10 best pcb Design Softwares for 2018


The development of electronics requires a deep knowledge of circuit board architecture and modern databases. Furthermore, to be a specialist in this discipline, you have to be able to use computer-aided design (CAD) software and create boards in full accordance with the requirements of the Electric Membership Corporation (EMC).

Integrated circuits are widely used for all types of electronics, including mobile devices. In fact, it’s a huge multi-billion industry that is growing continuously. According to Statista, the global market of integrated circuits for smartphones reached value of $89.7 billion in 2017.

If you’re looking for a conveniently printed circuit board (PCB) design solution, you’re welcome to check out our list of PCB design software packages as well as their advantages and drawbacks.

1. Allegro Cadence

Allegro Cadence is a professional PCB design software that has a wide set of features. This is a package of PCB design utilities properly connected to each other. Each unit is responsible for its own destination and designed for certain tasks.

Allegro Cadence is light when it comes to hardware performance requirements. This solution can work fine even when installed on machines with 512 MB of RAM. If you use a one-cored computer, then Allegro’s product is actually the only option you have, especially if you’re using a few parallel solutions.

Advantages

  • Suitable for low-performance hardware
  • Designed for complex projects
  • Suitable for large enterprises

Disadvantages

Complex user interface

2. PADS

Among the more affordable solutions, PADS is one of the best PCB design software. This tool is designed for independent engineers, those who typically work in small and medium-sized organizations, or form a separate team within large enterprises.

It’s worth noting that PADS is actually one of the most popular PCB design software among small companies. They underline its simplicity as the main advantage after its low pricing.

Advantages

  • Cheap packages
  • Easy-to-use
  • Easy-to-learn
  • A high design quality, in comparison with other low-end solutions

Disadvantages

Not suitable for complex multi-layer circuit boards

3. OrCAD

Free OrCAD Lite provides the basic functionality and capabilities of PCB design products, limited only by the size and complexity of the project.

OrCAD Standard will provide full functionality for simple PCBs without special requirements for laying speed signals or differential pairs.

OrCAD Professional will allow you to design complex high-speed PCBs with high efficiency, without the need to pay for excessive functionality.

Advantages

Friendly user interface

Easy-to-use

Disadvantages

Not suitable for large enterprises with complex projects

4. Kicad

KiCad is written in C++. It has various tools and utilities for managing circuit board architecture and electric schemas. KiCad also includes numerous libraries of electronic components. In KiCad, these components have 3D models implemented in Wings3D.

KiCad has an unlimited size for circuits. At any stage, you can go back and make a change. The 3D Viewer option enables you to create a 3D image of a printed circuit board using OpenGL.

The quality of rendering is lower than that of paid analogs, but it is quite enough for a visual understanding; however, the main formats of 3D component models like .iges and * .step are not supported.

Among the drawbacks of this solution, there’s a complex and unintuitive user interface. The software is hard to learn without learning its documentation.

Advantages

  • Suitable for low-performance hardware
  • Editing options
  • A free software package
  • 3D modeling

Disadvantages

  • Not suitable for complex tasks
  • Non-user-friendly interface

5. Altium Designer (PROTEL)

The PROTEL solution has been on the market for PCB design software for about 30 years. This tool has quickly become one of the etalons of electronic design automation (EDA) solutions and set numerous standards for other vendors. With its growing popularity, PROTEL has become a preferred tool among numerous circuit designers.

The PROTEL has now transformed into the even more sophisticated solution called Altium Designer. It inherits all PROTEL’s heritage and provides users with extra features.

Various universities across the entire world, like the Belgium-based Ghent University, educate their students on how to use this solution.

Advantages

  • It’s perfect for working on one or two-layered boards
  • High-speed digitalization.

Disadvantages

It’s hard to use this tool when you need to create a multi-layered (4+) board

6. Eagle

Eagle (Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor) - a program for drawing electrical circuits and trace PCBs of electronic devices.

The Eagle software package consists of three main components:

  1. Schematic Module, designed for drawing electronic circuits using standard elements.
  2. Layout Editor, which allows you to develop a drawing of a printed circuit board by your own forces.
  3. Autorouter, designed to trace the PCB without user intervention.

Eagle has a library of various standard electronic components with brief descriptions, convenient element database editors, and logical modules that verify the connection and location of components on the board. Among the advantages of Eagle over similar solutions, there are the ability to cancel already-made steps, the absence of problems when working on old computers, a powerful scripting language, and the presence of drivers that allow users to print their schemas.

Using Eagle, you can export the result of your work to the POV-Ray renderer and, as a result, create 3D models of circuit boards.

The Eagle product is developing rapidly since it was purchased by the Autodesk company. The 3D design of the PCB feature which has recently become a must for the PCB designing software is finally being integrated into Eagle.

Advantages

  • Wide editing opportunities
  • Suitable for low-performance hardware
  • A powerful scripting language
  • Ready-to-use drivers
  • A free version of the software

Disadvantages

Not suitable for complex tasks

 

7. EasyEda

The online service EasyEDA includes an editor of electrical circuits, SPICE-simulator, and editor of printed circuit boards.

EasyEDA is designed for the development of electronic devices of low and medium complexity. It’s best for students and radio amateurs. It supports the creation and editing of both individual components of circuits, as well as hierarchical schemes and subschemes of SPICE models. The development of custom elements is carried out either by copying and changing existing ones or by drawing them up from scratch.

It’s worth noting the support of hotkeys, the creation of material specifications, file sharing, and shared development of schemes and layouts of printed circuit boards. The results can be exported to SVG, PDF, and PNG file formats.

Advantages

  • Suitable for low-performance hardware
  • Free web app
  • Online sharing
  • Shared development
  • There are wide settings for displaying simulation results - areas, graphs, background color, grid, etc.

Disadvantages

Not suitable for complex tasks

8. DesignSpark PCB

One of the distinguishing features of DesignSpark Mechanical (DSM) is its focus on the creation of 3D models of PCBs and bodies for electronic devices. The tool enables you to download 3D models of various components, from resistors to connectors and displays.

In one click, you can order all the components used in the assembly. Using DesignSpark PCB and DSM, you can create various projects for electronic devices, such as printed circuit boards, components, fasteners, and enclosures.

Advantages

  • Suitable for low-performance hardware
  • Free download
  • Easy-to-use

Disadvantages

Not suitable for complex tasks

9. ExpressPCB

ExpressPCB is a solution for the manual design of printed circuit boards. It has an intuitive interface and more than 1200 standard elements for building PCBs that allow you to avoid drawing them from scratch.

The most important advantages of ExpressPCB are the rapid development, ease of creating its own base of microcircuits and radio components, and the accuracy of the solution. The instrument is well suited for double-sided printed circuit boards which contain details both with planar terminals and with pins. Using ExpressPCB, you can import a list of circuits, as well as highlight the unconnected pins on the sites.

The solution has a Snap-to-Grid function that allows you to place details on your board with great accuracy. When PCB is designed, the program reports the approximate cost of manufacturing the rendered board. Unfortunately, it has neither auto-router nor functions to check all the connections for the best location of all the details, as well as a preview feature before printing.

Advantages

  • A free solution
  • Easy-to-use
  • Many built-in models
  • Calculating the approximate cost

Disadvantages

  • No auto-router
  • The solution cannot check element connections

10. WG

Compared to ORCAD and PROTEL, WG is quite a new tool, created in 2005 for Windows. WG is a product developed by Mentor Graphics and it’s one of the best solutions when it comes to layout.

The limited configuration of the Expedition package (the core of WG) can be effective for a small workgroup when performing medium-complexity projects. A full package of WG, with options for functional modeling and signal integrity analysis, allows you to design fairly complex boards.

Mentor Graphics develops and supports all three of these routes. This package supports all the main formats of files for PCB production, including Gerber, ATE, AIS Drill and others.

Advantages

  • Designed for complex projects
  • Suitable for large enterprises

Disadvantages

  • Expensive packages

Conclusion

ToolPROTELPADSORCADWGAllegroEagleKiCadEasyEdaDesignSpark PCBExpress PCB
LicensePaidPaidFree+paidPaidPaidFree+paidFreeFreeFreeFree
Suitable forLarge enterprisesSMEsSMEsLarge enterprisesLarge enterprisesSMEsSMEsSMEsSMEsSMEs
Layers1-21-2multimultimultimultimulti1-21-21-2
LevelProfessionalIntermediateIntermediateProfessionalProfessionalIntermediateIntermediateBeginnerBeginnerBeginner

Taking our review into account, you should now be able to make a proper decision. If you need a high-end solution for PCB design, then Allegro Cadence is one of the best choices in this case. In cases where you are working on a complex project but your budget is very limited, then try out PADS.

If you’re a student or beginner in PCB design and you need an easy-to-use and well-documented tool, then EAGLE or EasyEDA will be very helpful. If you work for an organization but prefer not to purchase a license, then go for KiCAD.