and cell marry up as expected.
Things like Drawing Borders etc fro assembly drawings all came over as ASCII files, all we had to do was make sure we created the user layers we required in Library Manager.
Templates don't exist as such in Boardstation, so these all had to be created from scratch. But I like the concept of them, so we have made extensive use of them rather than just have a simple "vanilla" template. These were created on a per layer count/copper weight basis for layouts and CES (infact we have several CES templates due to creepage and clearance requirements)
The final phase was testing, from installation (which we wrote a spec for to ensure that each machine picks up exactly the right customisation files) all the way through to gerber/neutral file output.
We are at a point now where we could go "live", but since the need to have it installed is a few weeks away, we are using the time to write automation scripts in DxDesigner and Expedition to help with post processing.
The entire process, thus far, has taken around a year, of course during that time we have had to cope with ongoing project work on Boardstation. We have had regular progress meetings and documented everything we have done on a wiki site, we have a project plan and a schedule for each task which is updated regularly.
It is without question a huge undertaking, but it can be done, so long as you for allow enough time for preparation and planning and track your progress.