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Step-by-Step Guide to PCB Design software (CAD)

PCB CAD (Printed Circuit Board Computer-Aided Design) is essential in electronics manufacturing. It features advanced tools like auto-routing, electrical verification, and thermal simulation, streamlining the design process and accelerating product development. As technology evolves, PCB CAD continues to enhance its capabilities with support for 3D printing and seamless integration with other manufacturing and testing software, making the electronics production workflow more efficient and adaptable.

What is CAD?

CAD, or Computer-Aided Design, is a technology that helps people like designers, engineers, and architects to create precise drawings or technical illustrations on a computer. Using CAD software, they can quickly and accurately produce 2D plans or 3D models. This technology saves time, enhances efficiency, and allows multiple modifications and optimizations before production. In simple terms, CAD is like an advanced electronic drawing board that makes complex design tasks easier and more accurate.

solidworks CAD

Key Features of PCB CAD Software

  1. Schematic Capture:

    • Provides tools for drawing and editing electrical schematics, which is the first step in PCB design.
    • Includes a comprehensive library of electronic components for easy circuit diagram creation.
  2. Disposition du PCB:

    • Tools for placing components on the PCB and routing connections between them.
    • Supports multi-layer PCB design, enabling the creation of complex circuits.
  3. Auto-Routing:

    • Automatically routes the connections between components, saving time and ensuring efficiency.
    • Offers manual routing options for designers to make fine adjustments.
  4. Design Rule Checking (DRC):

    • Ensures that the design adheres to predefined rules and constraints, such as minimum trace width and spacing.
    • Helps prevent common design errors and ensures manufacturability.
  5. Electrical Rule Checking (ERC):

    • Verifies the electrical integrity of the design, checking for issues like short circuits or open connections.

Steps to Create a PCB CAD Design

1. Define the Requirements:

  • Gather all necessary specifications, including electrical requirements, physical dimensions, and any specific features needed.

2. Schematic Capture:

Schematic Capture
  • Use the CAD software to draw the circuit schematic. Place all the necessary components and connect them according to the circuit design.

  • Verify that all connections are correct and that the schematic meets the initial requirements.

3. PCB Layout Design:

PCB Layout Design
  • Transfer the schematic to the PCB layout environment.

  • Place the components on the PCB, keeping in mind design rules such as spacing, orientation, and layer usage.

  • Optimize component placement for signal integrity, thermal management, and manufacturability.

4. Routing the PCB:

PCB routing
  • Route the connections between components, either manually or using auto-routing features of the CAD software.
  • Ensure that critical signal paths are routed optimally and that power and ground planes are properly designed.

5. Rule Checking:

Rule Checking
  • Design Rule Checking (DRC): Run the DRC to verify that the layout complies with all design rules. Address any violations or errors that are flagged by the software.
  • Electrical Rule Checking (ERC): Perform an ERC to ensure there are no electrical errors, such as short circuits or unconnected pins. Correct any issues identified by the ERC.

6. 3D Visualization and Mechanical Fit:

3D Visualization and Mechanical Fit
  • Use the 3D visualization tools to check the mechanical fit of the PCB within its intended enclosure.
  • Verify component heights, clearances, and ensure there are no physical interferences.

7. Generate Manufacturing Files:

Generate Manufacturing Files
  • Create the Fichiers Gerber, drill files, and Bill of Materials (BOM) needed for manufacturing the PCB.
  • Verify that all files are correctly generated and complete.

Using CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software for PCB (Printed Circuit Board) design offers numerous advantages that significantly enhance the design process and the final product’s quality. Here are the key benefits:

Why Use CAD for PCB Design? Benefits Explained

  1. Increased Precision and Accuracy:

    • CAD software allows for highly precise placement and routing of components, reducing the risk of errors that can occur with manual drafting.
  2. Efficiency and Speed:

    • Automated features such as auto-routing, design rule checking, and component placement speed up the design process, allowing designers to complete projects faster.
  3. Easy Modifications and Iterations:

    • CAD tools make it simple to update and modify designs. Changes can be made quickly without redrawing the entire schematic or layout.
  4. Enhanced Visualization:

    • 3D visualization tools help designers see a realistic representation of the PCB, ensuring that components fit correctly and that there are no physical interferences.
  5. Improved Collaboration:

    • CAD software often includes collaboration features that allow multiple designers to work on the same project simultaneously, enhancing teamwork and productivity.
  6. Integrated Testing and Simulation:

    • Advanced CAD tools include simulation features for thermal, signal integrity, and electrical rule checking, enabling designers to test their designs before manufacturing.
  7. Documentation and Manufacturing Support:

    • CAD software can generate all necessary files for manufacturing, including Gerber files, drill files, and Bill of Materials (BOM), ensuring a smooth transition from design to production.
  8. Économies de coûts:

    • By catching errors early and reducing the need for physical prototypes, CAD software helps save on development costs and reduces time to market.

Difference Between CAD and CAM

CAD (Computer-Aided Design)


  • CAD is the use of computer software to create, modify, analyze, and optimize designs for engineering and manufacturing purposes. It involves creating precise 2D or 3D models of physical components and systems.

CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing)


  • CAM is the use of computer software to control and automate manufacturing processes. It converts CAD designs into machine instructions to produce physical products, managing and optimizing the entire production process.

Common PCB Design Software

  • Concepteur Altium:

    • A comprehensive PCB and electronic design automation software package.
    • Known for its powerful features and integration capabilities.
  • Autodesk Eagle:

  • KiCad:

    • An open-source PCB design software that provides tools for schematic capture and PCB layout.
    • Suitable for both hobbyists and professionals.
  • OrCAD:

    • A powerful PCB design software suite used for creating complex PCB designs.
    • Offers strong simulation and analysis tools.


PCB CAD software is essential in electronics manufacturing, offering tools that increase precision, efficiency, and reliability. By using features like schematic capture, auto-routing, and rule checking, designers can streamline the design process, reduce errors, and ensure a smooth transition from design to production. The integration of CAD and CAM technologies further enhances the manufacturing workflow, making it more efficient and adaptable. Embracing PCB CAD software ultimately leads to better designs, faster project completion, and cost savings.


For hassle-free, smooth PCB CAD/CAM design services, get in touch with FS PCBA now. Our knowledgeable staff is prepared to help you create excellent PCB layouts that meet the needs of your project. Let us handle the intricate CAD design while you focus on making your electronic devices functional. To learn more and start your PCB design journey, nous contacter today.

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