Autodesk wants Altium’s PCB design but, so far, no deal

Jun 7, 2021 | Hot Topics

Last night in the US // early Monday in Australia, Altium and Autodesk announced that a deal may be in the offing. Autodesk has offered AUD38.50 (Australian dollars) per share for Altium, the maker of EDA solutions for printed circuit board designers, but Altium’s board is holding out for a higher bid. In case you wonder, that offer from Autodesk was worth roughly US$3.9 billion.

Who? What? Yes, a bit of a surprise. You may be familiar with Altium’s add-on for Solidworks, Altium Modeler, which allows users to create a SolidWorks assembly of a printed circuit board (PCB) directly from the Altium PCB design application. Altium Designer, the company’s flagship product, is a design environment for PCB design, while Altium 365 is the company’s PLMish offer to connect PCB design and its workflows to mechanical design (enclosures, for example) and then all of that to production-related collaboration.

So Altium’s board rejected the offer, but why did Autodesk make it in the first place? Autodesk told Reuters that it “wants to integrate Altium’s electronics design software with its engineering and manufacturing software platforms to provide its users with a host of applications under one cloud network”. Autodesk’s interest in electronics design isn’t new. You may remember that Autodesk acquired CadSoft in 2016, maker of EAGLE which it said at the time was “the people’s” ECAD tool. There were lots of exclamation points at the time (super excited!), but also the statement that

{Autodesk is] serious about becoming the standard for the design and manufacture of the whole product / widget / whathaveyou and this move into electronics is the next big frontier in our development as that company. So where in the past we’ve had amazing tools for mechanical design, 2D CAD, additive manufacturing, subtractive / CNC, even media and entertainment; the acquisition of EAGLE marks our push into the next big frontier: the board.

That was 2016. Since then, EAGLE has been integrated into Fusion 360, with “PCB design made easy for every engineer”.

Why Altium? According to Autodesk, “Altium’s solutions would be complementary to [our] portfolio”, perhaps indicating that Altium Designer, Circuit Studio, and its other EDA products would remain standalone — bit Autodesk hasn’t said.

Autodesk’s interest in electronics makes sense — many products are both electrical and mechanical and designing them in tandem will / could / should lead to a better, more integrated end-result. Siemens acquired Mentor Graphics for just such a purpose; why shouldn’t Autodesk? And when Altium, per Reuters, has customers including Apple, Facebook, Tesla, BMW, Intel, and Samsung. there’s a significant opportunity to sell outwards from EDA.

One last thing: In a best-case scenario for Altium shareholders, this news creates a bidding war as PTC, Dassault Systèmes and perhaps others vie for its EDA capabilities. We’ll have to see, no?