I’m normally a well-mannered guy, but when someone messes up my schedule, those manners fly right out of the window. Last week, when my 15-minute lunch break was ruined because of a missed order, I was complaining to my managers and struggling to keep my rage under control. When it comes to managing my time, I have high standards. Choosing the right PCB design software to optimize development time is no exception.
At the peak of my freelance career, I had to complete up to four designs in a single week. I couldn’t afford any delays, so nothing but the best PCB design software was good enough. After trying many types of PCB software to suit my needs, I identified the primary factors that affect development time:
How PCB Design Software Improves Development Time: Complete Component Libraries
If you started your electronics design career a decade ago, you probably spent more time designing schematic components and footprints than working on the actual application circuit itself. Having to constantly flip back and forth from datasheet to PCB design software was, undeniably, inefficient and frustrating.
With today’s PCB design software, however, you have little excuse for wasting precious time on menial tasks like creating component footprints. The right PCB software can provide you with complete libraries of popular components, including microcontrollers and special function integrated circuits. This means you can focus on designing, not creating footprints.
Intuitive Schematic Design
A functional PCB starts with the correct schematic design. When a schematic involves hundreds of components, it can be challenging to display the whole design on a single sheet. It makes sense to modularize the design into various functions. With great PCB software, you can separate schematics into blocks and link the entire design with ports and nets.
Even after your schematic is organized, you might lose valuable time in designing it. Designing your schematic shouldn’t be a tedious process of searching for the right components or flipping parts around. User-friendly search functions can help you find the right components within the library and reduce the turnaround time for your schematic.
It shouldn’t take forever to get the schematics done.
Easy PCB Component Placement
Before routing your PCB, you need to ensure that components are placed according to their respective groups. Follow PCB design best practices by keeping noisy components away from sensitive analog parts. The last thing you want to deal with is manually identifying each of the components and dragging them around.
Reliable PCB software enables you to easily move individual components or entire groups of components with a few clicks. With alignment tools, you can make your component arrangement look professional and ready for assembly.
A frequently debated rule of PCB routing states that having a right angle corner on the copper track can introduce heat points and electromagnetic interference (EMI). As someone who’s better safe than sorry, I prefer to have all my coppers routed with a 45-degree angle. Manually routing is a time-consuming process that an interactive PCB software can optimize.
If you prefer manual routing, you might appreciate intelligent tools that let you switch between layers and automatically add vias with a single shortcut button. Interactive routing features like differential pair routing can also help you keep signal traces parallel without manual intervention.
Generating Manufacturing Files
Even if you have the best working design for your software, it might take forever to generate the manufacturing files. It takes hours to browse through manuals thicker than an encyclopedia just to get Gerber files in one PCB software.
Thankfully, my problems with manufacturing files ended after switching to Altium. With simple configurations and just a few clicks, Altium automatically generates a complete set of manufacturing files in a matter of seconds. There is also a free Gerber viewer that lets you double check files before they are sent to manufacturing.
Get your manufacturing files right to prevent assembly problems.
Choose Reliable PCB Software to Minimize Development Hurdles
With the right PCB design software, you can not only access a complete component library and generate manufacturing files within seconds, but also minimize the time needed to optimize your schematic design, component placement, and routing. With a streamlined workflow, design history compatibility, and unlimited access to design content, Altium’s Circuitstudio helps you develop better designs in less time.
Need more tips to reduce your PCB design time? Ask an expert at Altium.
About the Author
PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.More Content by Altium Designer