Using Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design software is an excellent way to create high-quality designs efficiently without errors.
Without the software, electronic engineers and designers can face a lot of difficulties in designing everything from scratch, assembling it, and waiting for design approvals.
Unlike manual methods that consume a lot of time, effort, and resources, PCB software will streamline your work and increase productivity. You also don’t have to fear the risks of errors that kill time and delay production. Instead, you can use PCB software to design with speed and accuracy.
So, when you want to use PCB design software, plenty of them are available in the market, making it difficult to choose what would be best for your needs.
Don’t worry; we have outlined some of the best PCB software in the market for you.
Have a look!
What are PCBs?
Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are laminated sandwich structures consisting of insulating and conducting layers. It’s essentially a board connecting different electrical components and creating an electric circuit to power your electronic device.
PCBs are used in almost all electronic gadgets, forming their building blocks. They are used for two main functions:
- To assemble electronic components in their selected locations on outer layers through soldering
- To enable electronic connections between component terminals
Conductive layers are designed using conductors to provide electrical connections. Another process is implemented to add vias, which are electrical connections between different copper layers.
PCBs support various electronic components mechanically with the help of conductive pads designed in such a way that they can accept the component terminals and connect them electrically using planes, traces, and other features.
What is PCB Design Software?
Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design refers to designing PCB components, assembling them, and routing to establish electrical connections on a circuit board to power the electronic circuits. And the software that can help you do this can be called PCB design software.
Some features of PCB software are:
- Schematic editor to help you assemble and edit electrical objects, components, graphical objects, etc., on schematic pages
- 3D visualization and 2D schematics of a printed circuit board to see how your design looks like and help you identify your mistakes and edit the components easily. In short, they work as circuit makers to make the design go live.
- Autorouting to connect various points automatically on a PCB for enabling electrical connection
- Design rule checking with the help of various tools to identify design flaws and violations (based on industry or company guidelines) that can arise issues in terms of power, signals, EMC, etc.
- Collaboration features help different designers work on a design in real-time, make changes, add comments, provide feedback, etc.
Designing a PCB involves various steps:
- Component placement: You can start designing a PCB by converting your schematic PCM diagram into a tangible circuit board. You will need to use your problem-solving skills to assemble the components at the right places.
- Routing: This is the process where you will establish an electrical connection between different components on your PCB layout. Routing for every circuit board is unique; hence, you will find circuit boards different from each other.
- Integration: At this point, you will need to integrate ECAD and MCAD software such as Eagle, Fusion 360, etc. It will help you share your design with your mechanical engineers, who will evaluate whether it will fit the physical layout or not.
Why do you need PCB Design Software?
A PCB’s mechanical structure may contain complex parts. Hence, PCB design software helps you make this PCB designing process easier, faster, cost-effective, and efficient.
Let’s look at the benefits of PCB design software in detail.
Designing everything from scratch takes a lot of time and effort as you have to think about designing, assembly, and electrical connections from the beginning.
However, if you use PCB design software, you can make this process faster by choosing pre-made designs that come with the software. You get plenty of options to choose from that are most suitable for your design requirements. This will save significant time in designing, and hence, you can also accelerate the product delivery.
Using specially-built software to design your PCB helps designers produce a high-quality design with ease. They can leverage various features from the software in their designs instead of doing everything manually. It reduces their hassles and frees time to invest in other innovative work.
Easy to test design performance
Creating a PCB design is not the end of the road for designers. Their design will go through the testing phase, where engineers will verify the performance and feasibility of the PCB designs. And manually testing PCB designs is a hassle, labor-intensive, and time-consuming process. It also may involve inaccuracies that can result in serious design flaws and deteriorate final product quality.
However, using PCB design software will make it easy for you to test your design’s performance, strength, and feasibility virtually in an environment. It will help you quickly detect issues and errors in your designs with better accuracy. As a result, you can improve the design to manufacture a high-quality product out of your solid design.
Manual methods can be inadequate to provide wider details on your PCB design. This can lead you to miss something or leave some errors. But if you use PCB software, you get fantastic features such as 3D visualization to check your design from every angle. It will give you a holistic view of each finer detail of your design, making it easy to spot errors.
Creating a PCB design, assembling the parts, establishing electrical connections, testing the design, and producing a product by manual means may take significant turnaround times. All these processes require time and workforce, machines, power, and money. And if you are to make changes to your design, the overall expenditure increases even more.
PCB design software is a cost-efficient approach that allows you to perform all the processes in quick turnaround times while saving you resources and money. It’s also easy to make changes quickly in the software and modify the design at any phase.
Applications of PCB Design Software
PCB design software helps improve your design layout, including trace routing, component alignment, rule checking, etc. These capabilities help you improve your PCB design’s quality and result in high-quality printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing.
PCB design software is used by electronic engineers from a corporation, freelance engineers, engineer entrepreneurs, and electronic hobbyists for various use cases. Some of the applications of PCB design software are:
- 3D component visualization: You can use PCB design software to catch faulty components interfering with your electrical circuit. This may not be possible with 2D software. By detecting the issues and fixing them in the early stages, you can prevent the design from going into the production pipeline or unnecessary time and resource wastage.
- Layer structure visualization: You can use PCB design software to visualize your PCB design’s layer structure. It helps you create a single, double, or multi-player printed circuit board based on your requirements.
Let’s now discuss some major PCB Design software available in the market.
Get the most powerful PCB design software – Altium Designer – that is modern and easy to use. Its design environment lets engineers view each aspect of the design process, from ideation and brainstorming to PCB layout, documentation, and manufacturing.
Engineers will find it interesting to work with the design tools and deliver better quality products from the same intuitive environment. You can create a cohesive and single model that can act as a central model to manipulate your data within the model (layout, schematic, simulation).
Altium Designer integrates with other ECAD/MCAD, such as SOLIDWORKS, Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk Fusion 360, and PTC Creo Parametric. It is a cloud-based platform that unites MCAD, teamwork, data management, and PCB design.
Collaborate with people in real-time on your design whenever you want, irrespective of your location, to receive feedback or comments and work on the issues instantly. You can store all the essential files in a centralized location to avoid miscommunication between teams and foster successful production.
Furthermore, you can work in native 3D PCB design by interacting with mechanical designers in 3D and photorealistic environments. The software will make it easy to work with the mechanical team by collaborating with MCAD software. It will also make you forget about swapping files from one software to another as you get everything on a single tool.
Take a free trial to test the features you would love to have in the design software. You can choose from the year-based and indefinite periods of subscription.
Fusion 360 contains engineering, design, manufacturing, and electronics in a single platform. It is a cloud-based platform where you can perform PCB designs, CAD, CAE, CAM, and 3D Modelling. It gives you the products or tools you want to ensure function, fit, form, and mainly aesthetics.
After PCB design, check your design impact by ensuring manufacturability with the generative design tools and simulation. Edit the model fixtures and existing features with the integrated CAD and CAM software tool. You can feel the flexibility of the software when you use it, which enables you to produce quality products effortlessly.
Avoid using manual electronics workflows and interchange file formats; you have Fusion 360 to work with so that you never struggle harder to get the complete error-free product. The full-featured PCB design, schematic capture, and mechanical CAD give you the necessary tools to produce reliable designs. You can also check your product performance with the simulation software and test your designs before manufacturing.
Fusion 360 offers you some CAD-ready geometry so that you do not need to design from scratch. You can start generating geometry by giving inputs like parameters, materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints. Don’t let your time zones, reviews, and locations lengthen your production process. Instead, view all the designs and data in a single data management software.
They have three pricing options starting from a monthly plan of $42 to three years plan of $987. Download the free trial as a business owner or student.
Reduce design iterations with Siemens PCBflow’s secure cloud PCB DFM tool based on manufacturer constraints. It gives you automated online DFM with real data and detailed error reports to understand more and work smarter. You also get the flexibility to run multiple DFM throughout the process without waiting for a manufacturer.
PCBflow is powered by Valor NPI. Whether you are a startup or an enterprise, DFM is accessible for everyone. It is designed to save resources and time in delivering high-quality products. With frequent DFM analysis, you can save hours and get the final product in time without compromising quality.
Sign up now to take a test drive. If you like the software, choose a subscription plan that best suits your design needs.
DipTrace provides an intuitive interface so that you can focus on the projects to complete within the specified timeframe. This PCB design software provides desirable capabilities, such as differential routing, hierarchical schematics, ODB++ compatibility, STEP 3D, and in-depth rules with DRC check.
Exchange your data easily with Altium, OrCAD, manufacturing tools, 2D/3D CADs, PADS, and Eagle. It has wide import and export capabilities so that you can convert your schematic to PCB and back to the same easily. In addition, you can onboard yourself with your design capabilities with the shape-based router and manual routing.
You will get high-speed signals, 3D preview, Gerber, STEP export, and more in PCB layout. Create and import components from DipTrace’s library, which also gives ready-to-use templates, IPC-7351 pattern generator, and editing tools. Its library also contains 1,60,000 packaged components and over 10 million parts.
DipTrace allows you to review your design at any stage during the development process. It also offers 3D model generation tools and more than 11000 package models.
Start with a full-featured 30-days free trial, which is now available in Windows 32, Windows 64, and macOS. If you like it, get the paid subscription at $75 for 300 pins and two signal layers.
Ultiboard is the PCB design software that offers efficient design routing and layout with a customizable environment. The printed-circuit-board design integrates with Multisim to run PCB prototype development. You can use its flexible tools to design and manual precision to define critical board elements.
The automated functionality of Ultiboard helps you in completing your whole design quickly. Its advanced design wizards, toolbox, and spreadsheet view allow you to manage, define, and control any board layout with ease. In addition, forward-backward annotation helps you in better iteration management.
You can export industry-standard files such as DXF and Gerber to complete your design flow (schematic to layout). Furthermore, Ultiboard provides many electronic solutions so that you will never be left behind while designing and manufacturing your electronic components.
Choose your software edition to define your license term, duration, and delivery method and buy the subscription. It supports the English language and Windows operating system.
Get a comprehensive PCB design solution with OrCAD PCB Designer that provides route technology and an advanced platform. It contains technologies like librarian tools, signal integrity, auto-routing, constraint manager, schematic capture, PCB editing, routing, and mixed-signal circuit simulation.
Maximize your productivity with OrCAD’s intelligent, interactive, and automatic etch editing as well as placement capabilities. In addition, speed up your design process to maximize production with the tight application integration and extensive features that ensure data integrity.
Moreover, use constraint management to ensure your design meets certain requirements based on region, pair, length rules, etc. You can also make a bridge between MCAD and ECAD flows to get a perfect design environment according to your needs with the support for STEP, IDX, and IPC-2581. Besides, you can analyze your designs easily with analog, constraint design flows, mixed-signal, and integrated SI to meet your goals.
Get access to the complete version of the release for free, including OrCAD Capture CIS, OrCAD PSpice Designer, OrCAD Sigrity ERC, OrCAD PCB Designer Professional, and more.
KiCAD EDA is an open-source and cross-platform electronics design automation platform. The schematic editor of KiCAD supports basic schematic as well as complex design. It will help you create your own symbols or choose from thousands of options available in the official library.
Upon completing your design, verify with electrical rules checker and integrated SPICE simulator. Its PCB editor is easy enough to make designing easy even if you are new to the software. In addition, it is powerful for complex designs.
The improved visualization, selection tools, and interactive router make your layout tasks easier. Its 3D Viewer also lets you check the correct mechanical fit and allows you to preview the final product.
Furthermore, KiCad EDA has a built-in raytracer along with customizable lighting options so that you can create true images and share them with your colleagues or teams to show your work. This software also supports various OS, such as Ubuntu, macOS, Windows, Debian, Arch Linux, FreeBSD, Fedora, etc.
Download the free version and start designing.
PCB design software can help you design your printed circuit boards easily and efficiently while saving significant time and resources. It will also help you check your design’s performance and fix it in the early stages so you can send only high-quality designs into the production stages. As a result, you can manufacture robust and reliable printed circuit boards that perform well on electrical devices.
Choose a PCB design software from the above options wisely by keeping in mind that emerging technologies grow over time and consumer needs change frequently. Thus, forecast your design requirements and challenges while choosing PCB design software and enjoy designing printed circuit boards!