Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are the central ingredients of an electronic product. The PCBs are designed through layout software. The design of each PCB is dependent on the capability of software on which it is being designed. Choosing the right PCB software for your design is going to play an important role in the success of electronic product. Selection of right PCB layout software is a tricky job to do. This article is dealing with various PCB layout design software which are widely adopted across the globe. This article also summarizes the pros and cons of each software.
Different Types of PCB Packages
The following are major categories and sub-categories of PCB packages.
- Commercial PCB Packages.
- Low cost PCB packages.
The Commercial PCB Packages
The commercial PCB packages are mostly utilized by professionals. These professionals have a high quality design environment and are dealing with making consumer and military electronics. The commercial packages are comprising of various features e.g. single length tuning, pair routing capability, high speed routing and etc. Such packages are available having built-in simulation solutions along with hierarchical schematic entry.
The following are most widely adopted software all across the globe.
- Altium Designer
Altium is a popular software developed by Altium Limited for designing high end PCBs. The software is used internationally. It comprises of PCB module with schematics. The schematics can be auto-route in to PCB layout. It has other routing features as well and is supporting 3D modeling and track length tuning as well.
- It has capability of high end product design.
- It is easily accessible.
- It has both schematics and PCB layout options.
- It has routing features.
- The price of Altium Design is very high.
- The software is not for beginners as it required good schematics and PCB knowledge.
- This software can only be used on Windows OS but not on any other operating systems.
OrCAD is among the most professional PCB layout software used today. The software is available in market and has high tech features needed by a professional PCB designer. The features of software includes DFM checking, 3D modeling, curved routing, group routing, and auto-routing etc. It has different trimmed versions including a free trial version known as OrCAD lite having limited features.
- It has a number of PCB design tools.
- Best to be used by professionals.
- It has various versions including a limited featured free version.
- It can be ticky and difficult for new users because it has high end commands.
- It is quite expensive.
- The software can only be run through windows OS but not on others such as Linux etc.
- PADS (Personal Automated Design)
Personal Automated Design is an ultimate package for those who want to have perfectly designed professional PCBs. The software is designed by mentor graphics and comes in 3 different levels. The levels are distinguished as Professional, Standard, and Standard Plus each having different levels of features. The features comprises of auto-router, project management functions, signal integrity analysis, and thermal design consideration etc.
- Professional PCB design software cheap in price.
- It has online libraries for different parts, free to download.
- It has user friendly interface.
- It has additional project management and design documentation production features.
- The professional package is costly.
- Not recommended for beginners.
Pulsonix is an amazing PCB design software having rich features including layout and schematic design. It has a built-in SPICE module for simulations. It has almost every feature required for designing a high end PCB layout such as differential pair routing, track length tuning, and push shove routing etc. It has capability of supporting hierarchical schematics which are allowed for complex PCB designs. There are some low cost versions such as easy-pc and design spark etc.
- It has all high end features required for designing professional PCBs.
- It has different versions available.
- Perfect for professional PCB designers.
- Pulsonic is very costly software when it comes to having all high end features.
- It has sophisticated design mechanism.
- The software is not recommended for beginners.
- MultiSim and UltiBoard
Multisim is offered by national instruments best suited for designing simulation circuitry, while Ultiboard is a special Ad-on for the software for conversion of circuitry in to PCB layout. The national instruments are famous for the testing of electronic equipment and developer of simulation software. Multisim was first only for designing electronic workbench, however after National Instruments acquired it offered extended features of simulations and PCB layout design.
- This is a very popular 2 in 1 circuit designing and PCB layout designing software suite.
- It is very cheap and available online.
- Ultiboard is capable special ad-on of multisim for PCB design.
- The software is available in different versions.
- Ultiboard is less popular for PCB layout even multisim is very famous.
- The software is recommended for beginners.
- It can be used in any operating system.
Low Cost PCB Package
Along with professional packages, there is another category of PCB packages known as low cost PCB software suits. These packages are suitable for beginners and students. Such software are readily available and are cheap as well. These software packages are utilized for designing low end PCBs having simple designs. These software are not having high end tools e.g. differential pair routing and track length tuning tools. Those who are new in to PCB layout designing are highly recommended to use any of these software. Following are some famous low cost PCB software.
- CS Eagle
CS eagle is one of the famous software that thousands of engineers, designers, and students are using. This is an open source software and very easy to use because of its simple interface. The software is available for almost all operating systems such as windows, Linux, and Mac etc.
- The software is very easy to use and has user friendly interface.
- The online community of software has answers for all questions relevant to software and its working.
- Various versions are available depending on experience of users.
- Cheap in price.
- Complex PCB layout can also be designed through this software.
- The software is not considered as professional and commercial PCBs cannot be designed.
- It lack high end routing features.
KiCAd is also an open source software suite which is recommended for students and beginners to start designing PCBs. The software is also comprising of a schematic design suit along with component and PCB modules. The software suit is offering various high end features such as shove routing, differential pair routing, hierarchical design, and 3D modeling etc.
- It is an open source software and is completely free to be used.
- It has advance options similar to expensive software.
- Online libraries are available which can be downloaded and used easily.
- Its interface may be difficult to understand for some users.
- Different modules of software are not gelled together well and often crashes.
- Documentation support is limited.
DipTrace is a very popular software and is used in almost all universities by students. The software can be acquired free of cost and has a robust interface with abundant features. Diptrace is a 3 in 1 solution comprising of schematic editor, component management module, and PCB layout module. The software is comprising of 3D view capability as well. The software is able to be used on any operating system such as Windows, Linux, and Mac etc.
- The software is easy to use and has user friendly interface.
- It can be used through all operating systems.
- It is 3 in 1 software i.e. PCB layout, schematics, and components management included.
- Highly recommended for students.
- Not up to the mark when compared to professional or industrial PCB layout software.
- Not recommended for complex projects.
- PCB Wizard
PCB Wizard is an outstanding tool for PCB design and layout creations. This software is enabling users to have single and double sided PCBs. The software is very easy to use because of its user friendly interface. It has a board layout capability along with schematics capture and automated PCB placement of components. It has an auto router as well which makes working very easy for user. It can also be integrated with other simulation software through livewire or control studio 2 etc. This software also allows to acquire bill of material ( BOM) as well.
- Perfect for new users as it has almost all component set and has user friendly interface.
- It is available free of cost.
- Only sided and dual layered PCBs can be design through it.
- 3D view is not available.
Eagle is among the most adopted software used for the creation and design of PCB layout. The software is free of cost and has a user friendly interface making it very easy to be used. The library is vast and has almost all components that exists. Updating the software is not recommended as bugs may incorporate when you change your machine for editing the PCB layout.
- The software is free of cost.
- User friendly interface and easy to use.
- Updating software may cause bugs in Layout design.
Software used at RayPCB
RayPCB is a professional company using numerous software for PCB design. A dedicated team having hands-on experience of various software is there for designing the schematics, testing, and then converting it to PCB layout. The PCB layout is of great quality, however the use of software is dependent on the requirements of customers. If the required PCB is of professional level then software like Altium and PADs are used, else DipTrace or EagleCAD etc is used.