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Electronic engineers must understand the layout and design of the electrical circuits. It can be a strenuous exercise task for an engineer to work without printed circuit boards (PCBs). This is where the need for PCB designing software and tools comes into play. 

These software and tools help an engineer to design a blueprint of the PCB. Moreover, an engineer can use the software to pull old designs from the PCB libraries, customize design procedures, and verify circuits’ schematic designs. 

Basics of PCB Layout and Design Process

The success of PCB prototyping and manufacturing is a result of an immaculate design process. 

The printed circuit board design and the layout process are vital as they allow the engineer to create an error-free prototype and a flawless manufacturing process. However, the type of software and tool used to accomplish the layout and design is vital to the entire exercise. 

Before getting down to the software and tools, let us have a clear picture of the basic process of PCB design

  • Creation of schematic design
  • Capturing of schematic design
  • Determining PCB template, fixed components, card dimensions and heat sinks
  • Deciding PCB stack layers
  • Determining line impedance
  • Component placement
  • Signals trace routing
  • Generating Gerber file

Software and Tools Engineers Use

Engineers use several software and tools to complete the above-mentioned process efficiently and precisely. 

Electronic Design Automation (ECAD) Tool

This one is a category of design tools used for the process of schematic design capture. These tools work simultaneously in the modular design flow to produce PCB’s design description. Some of the most popular tools that fall within the ECAD category are as follows. 

  • ORCAD

The PCB design engineers use this software to create an electronic schematic and blueprint of the circuit board. 

  • EAGLE

EAGLE is an acronym for “Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor.” This software is a solution-driven design program for printed circuit boards. EAGLE contains a PCB layout editor, schematic capture editor, Bill of Material Tools (BOM), and auto-router. 

  • PADS

PADS is a layout tool that contains advanced analysis, schematic designs, and, most notably, the feature to collaborate from ECAD to MCAD. 

5 Popular Designing Software and Tools Used by PCB Engineers

Although there is a wide range of PCB designing software and tools available in the market, here are the top five. 

  1. Altium Designer – it is famous for its feature to simulate your printed circuit board using the Altium PCB software. 
  2. PCB Artist – this software by Advanced Circuits is famous for its best shipping record and active consumer base. If you are looking for an intuitive solution for PCB designing, look no further. 
  3. SolidWorks PCB – this one has a robust design technology with ease-of-use. You will also get an on-demand bidirectional mixing feature along with the flawless collaboration of CAD and PCB designs. 
  4. Ultiboard – this PCB designing software by National Instruments allows you to leverage modular hardware and an expansive ecosystem. You can benefit from a quick prototyping atmosphere and save hours on the development phase. 
  5. DipTrace – if you are looking for a comprehensive design solution, smart manual routing, and shape-based auto-route, DipTrace is the answer. This software has a single environment that enables you to benefit from the direct conversion circuit to board feature and revise the schematic annotations in run-time. 

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Nova is a full-service printed circuit board assembler located in Denver, Colorado.