How to Choose The Best PCB Design Software

ByRavi Kansagara 4

Best PCB designing softwares

When PCB is not discovered, all components are connected with wire externally, same as we connect all components on a breadboard. But this increases complexity and size. To solve this issue, PCBs are invented. Now for how to design a PCB, there are many tool and software available online, but out of them, which software suits your application, is discussed here in this article. We have already learned about Basics of PCB in our previous article. In this article, we will discuss and compare some good PCB designing software for their price, usability and other features. Here we are discussing some most commonly used EDA software like EAGLE, Multisim, EasyEDA, Altium design, OrCAD, and KiCAD. These softwares are widely used for PCB designing as well as for simulation of the circuit.

 

Eagle:

Most useful and common CAD software for PCB designing is EAGLE. EAGLE stands for Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor. This software was developed by CADSoft Computer but in 2016 EAGLE is taken by AUTODESK now.

EAGLE has a very simple, effective and easy interface and provide a library which contains a large number of electrical and electronics components. That is the main reason for being most popular PCB designing software among educationist, hobbyist, and professionals. EAGLE can be installed support on Windows, Linux and MAC platform and also the free version of this software is available for on website of AUTODESK.

Eagle has two editors; Schematic editor and PCB layout editor. The schematic editor is used to add all components and connect according to the circuit requirement. This schematic file has unique features like modular design block, multi-sheet schematic, electronic rule checking and real-time design synchronization. After this, schematic is directly converted into PCB layout editor, in which we can set components according to less complexity. This PCB layout editor also has some good features like alignment tools, obstacle avoidance, routing engine. These features are available in free version.

 

For professional use, EAGLE provides paid version which is available at 1000$/year. In this paid version, AUTODESK provides technical support that includes call, mail and online chat support and provides access to latest release software. But for educational and self-use free version of this software has enough features.

When you install the free version of EAGLE and open it, the first page is control panel as shown in below figure.

Eagle 8 control panel

As shown in above figure, folder name and description of that folder or file are given. First is Documentation which contains some tutorial documents. Second is Libraries (.lbr), which contain a large list of electrical components. More components are easily available from the internet and, search them and paste into library folder at the installed directory. Next is design block (.dbl), where you can find some inbuilt design of most common circuits which you can directly add to your project. Design rules (.dru) contain rules for track, drill and final copper with important notes and some information. Next is User Language Programs (.ulp) which is used to access data structure and to create an output file. The user can build their own ULP file. Next is Scripts (.scr), which contains text files with eagle commands and it is very useful for automating a task like drawing a pattern, change of width of all traces. CAM jobs (computer aided manufacturing) (.cam) contains some standard CAM files and the last one is Projects which contains a list of the project with schematic and PCB layout file made by the user.

You can also make a Gerber file with the help of eagle. Gerber file is a universal language for PCB designing and this is the last step of PCB designing.PCB designing using Eagle

3D viewer Eagle software

 

Multisim:

Multisim is widely used by students and researchers because it contains a powerful research, teaching and circuit design software. Multisim is advanced, powerful, industry standard, best in class SPICE simulation environment which is most popular world-wide because of their unique features and easy to implement circuit design. If you compare Multisim with eagle, the main advantage of Multisim is that it has a simulation environment which is not available in eagle but if you compare for only PCB designing purpose, eagle has good platform compared to Multisim.

Multisim was developed by electronics workbench and interactive image technology. At that time, this software is just used to teach electronic programs in colleges, this software was not much used for industrial applications but after some features add by National Instrument and it has widely accepted by professionals and educators. Multisim is available in two additions; one is made for students and educators and second is made for professionals and industrial purposes.

Multisim enhances powerful simulation technology with the ability to analyze analog, digital and power electronics across education, research, and design. This software has functionality like all-new parameter analysis, integration with new embedded targets and simplified design with user-definable templates. Multisim Standard Service Program (SSP) customers also have access to self-paced online training.

You can download the Multisim trial version from here.

PCB designing using Multisim

Circuit designing using Multisim

 

EasyEDA:

EasyEDA is a web-based Electronic design automation (EDA) tool. It is a web-based tool, so no need to download or install any software. To use EasyEDA, you have to open easyeda.com only, from any HTML5 capable web browser and it doesn’t matter that which OS you are using, it can be used in windows, Linux, MAC. Only you require is web browser like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Opera but it is recommended to use this in chrome or firefox for better performance. This is the biggest advantage of EasyEDA.

EasyEDA provides features like; simple, user-friendly and it is a very good platform if you don’t have much knowledge about PCB designing and it can use at anywhere, anytime and from any device. One advantage of this site is, it has large numbers of open source projects, which is easily available from the internet and also very good tutorials are available in EasyEDA official website. Even we have developed many PCB Projects using EasyEDA here in CircuitDigest. It has more than 500000 libraries with symbol and footprint of components and also has a feature to create your own component if it is not available in the library with symbol and footprint. One more advantage is, it can support other software libraries and schematic which includes Altium, EAGLE, LTspice, and DXF.  

When you open https://easyeda.com/editor this link, it will look like below screenshot. In this editor you find navigation panel, toolbar, workspace, drawing tools, writing tools any many more functions. Let’s start with navigation panel which contains EELib, design, Parts, Shared, LCSC.

EELib means EasyEDA libraries which provide lots of components.

Design that is design manager which is used to check each component on the net easily.

Parts which contains schematic symbols and PCB footprints.

Shared if someone sends their project to you than this will appear in the shared tab.

LCSC: If you want to buy components to finish your PCB project, you should try another website LCSC.com

Drawing toolbar: Sheet setting, line, image, Bezier, arc, text, freehand draw, arrowhead, rectangle, polygon, ellipse, pie, drag and canvas origin.

Wiring toolbar: wire, bus, bus entry, netlabel, net flag VCC, net flag +5V, net port, net flag ground, voltage probe, pin, group/ungroup symbol.

PCB designing using EasyEDA

Circuit designing using EasyEDA.

 

Altium:

Altium is a costliest PCB designing software. If you want to buy a license version of this software its cost you 7,245 USD. So, this is a software for that company which has good budgets and best software for corporate engineers. If you are a freelancer than maybe this is not a good choice.  

Altium designer have features like PCB designing, schematic capture, field-programmable gate array (FPGA) development. This software also has some common features like, auto cross probing, interconnected multi-channel design, fast and high-quality routing, component placement system, signal integrity, hole tolerance definitions, visual layer stack management, collision detection, offline design system. At the end, it also can view entire PCB in 3D and also have a unique feature that you can navigate entire PCB. Most important part of Altium is that Altium provides a very good tip for PCB designing and it supports team. Also have unique graphic processing power which made Altium different from other cheap PCB designing software. This software is generally used to design a complicated and very complex circuit with very fast with realistic results. In 3D view, it shows physical looks of the components which give batter idea about circuit and it makes easy to understand.

If you want to get more idea about 3D visualization go through this 3D visualization video.

For personal view of mine, Altium is not a good choice because of cost only if you are not considering cost problem it is a very good software.

You can download the free trial of Altium Designer software for here.

Altium designer

PCB designing using Altium

 

KiCAD

KiCAD is a free software for electrical design automation and this software does not require any licence. Documentation of this software is distributed under two choices; GNU General Pubic Licence and Creative Common Atributes. KiCAD is freely available software, but for new development they accept money as a donation, if anyone want to donate, otherwise its free for all users. Setup of this software and libraries are easily available from its website. You can download the KiCAD and its libraries from its official website.

KiCAD is developed by jean-pierre charras. This software is used to create a BoM (Bill of Materials), Gerber file and also it provides 3D layout of the PCB. KiCAD also have their own library, which contains most of all electrical components. This software is also available in 19 different languages and it can run in windows, Linux and MAC.

KiCAD is divided into five parts;

KiCAD that is project manager; Eeschema that is the schematic capture editor; pcbnew that shows layout of PCB in both 2D and 3D; gerbfile is used to generate Gerber file; bitmap2component can convert images to footprint.

Out of this parts Eeschema and pcbnew is mostly used. Eeschema has features like custom symbol creation, electrical rule checking and hierarchical schematic sheets. In PcbNew, it provides very easy way to routing the components and also it makes easy to troubleshooting of PCB. if you want to change any vias, hole, trace or any other components of PCB, it is easy in KiCAD compared to other software. When you made a PCB, you can check your design in interactive 3D view. Eeschema and pcbnew also supports EAGLE files. If you are new with KiCAD, tutorials are also given in PDF format in many languages and also video tutorials are also available in website.

Overall software is good for beginners and biggest advantage is that, this software is free available. So, one does not require to purchase any licence or not require to find cracked version of it.

You can download the KiCAD from here.

Circuit designing using kicad

PCB 3D viewer of KIcad

PCB designing using kicad

 

OrCAD

Name of this software was coming from name of the company Oregon. OrCAD = Oregon + CAD. This software is not freely available. Price of this licence version is starting 2300 USD. OrCAD is developed by John Durbetaki, Ken and Keith Seymour.

OrCAD is divided in two parts; OrCAD Capture and PSpice. OrCAD Capture is used to design circuits and this part is known as PCB suite. OrCAD provides three types of PCB suites; OrCAD Standard, OrCAD Professional and Allegro PCB. OrCAD standard is a concept to production design environment and price of this is starting from 1300 USD. OrCAD Professional has professional grade PCB design capabilities. This version is costly compare to standard version and it worth 2300 USD. Allegro PCB is used for expertise level PCB design.

OrCAD PSpice is used for simulation and verification for circuit. PSpice is stands for Personal Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis. Capture and PSpice make complete simulator and PCB designing tool. PSpice is also available in two versions; PSpice Designer and PCB Designer plus. PSpice Designer is for industry standard simulation technology and contains 33000 parts in library. This version is starting from 1980 USD. PSpice designer plus is analyse for reliability, cost and yield. This version has all features of PCB designer and other unique features like cost analysis, yield analysis, design optimisation, system C/C++ modelling and simulation, reliability analysis and HW/SW co-simulation.

OrCAD PSpice can simulate circuit which is design in capture and it also can simulate design from MATLAB/Simulink. This feature makes OrCAD unique from all other softwares.

You can download the trial version of OrCAD from here.

Circuit designing using OrCad

 

Conclusion:

Out of these software, Eagle provides best results for PCB designing. If you are professional PCB designer and your application is very large and complex and you don’t have money consideration than go for Altium designer. If you are beginner and you don’t have much more idea about PCB designing than go for EAGLE or EasyEDA, because you find very good resources and tutorial from internet which is very helpful if you are beginner. If you need it in a Company and don’t want to purchase any licence then use KiCAD.

But I personally choose EAGLE, which supports in all types of applications. 

Comments

  • Farazdeq's picture
    Farazdeq
    Jan 12, 2018

    What about fritzing ?

  • Fernando Sakugava's picture
    Fernando Sakugava
    Apr 08, 2018

    Eagle subscription is US$ 100/year not US$ 1000

  • B.Aswinth Raj's picture
    B.Aswinth Raj
    Apr 10, 2018

    Glad you pointed it out, even I got a little suspicious over there 

  • kotkas's picture
    kotkas
    Jun 10, 2018

    Poorly written article. Come on! EAGLE is one of the most ridiculous PCB design tools to use. The GUI and UX and component creation is a nightmare. Most PDC design tools use the common graphical editing paradigm where you select an object and you can drag/move/rotate it right away. Or for deleting an object you usually select it and then press Delete on your keyboard. But in eagle you have to use a separate tool for rotating and moving and deleting. Such a waste of time.

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