I have been having this issue for some time and have not yet figured out whether it is a user error or an Altium bug.

I have a PCB design with two layer stackups:

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In the Altium 3D view it looks good. You can easily see where the different layer stacks are applied:

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However, when I export to a STEP file and open in SolidWorks, the entire board is a uniform width:

enter image description here

The STEP export seems to ignore the layer stacks and just exports the entire board (or flex) as one solid piece. Altium claims to support rigid-flex and flex designs, but this export failure seems to be a significant problem. Is this a known bug, or am I using the tools incorrectly?

UPDATE: It appears the 3D-PDF export does it correctly, but I really need a STEP file:

enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ 1. Are there converters from 3D PDF to .STEP? 2. Try the forums at live.altium.com, usually people there are quite helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Wigton May 4 '16 at 16:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I already looked for a way to convert from 3D-PDFs to STEP but all I have is Acrobat Pro, which does not appear to have any method to do that. \$\endgroup\$ – DerStrom8 May 4 '16 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you import IDF into SolidWorks? I would try that way instead.. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel May 4 '16 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ SolidWorks does accept IDF but the same issue appears there as when exporting to STEP. The board is all one thickness. \$\endgroup\$ – DerStrom8 May 4 '16 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is a dedicated solidworks plugin for altium which gives reasonable results (can be real slow though). The step exporter in altium is pretty basic, it wouldn't surprise me if it was a limitation of the exporter itself causing your board to come out wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – Sam May 5 '16 at 9:38

Putting this into an answer. Looks like the technology licensed for the 3D PDFs is owned by this company, Tetra4D.

And you're in luck, my friend, they offer a free 28-day trial of their program that will convert PDFs to .STEP :)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, but I'm really looking for a more permanent solution. I first came across this problem at work about 6 months ago, and I ran into it again today. A 28-day trial is not going to help, and this is really something that Altium should be working on. \$\endgroup\$ – DerStrom8 May 4 '16 at 17:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough. I've had my own frustrations getting .STEP files for the mechanical team, so I get it. I would check out the forums then, or open a ticket if you're a paying Altium customer. \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Wigton May 4 '16 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I actually just created a ticket for this at Altium. Unfortunately unless 300 people vote on it I expect it'll be quite a while before they get to it.... Thanks for your suggestions, anyway \$\endgroup\$ – DerStrom8 May 4 '16 at 17:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sad but true. I've actually had better responses on the forum posts than filing tickets, even though I pay the maintenance fee every year! \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Wigton May 4 '16 at 18:20

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