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Top 12 PCB Reverse Engineering
Softwares of 2023

Looking to have an PCB reverse engineering software tool that helps you convert your pcb board? Are you in search of fast and easy-to-use PCB circuit create software? We’ve compiled some of the market’s leading software solutions to help you decide which one is right for you. Keep on reading to learn more!

PCB Reverse Engineering Software

PCB (Printed Circuit Board) reverse engineering services are a process of analyzing and reconstructing a PCB design from an existing circuit board.

The services are used for re-designing obsolete or hard-to-find circuit boards, cloning or improving the existing designs, or creating compatible replacements. Jamindo offers PCB reverse engineering services include creating a detailed schematic, making a bill of materials, and producing Gerber files, which are used to produce new circuit boards.

List of Engineering Software Used in PCB Reverse Engineering

Important Terms You Should Familiarize

Suppose you are new in PCB reverse engineering or PCB in general. In that case, there are terms you should familiarize yourself with, such as:

  • Gerber Files: Gerber files are a standard file format used in the PCB design industry to describe the geometry of a printed circuit board. Gerber files contain information such as the location of tracks, pads, vias, and components, as well as information on the copper layers, drilling, and milling. Gerber files are used to communicate the design of a PCB between different stages of the manufacturing process, including design, fabrication, and assembly.
  • BOM Files: BOM (Bill of Materials) files list the components and materials required to manufacture a printed circuit board. BOM files contain information on each element, such as its part number, manufacturer, and specifications. BOM files are used to manage the purchasing and production of PCBs. They are an essential component of PCB reverse engineering.
  • PCB Files: PCB (Printed Circuit Board) files are digital representations of the physical design of a printed circuit board. PCB files contain information on the layout, tracks, and components of a circuit board and the layers and materials used. PCB files are used to communicate the design of a circuit board between different stages of the manufacturing process. They are an essential component of PCB reverse engineering.
  • Soldering: Soldering joins two metal surfaces by melting and flowing a filler metal (solder) into the joint. In PCB reverse engineering, soldering is used to remove and replace components, allowing reverse engineers to access the internal structure and design of the circuit board.
  • Flying Probe Test: Flying Probe Test is a method of testing printed circuit boards without requiring specialized test fixtures. In this method, test probes are mounted on a machine that can move freely over the surface of the circuit board, making contact with specific test points.
  • Chip Decryption or IC Decryption: Chip Decryption or IC Decryption analyzes the internal structure and design of an integrated circuit (IC) or microcontroller. In PCB reverse engineering, chip decryption is used to understand complex components’ functionality and identify the components used in a circuit board. Chip decryption requires specialized tools and techniques and can be difficult and time-consuming.
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List of Engineering Software Used in PCB Reverse Engineering

To give you a better idea of what PCB experts use for the PCB reverse engineering process, here is a list of some of the most popular software used today:

Altium Designer

Altium Designer is one of the world’s most widely used schematic and PCB design tools. It offers powerful features like built-in 3D board visualization, parametric-driven design capabilities, and more. It was initially released back in 2005 and was developed by an Australian-based company. Altium Designer is the go-to software for many PCB engineers as it provides a comprehensive set of tools that make designing, routing, and testing complex boards easy and fast.

Cadence Allegro

Cadence Allegro is another famous schematic and PCB design tool developed by Cadence Design Systems. It offers a constraint-driven environment, real-time visual feedback, and intuitive design capabilities. It also provides various tools to make the PCB reverse engineering process easier and more efficient. Allegro is the preferred choice for many PCB engineers as it helps them create innovative designs quickly and reliably.

Allegro Key Features:

  • Analysis-driven design.
  • Layout and routing algorithms.
  • Team design.
  • Manufacturability.
  • Real-time constraints.
  • High-speed design.
  • Team design and collaboration.
  • Design reuse and productivity.

Through its powerful features and intuitive user interface, Cadence Allegro enables designers to develop complex multi-board systems quickly. It also offers a range of advanced tools to help PCB engineers overcome design challenges and create innovative designs. Finally, it allows easy integration with other simulation and verification tools to ensure design accuracy.

AutoTrace

AutoTrace is a software tool used in PCB reverse engineering that automatically converts bitmap images into vector images. This is an essential step in the reverse engineering process as it enables the user to work with high-quality, scalable images that can be used to create circuit diagrams, schematics, and other technical drawings. AutoTrace provides an easy-to-use interface that allows users to import an image and quickly convert it into a vector image. Additionally, the software includes tools for image tracing, image editing, and image optimization.

Rather than spending many hours tracing over complex designs using a pen tool or other manual tracing methods, AutoTrace enables designers to quickly convert bitmap images into vector graphics with a few simple clicks. This makes the PCB reverse engineering process faster and more efficient. Plus, the software can be integrated with other design tools for a seamless workflow.

Some of its key features include:

  • Image tracing
  • Image editing
  • Image optimization
  • Integration with other design tools
  • Easy-to-use interface

AutoTrace helps PCB engineers reduce reverse engineering time and increase design accuracy by providing a powerful, easy-to-use tool for converting bitmap images into vector graphics quickly and accurately. Its integration with other design tools enables designers to integrate their pictures into their PCB designs seamlessly.

GIMP

GIMP is an open-source image editing software often used in PCB reverse engineering. The software provides a wide range of tools for editing and manipulating images, making it a versatile choice for reverse engineers. With GIMP, users can crop, resize, rotate, and adjust the brightness and contrast of an image. Additionally, GIMP includes layers management, color correction, and image filtering, making it ideal for working with complex images.

In PCB space, GIMP is often used to clean up images and make them easier to work with. For example, GIMP can be used to enhance the resolution of an image or even remove unwanted elements from it. Plus, its layer management feature enables engineers to quickly assemble different components into a single image for easy viewing.

Some of its key features include:

  • Image editing
  • Layer management
  • Color correction
  • Image filtering

GIMP provides PCB reverse engineers with a powerful tool for cleaning up images and making them easier to work with. Its wide range of features makes it an excellent choice for those who need to edit or manipulate complex images quickly and effectively. Plus, GIMP is open-source and free to use, making it a cost-effective option for reverse engineers.

Mentor Graphics PADS

Also known as Siemens PADS, Mentor Graphics PADS is a famous schematic and PCB design tool with powerful features such as constraint-driven flow, interactive routing, and 3D visualization. The company started in 1981 and is now a leading provider of PCB design solutions for both professionals and hobbyists. Mentor Graphics PADS provides comprehensive tools to help speed up the entire PCB engineering process, from schematic creation to the board assembly.

Today, PADS is used for rapid prototyping, simulation, and collaboration between PCB & other hardware engineering teams. The software includes powerful features such as interactive routing, hierarchical design support, and constraint-driven flow. Plus, the software can be integrated with other tools for a seamless workflow.

Some of its key features include:

  • Constraint-driven flow
  • Interactive routing
  • 3D visualization
  • Hierarchical design support
  • Integration with other tools

Mentor Graphics PADS is also an affordable PCB design software that benefits many engineers working on complex designs. The software offers powerful features such as constraint-driven flow, interactive routing, and 3D visualization for rapid prototyping and simulation. Plus, the tool can be integrated with other agencies for a seamless workflow.

Altium CircuitStudio

Another Altium product, CircuitStudio is a powerful schematic and PCB design tool that offers features such as auto-placement and routing, interactive 3D visualization, and a comprehensive list of tools for analysis and simulation. It was first released back in 2014 and has since been recognized by many professionals as one of the most advanced design tools on the market. With its intuitive interface and powerful features, CircuitStudio helps engineers create reliable and high-performance boards quickly.

As another Altium product, CircuitStudio is an ideal choice for PCB reverse engineering. Like the Designer and Designer SE, the software includes a range of design tools and collaboration features to help streamline the entire engineering process. Plus, its powerful 3D visualization and auto-placement/routing functions allow engineers to quickly get an idea of how their board will look in actual physical space.

Some of its key features include:

  • Complete Design History Compatibility
  • Intelligent Schematic Capture & PCB Layout
  • Streamlined Workflow & Interface
  • Complete Design History Compatibility
  • Intelligent Schematic Capture & PCB Layout

These features speak for themself, making Altium CircuitStudio a great choice for anyone looking to reverse engineer a PCB. Each of these software packages offers powerful features and a variety of tools to make the engineering process easier. Whether you’re a professional or an enthusiast, you’ll be able to find the right PCB reverse engineering software for your needs.

KiCad

KiCad is a free and open-source schematic and PCB design tool. It provides users with an extensive array of features to help speed up the entire process of designing complex electrical circuits. KiCad also features an integrated SPICE simulator that allows users to test and verify their designs before sending them for production. With its easy-to-use interface, KiCad is the perfect choice for hobbyists who are just starting out with PCB design. It’s also a great choice for professionals looking to save costs on design tools.

Key Features:

  • integrated environment for schematic capture
  • PCB layout
  • manufacturing file viewing
  • SPICE simulation
  • engineering calculation

Going through each of these features, the integrated environment for schematic capture and PCB layout provides engineers with an all-in-one design tool to help them quickly create and modify their designs. The manufacturing file viewer makes it easy to view the various layers of a board, while the SPICE simulator allows users to test their ideas before committing them to production. Finally, KiCad’s engineering calculation tools help ensure that the final product meets all requirements and specifications.

Overall, KiCad is a great choice for anyone looking to get involved in PCB design or reverse engineering. Its features make it an ideal choice for hobbyists, while its cost-effectiveness makes it attractive to professionals as well. With its intuitive interface and various features, KiCad is definitely worth checking out.

Inkscape

Inkscape is a popular open-source vector graphics editor that is often used in PCB reverse engineering. The software provides a comprehensive set of tools for creating and editing vector images, including drawing and shape tools, path manipulation, and text editing. Inkscape also includes features such as gradient fills, bitmap tracing, and a flexible user interface, making it an ideal choice for reverse engineers who need to create high-quality circuit diagrams and schematics.

Key Features:

  • Object creation
  • Object manipulation
  • Fill and stroke
  • Operations on paths
  • Text support
  • Rendering
  • File formats

In PCB space, Inkspace serves as an excellent resource for creating circuit diagrams and other design documents. Its object creation and manipulation tools allow users to quickly create complex designs, while its text support makes it easy to add descriptions or annotations. And with its wide range of file formats, Inkscape can easily be used in a variety of contexts, from the professional engineering environment to the hobbyist workspace.

Overall, Inkscape is an excellent choice for anyone interested in reverse engineering PCBs. Its wide range of features makes it an invaluable tool for creating high-quality circuit diagrams and other design documents that can be used with various software packages. Also, if you want to make custom PCB shapes, you should really check out Inkscape.

CAD

CAD is arguably one of the most common software tools used in PCB reverse engineering. The software provides a comprehensive set of tools for designing and creating complex circuit boards, including support for 3D design, CAD libraries, and advanced simulation capabilities. With its powerful and easy-to-use interface, CAD is an ideal choice for reverse engineers who need to create high-quality designs quickly and easily.

This toolkit of software provides a comprehensive list of features and capabilities for PCB reverse engineering. From laser scanners to automated PCB to schematic converters, PCB cloning software, and PCB scanner apps, these tools are essential for creating detailed circuit diagrams, schematics, and other technical drawings that can be used to produce new circuit boards.

CAD or the Computer Aided Design toolkit is a powerful set of software programs designed to help engineers in their PCB reverse engineering projects. CAD provides users with a comprehensive set of tools for designing and creating complex circuit boards, including support for 3D design, CAD libraries, and advanced simulation capabilities. With its intuitive user interface and robust features, it’s an ideal choice for anyone interested in taking their PCB reverse engineering skills to the next level.

Key Features:

  • Solid modeling
  • Creation of engineering drawings from the solid models
  • Freeform surface modeling
  • Automated design of assemblies, which are collections of parts and/or other assemblies
  • Reuse of design components
  • Ease of modifying the design of a model and the production of multiple versions
  • Automatic generation of standard components of the design
  • Validation/verification of designs against specifications and design rules
  • Simulation of designs without building a physical prototype
    and more

Target 3001!

Target 3001! is a powerful and user-friendly PCB design software used in reverse engineering. It provides a wide range of features for schematic capture, circuit simulation, and PCB layout, making it an ideal choice for reverse engineers. The software includes tools for schematic captures, such as automatic wiring and real-time error checking, as well as tools for PCB layout, such as automatic routing and copper pour management. Additionally, Target 3001! supports a variety of file formats, allowing users to import and export designs as needed.

Key Features:

  • LAYOUT: Single-, double- or mul­ti­layer prin­ted cir­cuit boards, com­po­nent data­base, auto­placer, Push&Shove
  • 3D-VIEW: Your board di­rect­ly in 3D, live view to ro­tate, move, fade in and fade out, STEP im­port and ex­port
  • SCHEMATIC: Up to 100 pages, signal classes, buses, dif­fe­ren­tial pairs, mo­du­les, vari­ants and much more.
  • MID: Elec­tro­nic de­sign on 3D bo­dies, coope­ra­tions with Beta Layout and LPKF.
  • SIMULATION: Inte­gra­ted P(SPICE) com­pa­ti­ble mixed-mode simu­lator, oscil­liscope, ana­lyses and much more.
  • PACK­AGE-GENE­RATOR: Com­po­nent crea­tion with 3D model – fast and easy with the in­te­gra­ted pack­age gene­rator.
  • FRONTPANEL: Inte­gra­ted front­panel de­sig­ner for plan­ning con­gruent (top to PCB) front panels – design, cal­cu­late and order
  • AUTOROUTER: Use the in­te­gra­ted point-to-point, contour- and hybrid-auto-router or the in­ter­face to Electra

These key features not only make Target 3001! a great choice for experienced engineers, but also make it approachable and easy to learn for hobbyists and beginners. For example, the layout tools provide an intuitive and easy-to-use interface for designing PCBs, while the simulation tools allow users to verify their designs before creating physical boards. With Target 3001!, reverse engineers can quickly and easily create sophisticated designs in less time than ever before. By streamlining the design process, Target 3001! helps engineers push the boundaries of what’s possible in reverse engineering.

Autodesk Eagle

Another on list of software for reverse engineering is Autodesk Eagle. Arguably one of the most well-known schematics and PCB design software, Autodesk Eagle is now available with a Fusion 360 subscription. It includes 2 schematic sheets, 2 signal layers, and an 80cm2 board area.

Autodesk Eagle features powerful tools for creating detailed circuit diagrams as well as designing printed circuit boards. It also contains a comprehensive library of components, making it easy to find the parts needed for a project. Furthermore, its vibrant community offers helpful resources and advice on working with Eagle.

Autodesk Eagle’s wide range of features and integrated tools make it an excellent choice for reverse engineering projects. The schematic editor helps engineers create precise diagrams quickly and easily, while the PCB layout editor allows users to design high-quality boards with minimal effort. With Autodesk Eagle, reverse engineers can take their designs to the next level and create sophisticated products.

Key Features:

  • Real-time design synchronization
  • Intuitive alignment tools
  • Push and shove routing
  • Obstacle avoidance routing
  • New routing engine
  • Design rule checking (DRC)

EasyEDA

Another free and cross-platform option for reverse engineering is EasyEDA. This free EDA tool provides powerful schematic capture, PCB editor, Libraries designer, a project management tool, and lastly a team collaborator. It supports Windows, Linux and Mac platforms.

EasyEDA also has an integration with LCSC.com component catalog for providing real-time stocks and pricing information about components used. Users can also access integrated online Simulators, PCB Ordering and Electronic Component Shopping with real-time stock check.

Key Features:

  • Schematic Capture
  • PCB Editor & Layout
  • Libraries Designer
  • Project Management Tool
  • Team Collaborator
  • Integration of LCSC Component Catalog
  • Integrated Online Simulators
  • PCB Ordering & Electronic Component Shopping with real-time stock check

Going through each of these software products can be time-consuming, but it’s worth the effort in order to find the best product for your project. Each of the products has its own advantages and disadvantages that need to be weighed before making a decision. Ultimately, choosing the best reverse engineering software depends on the specific needs and goals of your project.

Top Technologies Used in PCB Reverse Engineering

pcb process

Laser Scanners

Among the leading 3D scanner technologies used in PCB reverse engineering are the laser scanners. As its name suggests, it uses laser light to capture the PCB image. Its ability to scan at various angles and its high accuracy make this technology ideal for capturing intricate PCB designs with complex geometrical features. Laser scanners are commonly used where precision and accuracy are essential.

Structured Light Source Converters

Structured light source converters are another type of scanning technology that is used to capture the image of a PCB. It works by projecting a pattern of lines onto the board and then using cameras to take pictures of the reflected light. Structured light scanners provide higher resolutions than laser scanners, making them ideal for capturing small features in intricate PCB layouts. For example, the 0.6 mm ball grid array (BGA) of small chips can be easily identified by this type of scanner.

X-ray Tomography

Another technology used in PCB reverse engineering is X-ray tomography. This technology uses an X-ray source to create a three-dimensional image of the board. The resulting image can provide detailed information about the internal layers of the PCB, which can be difficult to obtain with other types of scanners. This type of scanning is particularly useful when trying to identify hidden components or layers of the board that can’t be seen with other scanning methods.

What Software to Use

Choosing the software to use in PCB reverse engineering depends on a number of factors, such as budget, project complexity, and available time. Depending on the requirements of the project, one or more tools from this toolkit may be needed. For example, if implementing a basic circuit diagram is all that is required, then KiCad or DIA may be all that is needed. However, if a more complex design is needed, then CAD software such as Target 3001! maybe required in addition to CAM and CAE tools. Ultimately, the software selection should match the requirements of the project in order to ensure success.

Conclusion

PCB reverse engineering software is a great way to improve and automate the design process. By utilizing these tools, engineers can create detailed and accurate designs that are ready for manufacturing quickly and efficiently. From CAD to CAM to CAE, the software provides a comprehensive set of features for creating complex circuits and optimizing their performance. Make sure to consider the software’s features, benefits, pricing, user-friendliness, and more when selecting the right software for a project. Neglecting to do so could lead to costly mistakes and delays in production.