PCB designing is the most crucial stage of developing a circuit board. It is the design that decides how the final product will look like and work. A successful PCB design is one that supports the functioning of the device inside which it is lodged. Not all devices have the same price, and so the PCB design can accordingly vary on various factors. The nature of users and their access to resources also influence the style of PCB. In the age of automation, designing has also gone digital. Software is available both online and offline; these can be free as well as paid.
Listed here are some of the PCB prototyping or design software that has made news in 2017.
1. Eagle: Known for user-friendly interface and exceptionally schematic diagram functionality, this software stands out in quality and utility. Its remarkable features are positive and negative annotation function, interactive follower platform, batch command execution script file and copper cladding; to quote the important few. It belongs to the category of professional software and does come with a price; however, it is affordable and one of the most used software amongst medium-sized businesses in the present times. It works on Windows, Mac and Linux.
2. ORCAD: It is compatible with Windows only. Though in business since 1980, this software has not seen many updations since its inception. Its operation function is simple. Its simulation function is liked a lot and gives better scope for customization. Its user-friendly interface and prevalence of Windows on most of the industrial systems make this PCB design software a tried and tested tool. It is a paid software good for professional use.
3. Altium Designer: If you need software support for designing single layer and 2 layer PCBs, then this software is very good choice. The birth of this software dates back to 1980s and it has somehow managed its reputation since then. Many of the circuit companies prefer using this software because of its user-friendliness and better utility. This software does make a part of designing courses too, as all the universities use this tool as a means to teach the art of PCB fabrication and assembly. Thus, it is easy to use too and is quite comprehensive in nature. Also, it is usable for all types of projects; most common being flex-board and FPGA. It is a paid software.
4. Easy EDA: This software is being used for both private and professional use. It is used as both online and offline application. Easy EDA is a freeware and is accessible online a lot. It is equipped with a number of interesting features like mixed-mode circuit simulation, zero-installation time powerful schematic diagram function, and PCB layout useful for cross-platform browser environments.
5. DesignSpark PCB: This software is quite useful for IoT projects and is designed keeping the requirements of these projects in mind. It is a free software that is helpful in mechanical, electronic and software design.
6. Fritzing: This is an open source EDA software multi-functional in nature. It certainly makes bread-boarding easier. Important tools provided in this software are – PCB layout tool helpful for creation of PCB, a breadboard view support, schematic capture tool that is designed to ease the import of various third-party boards to prepare schematic in a tasteful manner. This software runs on a variety of operating systems such as MacOS, Linux and Windows.
7. gEDA: It is a cross-platform PCB design software that is compatible with a variety of operating systems such as BSD, Linux, Windows, and MacOS. This software supports basic designing exceptionally well with the help of its schematic capture function. You can leverage the best qualities of gEDA better if you learn about it in a detailed manner. The only shortcoming is that it is not fit for the workflow that goes into the development of large designs.
8. CircuitMaker: Though discontinued for professional use long back, this software is re-introduced and has found its clientele in the form of learners and hobbyists. This software is quite useful for RF PCB design and for PCBs delivering mixed signals. In these designs, the track length and width is important and achieving this becomes easier with this software.
2017 has seen exceptional growth happening in the PCB design software market. With the manufacturers laying extra emphasis on PCB prototyping, the advancements made in the field of PCB design software are mostly dedicated to bringing more sophistication and precision in the final product. There is PCB designing software available for a variety of purposes and whether you are a professional PCB designer or a beginner, there is software available for you. The comparison of available software also reveals that you can find the software suitable for your budget size too. So, pick what suits your requirements perfectly and win yourself the ease of mastering the PCB designs.