The Essential Guide to PCB Design Software

Altium PCB design software

When designing a printed circuit board, one of the most important considerations is the types of software to use. That’s because different types of PCB design software offer different usability and other features. In this guide, we’ll compare top software types that engineers use to create printed circuit boards

What is PCB Design Software?

PCB design software is basically a computer-aided design tool that enables designers to precisely define the electrical components, layout, and connection paths, among other features.

Using these PCB design tools, engineers can draw schematics and capture circuit designs into a database. Not only that, but also to quickly modify, analyze, and validate circuit designs.

PCB is available in both free and paid versions, with paid versions being best suited for professionals. The software to design PCB circuit boards can also be a downloadable program or cloud-based software.

PCB Design Software Online

Online PCB design software requires no download or install. The main advantage of using this type of software is the cost savings associated with not needing to purchase costly licenses. Moreover, web-based software usually provides unlimited access to the latest technologies and features.

PCB Design Software Downloadable Programs

For those who prefer a downloadable program, there are several types of PCB design software available. These programs offer different levels of features and capabilities, with some specialized for various tasks. Downloadable software requires a license purchase, although some may be free PCB design software.

kiCAD PCB design software
kiCAD PCB design software
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Types of PCB Design Software

Today, different types of PCB design software are available. And while their features and capabilities vary, they all provide the solution to creating a PCB design. The list of PCB design software, including their features and advantages, is given below.

1. Eagle PCB Design Software

Eagle PCB design software is one of the most popular choices circuit board design projects. Available in both free and paid versions, it offers an array of features such as schematic capture, PCB layout design tools, auto-routing, and others such as 3D visualization.

Eagle offers a paid version where users can pay a license fee, and a restricted version for simple design needs. PCB design with Eagle using the restricted version is only fit hobbyists and beginners, as the features will be limited to only two schematic sheets and layers, among other limitations such as board size.

The paid version offers more features and supports professional design works. You can use Eagle for PCB design in Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux operating systems.

2. Altium PCB Design Software

Altium Designer is a powerful and feature-rich PCB design software from Altium LLC. It offers an integrated environment for designing both schematics and printed circuit board layouts.

With many advanced features, this one of the best PCB design software today and mostly used by industry professionals. But that also makes it not friendly for beginners.

In terms of cost, Altium is one of the more expensive options but that provides a top-notch design experience. PCB design with Altium is also only available for Windows.

3. Proteus PCB Design Software

Proteus is a PCB design software from Labcenter Electronics. This program provides efficient tools and features for designing both schematics and layouts. It also offers a simulation feature that can be used to identify errors in the design before fabrication.

PCB design using Proteus is possible for those using Windows, Linux, and mac OS operating systems. The software also comes in both a paid version for professional users and a free version for hobbyists.

4. PADS PCB Design Software

PADS is a comprehensive PCB design software solution that provides an easy-to-use interface for designing, analyzing, and manufacturing high-quality printed circuits.

The software is available as 3 different products, PADS Standard, PADS Standard Plus, and PADS Professional Premium. In addition to being friendly to the user, this is also one of the most affordable PCB design tools around, and usable across different operating systems.

5. OrCAD PCB Design Software

When it comes to PCB design, OrCAD is one of the most widely used tools. This software provides a powerful environment for designing schematic and board layouts, with features such as DFM analysis, auto-routing, 3D modeling, and more.

OrCAD comes in several versions. These include a free but restricted version, as well as full-featured and enterprise versions. However, like Altium, PCB design with OrCAD is only available for Windows operating systems.

6. KiCad PCB Design Software

KiCad is a free, open-source PCB design software. This program provides various tools for creating layouts, including diagram editors, 3D viewers, and a library of components. You get to use this program offline, with access to usage tutorials and a community of users to help.

KiCad is an excellent choice for hobbyists and students who need to design PCBs on a budget. Apart from being free, the software is easy to use while providing the essential features to create a successful board design. It also supports Windows, Linux, and macOS operating systems.

7. Allegro PCB Design Software

Allegro is an easy-to-use PCB design program by Cadence, and available in both free and paid versions, depending on your requirements. The software offers a wealth of features and tools for designing both the schematic and board layout.

It’s also compatible with Windows, Linux, and macOS operating systems. One of the advantages of using Allegro PCB design software is that it allows for scalable design features, ad users can choose what to pay for.

8. DipTrace PCB Design Software

DipTrace comes with full design features for drawing schematics, managing components, and creating board layouts. And, although it offers a wide range of features and tools, the software is simple enough for beginners to use.

This type of software to design PCB circuit boards is available in both free and paid versions, with the paid version including more advanced features. However, it’s not recommended for professional or high-end PCB design needs.

9. EasyEDA PCB Design Software

EasyEDA is a web-based PCB design and simulation software. It provides an online environment for designing and simulating the circuit board layout. The paid version of EasyEDA requires a monthly subscription, while the free version offers all the essential features, but with adverts.

Overall, PCB design using EasyEDA is easy and straightforward to use, with functionalities such as schematic capture, simulation, and visualization feature. You can use it on Windows and Mac OS as well as Linux platform.

Conclusion

These are the most popular and widely used types of PCB design software available in the market today. Each of them offers features to enable you to complete a circuit board design process, from schematic creation to board layout. We hope this guide has provided the insight you need to understand the available options for a PCB design tool.

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