Step-by-Step Guide to Creating PCB CAD Design

Imagine you are building a tiny city for electricity to flow through. That city is like a PCB. It consists of all the electronic components, which are like houses. Each component is connected through copper wires and traces. These are like the tiny roads connecting each house. PCB CAD design is the blueprint for organizing and linking electrical components on the board, much like a city needs a well-thought-out plan for effective management. 

So, instead of pen and paper, we use special software to create this tiny city blueprint. The software helps us design the board layout and helps us connect. 

In this article, we will learn about PCB CAD design and the step-by-step process to create strategic CAD design plans for your circuit board.

PCB CAD Design Meaning

PCB CAD Design

PCB CAD Design stands for Printed Circuit Board Computer Aided Design. The process uses specialized software that helps create the blueprint or layout of your circuit board. 

So, it’s like the software that helps you design where to place your components on a circuit board for effective design. Besides, it also includes the arrangement and routing of electrical connections between the components. 

PCB CAD design helps engineers and designers simulate, visualize, and optimize the PCB layout before manufacturing. 

It includes various steps like component placement, schematic capture, electrical trace routing, design rule checks, and the generation of manufacturing files with all bills of materials and documents. 

Why is PCB CAD Design Important?

PCB CAD design plays an important role in the design and development of electronic devices by ensuring the reliable and efficient functioning of PCBs. There are various reasons for outshining this PCB CAD design for modern electronics. Some of its benefits include:

  • Accuracy and Precision: Manual design can be error-prone. The software ensures everything is exactly where it needs to be, down to the millimetre.
  • Speed and Efficiency: Changes can be made quickly in the software, saving tonnes of time compared to manual redrawing.
  • Collaboration: Multiple people can work on the same design simultaneously, which is great for teamwork.
  • Error Checking: The software can identify potential issues before the PCB is built, saving time and money.

Steps to Create a PCB CAD Design

Step 1: Understand PCB Design Requirements

Before going into the PCB CAD design, you need to have a clear understanding of your project requirements. This includes functionality, dimensions, required performance, PCB layers, and components. 

You need to have effective communication to collect all the design requirements for your team members and your clients. This way, you can have a basic idea of the project requirements, which will improve the quality of your project

Step 2: Choose Suitable CAD Software

In the PCB design process, selecting the right PCB CAD software is the most important thing. With the abundance of options on the market today, it’s important to consider factors like cost, features, and compatibility with the project requirements. 

CAD software like Eagle, KiCad, and Altium Designer provides various options and tools to better optimize the design and functionality of circuits. 

You can select any of these tools that best suit your design objectives and needs. If you are not sure about the software for the design procedures, then you can contact FS PCBA for your circuit’s CAD designs.

Step 3: Create Component Footprint

PCB Component Footprint Creation

The correct placement and routing of components on the PCB layout depend on precise component footprints. In the software library of CAD programs, you can find tools for making and modifying component footprints or symbols. Verifying component compatibility and easy integration into the PCB design requires meticulous attention to features like pin layouts, pad sizes, and orientation.

Step 4: Component Placement

PCB Component Placement

To optimize the PCB layout for performance and manufacturability, component placement is of utmost importance. When deciding where to put anything, take factors like signal strength, heat management, and assembly difficulty into account. Designers can improve the PCB’s usefulness and dependability by placing components on the layout in a way that minimizes signal interference, reduces trace lengths, and streamlines the assembly process.

Step 5: Routing

PCB Routing

An essential part of printed circuit board design is routing traces to connect components. Trace routing capabilities are available in CAD software, allowing users to adhere to design criteria and limits. Signal integrity, minimization of impedance mismatches, and avoidance of signal crosstalk are some of the best practices for routing. Designers can maximize the PCB layout’s performance and efficiency by meticulously designing and carrying out the routing process.

Step 6: Design Rule Check

Verifying the PCB design with design rule checks (DRC) is crucial for its dependability and integrity. By comparing the final product to a set of guidelines and limits, CAD software may detect and eliminate mistakes automatically. Infractions of clearance, trace width, and solder mask slivers are typical inspection criteria. To reduce the likelihood of mistakes and guarantee conformity with design requirements, designers should perform comprehensive design rule checks early in the design process and fix any problems found.

Step 7: Silkscreen and Documentation

The PCB layout must have documentation and silkscreen marks added to it in order to make testing, assembly, and troubleshooting easier. The PCB silkscreen layer can have component annotations, reference designators, and other pertinent information added using CAD software. In order to improve efficiency and decrease errors, it is crucial to have clear documentation and labels that enable assembly technicians to identify components and comprehend the assembly process.

Step 8: Generate Manufacturing Files and Bill of Materials (BOM)

Finally, PCB CAD design generates production files and a complete bill of materials. Designers may prepare Gerber and drill files for PCB production using CAD software. A detailed bill of materials (BOM) comprises all materials and components, ensuring accurate PCB purchasing and assembly. Designers may create high-quality PCB that meet design standards by streamlining manufacturing and assembly with precise production files and bills of materials.

Difference Between CAD and CAM

CAD (Computer-Aided Design)

CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing)

CAD software is used for creating detailed designs and models of products or parts.

CAM software is employed to control machinery and tools to manufacture the products designed in CAD.

It focuses on the virtual creation and visualization of objects, often in 2D or 3D.

It deals with the physical production process, including machining operations, toolpath generation, and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) programming.

CAD facilitates design iterations and modifications before physical prototyping or production begins.

CAM ensures precision and efficiency in manufacturing by automating processes like cutting, drilling, and milling based on CAD designs.

Users can manipulate, analyze, and simulate designs to optimize performance and functionality.

CAM translates CAD designs into machine-specific instructions, allowing for accurate production.

CAD is commonly used in industries such as architecture, automotive, aerospace, and electronics.

CAM is common in manufacturing sectors like automotive, aerospace, machining, and production engineering.


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. Allow us to take care of the intricate CAD design while you concentrate on making your electronic devices functional. To find out more and begin your PCB design journey, contact us today.


PCB CAD design takes close attention to detail. It also takes strong communication skills and a solid grasp of design principles to become good at PCB CAD design. Designers can navigate PCB design difficulties. They just need to follow the step-by-step instructions in this extensive resource. Doing so leads to high-quality PCB layouts that meet modern electronics needs.

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