When it comes to PCB design software, there are a number of options to consider, and which software you choose will depend upon your specific printed circuit board design needs for your industry. Here is a breakdown of your PCB layout software options and the merits of each type for your business.
Choosing Your Software
When it comes to choosing your PCB layout software, there are a few basic issues you want to think about:
- Cost — There are many free PCB design programs on the market. While a paid PCB design program isn’t necessarily all that expensive, you can get pretty good value from a free program. If you’ve never used PCB design software before, you may want to start out by trying a few free programs before investing in a paid program.
- User-Friendliness — There’s no reason that a PCB layout program should be difficult for an engineer to learn, understand and use. If a PCB design software program seems unnecessarily complicated, you should probably move on.
- Features — Not just quantity of features, but quality of features. Does this program have the design features you need? In fact, a program with too many features may be too slow for your needs, so you may want a leaner, more streamlined program for your purposes.
- Library — The more robust the component library associated with the program is, the more reliable your resulting designs are likely to be.
- Reputation — Your best bet is to go with a software program that others have already tested and reviewed positively.
Popular PCB Design Software Options
So with that in mind, here are some of the programs you should be considering when seeking out the right printed circuit board layout software for you and your business:
- Express PCB — ExpressPCB is a great software platform for your introduction to PCB design software. It doesn’t have a huge library, but it is simple and easy-to-use. Once you get comfortable with this free program, you can graduate to a more feature-rich program.
- Altium — Like always, Altium Designer focuses on delivering brand new, user-friendly and performance-enhancing PCB design tools with the Altium Designer 18. It has a cohesive interface right out of the box. It also boasts a high level of power for any large, complex designs you need to complete quickly and accurately. Expect interactive routing, manufacturing outputs, data management, schematic capture and more. You’re guaranteed continuous future innovation through the years when you choose the latest in design tools today.
- PROTEL —PROTEL is the grandfather of CAD, and is the classic PCB design software that remains popular. A basic familiarity with PROTEL can be very useful to you and you can easily find training courses in PROTEL available. PROTEL is best suited towards boards of fewer layers, as it is not really optimized for 5 or more layer boards.
- Design Spark PCB —Another free, easy-to-use PCB design software program is Design Spark PCB, which is geared to be user-friendly and even enjoys regular updates to make it more and more intuitive. If user-friendliness is your top priority, you should strongly consider Design Spark.
- TinyCAD —TinyCAD is a nice little program if you just need to do some basic design schematics. It is not feature-rich, but it is free and easy-to-use. Although it does not have a large library, it is relatively easy to create new components for TinyCAD. Another nice feature is that it’s easy to print or share designs by just copying and pasting them into Microsoft Word.
- PADS —PADS is the most popular EDA on the market when it comes to general use. Many smaller companies like to use PADS because they can train their design engineers on it fast and it yields reliable design with a simple interface.
- Kicad —A lot of designers swear by Kicad, which is a free open-source PCB design software program that is GUI-enabled, so you can do just about everything with your mouse and you can work with Kicad in Windows and Linux. You can use Kicad with boards of any size and any number of layers, which is a benefit that many Kicad users take for granted but in fact does not hold true for a number of other PCB design programs. Like other free programs, the library is limited and it could use a bit of a facelift, but it is a dependable, reliable program that you may come to swear by.
- PCBWeb Designer — Although PCB Web Designer is a free program, it has a very professional air about it. It has a more robust library than many other free printed circuit board layout software programs, and it still has the user-friendly interface and ease of learning, setup and use of other free programs. A bonus feature that professionals will appreciate is the integrated Digi-Key parts catalog that includes a Bill of Materials manager for the quick and easy purchase of any needed components.
For more about various forms of PCB design software, different types of PCBs or other information related to printed circuit boards or purchasing printed circuit boards, please contact Millennium Circuits Limited now.