Comparison of 6 practical PCBA design tools

An electronics engineer’s job would be impossible without printed circuit boards, and there is no circuit without a PCBA. Software that helps create a printed circuit board a little bit more conveniently is a PCBA design tool. It enables you to test your circuit board before starting manufacturing. However, electronics engineers may have difficulty finding the best PCBA layout design software tool for their projects. Here in this article, FS Technology will recommend 7 PCBA tools that we think are the best for online layout.

Several circuit design software options are available to meet various layout needs, including industrial PCBA software (EDA tool) and online and free PCB design software. Here is a list of easy PCBA design software and a quick overview. Based on the introduction, their advantages and disadvantages, you may make a comparison and select the best for you.

Altium Designer(AD) PCBA Design Tool

Multifunctional PCB Design Tool

Altium is a software provider that offers PC-based electronics design tools for engineers. Many in the industry consider this PCBA design software the industry standard. Altium Designer has released many versions with new features that enhance the user experience, fluency, and smoothness.

With the development of the electronics industry, many engineering colleges have specially set up courses to learn the use of Altium design software. Students can easily master techniques such as schematic design, circuit simulation, PCB drawing editing, topological logic automatic routing, signal integrity analysis and design output through the practical operation of the tool. The pros and cons of this PCB layout software for beginners are listed below:

Advantages:

  • AD is an easier-to-use tool, and most beginner PCB engineers will use this entry-level hardware design software. Simple PCB types can be easily drawn through AD, such as single-layer double-sided panels or circuit board structures with less than 6 layers.
  • Meets modern needs of PCBA designing: For fast-moving 3C equipment, it is the most critical to quickly complete the design, production and assembly. AD can fit this feature well. Mastering the skills of using AD PCBA design tools can improve the quality and efficiency of circuit design.
  • Utilizes technology to assist electronics engineers in concentrating more on design and less on process.
  • Since this online PCBA layout creator integrates schematic and PCB tools to make the engineer’s work more convenient (update PCBA from schematic or update schematic from PCBA), the combination of OrCAD and PADS is more complicated.
  • Altium designers can easily zoom in, zoom out, and pan with the mouse, which is the best among all electronic EDA tools used by FS technology designers.
  • Provides the function of quickly finding similar objects and uniformly editing attributes.
  • AD is a free PCB design tool with more shortcut functions, which can change the trace vias and trace width (Shift+W, shift+V) more easily.
 

Disadvantages:

  • It is not a multilayer PCB design tool, it is more suitable for basic circuit structure than other tool.
  • Designers use this online EDA PCBA design software because it has more shortcut keys, which is not good for new users because they cannot fully understand its functions.
  • Altium designers are often criticized for vias and poor routing. When drawing PCBA traces, AD is thicker than other software, and I believe you must have a deep understanding of the strange feeling when passing holes.

KiCad EDA Layout Tool

Powerful and free PCB editor

KiCAD EDA is open source PCB design tools that offer users various functions, including output for Gerber Files, PCB layout creation, schematic design, etc. This software is more powerful than typical software and was created with the multitasking in mind that engineers require to automate configuration. This piece of tool is a popular and well-regarded design tool. OS X, Linux, and Windows are all supported by this PCB design tool.

You can think of KiCAD as an alternative version of Protel for Linux. This PCB design package includes a project manager and four powerful programs: Kicad (PCBA project manager), Eeschema (PCB schematic editor), Cvpcb (PCB component package association selector), Pcbnew (PCB routing program), Gerbview (PCBA Gerber file viewer).

Skills of using KiCad EDA PCB layout tool:

  • PCB component design shortcut keys: M (quick component movement button), R (easy to achieve PCB component orientation rotation). Operation method: move the mouse to the element to be operated and press the shortcut button.
  • Quickly copy PCBA components: hold down the Shift key on the keyboard and drag the target component to the specified line position, and copy when the Shift key is released to complete the copy.
  • Language switching: This is an American PCBA layout design software company, so its default language is English, if you want to switch the language, you can switch the language of any country in the language option.
  • Automatic component coding: After the drawing of the circuit schematic is completed, the designer only needs to click the component number button, and the free online EDA PCB open source design tool can immediately only need the numbers of all components.
  • Quickly delete wrong components: Component placement errors are a common PCB problem. Put the cursor on the component or press D on the line to delete it directly.
 

Advantages:

  • This online PCB design simulation tool is powerful enough to handle up to 32 layered PCB layouts and offers 3-dimensional viewer and pan-inspection capabilities.
  • The requirements for hardware configuration are lower, and it can run quickly even on low-configuration computers. In addition, it can be used on more systems such as Windows, Mac or Linux.
  • Provide a rich PCBA design resource package, which can be used after downloading and installing.
 

Disadvantages:

  • Managing footprints and libraries is not easy
  • Several stack-based buffer overflow flaws has been reported in some previous versions.

DesignSpark PCBA Layout Software

The most used PCBA layout tool

With its free version, DesignSpark caters to engineering communities. When bringing concepts to life is a priority, electronic engineers select DesignSpark PCBA. Your company may explore additional design alternatives with the assistance of designspark PCBA, which will enhance creativity. This software’s key features include a powerful engine that lets you record schematics and create PCB boards and layouts.

Skills of DesignSpark PCBA Design Tool:

  • PCB component editing interface size scaling: click the blank area of the interface and drag the mouse wheel.
  • Beautify PCBA component lines: Press the S key on the keyboard to adjust the thickness of component lines
  • Convert the library file to DS format: use Altium Designer or 99SE to open the component library and enter the editing state. Save or export in ASCII format, and import it into DS component library editing tools.
  • View the inner layer circuit: in the 3D view mode, there is a Settings logo on the left, click to view more layer lists
 

Advantages:

  • No limitation on schematic size
  • Use as many layers as needed for PCB designs
 

Disadvantages:

  • At times, it may be glitchy and system intensive

Eagle PCB Design Software

Eagle is not well known compared to other commonly used design tools. Eagle PCB layout editor from Autodesk, a provider of 3D design software, makes the work of electronic engineers simpler. From the point of view of FS technology engineers, its function is considered to be above average, and it can be applied to the development of more advanced boards such as multi-layer 5G high-frequency PCBA. At present, this design tool is divided into 3 versions: standard version, advanced version and free educational version. If you are not a personal engineer but design for industrial use, it is recommended to use paid genuine Eagle design software. Engineers may create whatever they can imagine with the help of this robust, user-friendly PCB design tool.

Tips for using Eagle’s free PCB tools

  • Reduce repetitive work: Plan PCBA parts in advance, use the instructions provided by the excellent layout design software to place components and enter attribute values, and save time by copying commands.
  • One-key delete: Press shift+delete to quickly delete all lines
  • Function identification: The function description article can be obtained immediately when the mouse cursor stays at the corresponding position.
  • Ctrl+right button can quickly process the Group, such as moving, deleting or copying.
 

Advantages:

  • Although it is a paid online design PCBA tool, it is extremely cost-effective.
  • Lightweight, simple and rigorous, easy-to-use schematic editor.
  • Electrical rule check and a netlist generation.
  • Annotations that move back and forth between schematics and printed circuit boards.
  • Circuit diagram and circuit board are automatically synchronized, and Gerber design file output can be automated.
 

Disadvantages:

  • Not easy to use for beginners

PADS PCB Layout Editor

Free Online PCBA Design Tool

The increase in electronic manufacturing technology and user demand has increased the difficulty of PCBA design, and manufacturers have to manufacture high-density interconnected circuit boards with higher layers and more complex circuit structures. To meet the needs of users for modern electronic products, it is not enough for manufacturers to improve their PCB manufacturing capabilities. From the perspective of FS Technology, how designers design circuit boards that meet the needs of the times is the key to solving problems, and the PADS PCB layout tool just fits this point.

PADS offers an easy-to-use creative platform that has been particularly tuned for PCB layout. This software tool can lay out circuit boards quickly and easily with this reasonably priced PCB design software. The powerful auto-router, thermal design consideration analysis, and support for different project management operations are just a few high-end modules that PADS offers.

Advantages:

  • Advanced auto router
  • Thermal design consideration
 

Disadvantages:

  • Not the best choice for high-speed boards
  • Cannot handle the high number of layers effectively

Cadence Allegro PCB Layout Design Tool

Powerful online PCBA design tool

Cadence, a prominent worldwide EDA, and semiEDA firm facilitates electrical design innovation and is popular in manufacturing ICs and electronics. When a more predictable, compact design cycle is needed, electronic professionals turn to Cadence’s Allegro PCB Designer. All aspects of the layout can be customized using this tool. Allegro is perfect for great digital designs because of its constraint management and high-speed roles. After you use the Cadence Allegro design editor to design the circuit board circuit, you can directly place an order from FS Technology or choose a suitable manufacturer from the China PCB manufacturer list to serve you.

Advantages:

  • Including in-design interlayer checking
  • Cability for dynamic concurrent team design
  • Reduces the cost of materials by using the material inlay fabrication technique.
 

Disadvantage:

  • Costly than other
Conclusion

There are software and online tools available for designing printed circuit boards. It’s critical to select tool that is both broadly used in the sector and meets your project objectives when determining which one is appropriate for your requirements. Some introductions to PCBA design editors have been covered in the article above. But if you are a newbie, there are also various beginner-friendly tools and software like Fritzing, Orcad, PCBWeb Designer, ZenitPCB, TinyCAD, and Osmond PCB.

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