There are plenty of PCB Board Design Software available, ranging from online development software where you can design basic circuits in simple steps to very advanced software which take gigabytes of space in your Hard Disk. Different PCB board design software use different means of design but all of them have a general philosophy. The developer is undergone a series of steps during the design process. The first step is selection of components; components are selected from the panel. Number of components available depends on the software; those not present have to be downloaded. Almost all the components available in the market have their own masks already designed in precise dimensions and structure. If the developer is using a self-made component, some PCB board design software provide design tools dedicated for the component masks and the design is simple if precise dimensions are known. After components are selected, the second step is choosing board dimensions and placing components on the board. PCB board design software do not offer automatic component configuration, so the developer must use its creativity to place components the right way. The third step is connecting components together, thickness of copper lines is chosen according to the amount of current it will carry. The third step is routing the components. The challenge of routing has to do with the tentative to make routes as shorter as possible and more importantly use as less PCB layers as possible. Most of the PCB board design software provide auto-routing alternatives – which generate routes automatically using certain algorithms. The last step is generating the final version of the board including Gerber files which are sent to the manufacturer. The figures below describe the process of designing a PCB board using EasyEda. From left to right, images describe the schematic of the PCB, PCB layout before routing and PCB layout after Auto-route tool is applied.
Some of the most common PCB board design software are listed below:
Proteus – is a professional design software, offers most of the design services and is a common platform for two development software – Ares which contains hundreds of PCB parts and Isis which provides routing to finalize the PCB board design.
Eagle – is a multi-purpose design software just like Proteus, it is known for practicality, accuracy and precision. Includes a basic version for analysis of board layout and schematics.
Altium Designer – is one of the most common PCB board design software, is practical for the user and has multiple functions. Altium provides the 3D view of real final version of the PCB. Altium is incorporated in SolidWorks mechanical designer software which makes it is easier for mechatronics engineers to design their products.
Allegro – is used for industrial design, offers time efficient board design alternatives without sacrificing functionality of the final product. Contains multiple tools not present in the previous software. Because of its multirole usability Allegro is quite used as a standard development software in industry.
EasyEda – is an online PCB board designer, its role is to make simple PCB boards fast and easily.