So my lab has an EE who uses his own software to work out his own
circuit boards, and I have nothing to draw out all the external interface
and control systems I design and build. A decision was made to find a
single software that he could use for circuit design and analysis, and for
which we could use outside the circuit board. I also do a lot of control
panels and so on for a variety of projects, and have been told by a friend
that Visio Pro works for diagrams, but few that I've talked to have liked it
(I'm also having serious difficulty making it work for me) and it can't
interface with the analysis software.
Any good all around suggestions for software or combinations of software
that will work for us? I'm sure I'm not the only one who has this issue.
==============Much depends on who made the decision ==> and what it was based
on. <== If this was a typical snap managerial "make-it-so
command decision," then let the manager find the software.
Why should the EE have to learn yet another program? There is
the cost of the new program and the learning curve may be steep,
during which s/he can listen to the manager complain about their
You don't need a Swiss army knife program that will do
everything. Chose programs that [can] save data in compatible
formats such as comma delimited [csv] files or dxf. By so doing,
you can automate other tasks such as "bill of material"
What is your volume/complexity requirements? Do you need to be
able to generate Gerber drilling and/or pick-n-place insert
Take a look at some of the free/share ware & low cost programs.
google on <program freeware OR shareware "circuit board layout">
for more than 1,600 hits.
They may not be the right answer for you, but I had good results with
Viewlogic for circuit design and simulation coupled into PADS for PC
layout and mechanical drawing. I was making microwave radios and comm
lasers with optics and the enclosures I drew with PADS were quite
PADS now includes schematic capture and simulation but I've only tried
the free demo version of it and don't know how well it would handle a
complex circuit. It also has the transmission line analysis functions
we had to do by hand. It is NOT an easy program to learn.
Viewdraw is actually a capable drafting program itself; I've used it
to draw the physical interconnects for an IC layout on top of the
Well, that's got a couple answers. First off, I haven't found any
software that does the job for me well enough to make it worth my
while. The EE already has his software, and usually does PCB123 for
his circuit boards and Orcad PSpice for diagrams and evaluation.
Nothing that he has been able to find works very well outside the
confines of the circuit board, and we have a lot of oddball things far
away from the circuit boards. He'd like to be able to test my wiring
and systems off the board and I need a good solution for the non-
electronic stuff I do. I have no issue with two different systems,
but the time I spend doing drawings with a pencil that doesn't fit on
a server is no helpful for any of us, and we have no good system for
managing any of our electrical and electronic systems. Turns out that
we have very few wiring diagrams of our systems on the server, due in
main part to there not being a good method for developing and testing
I do a fair amount of packaging electronics for our research work -
sometimes more MacGyver than Maytag, but we make sure our stuff is safe,
and some of it is pretty slick (thanks in large part to help from this
group!). If your EE is using anything like what I am envisioning, I
would not expect it to solve what I imagine your task to be: physical
integration of gizmos on panels and elsewhere in a box to a populated
board with circuit analysis and physical layout spit out by the EE's
software. Am I at all warm??
I typically work with either purchased boards such as screw terminal
boards, packaged transducers, PC/104 computer components, etc., or very
simple home-grown perf boards with soldered jumpers (don't laugh - they
work<g>). From a physical design standpoint, they become plates with
known hole locations and (when space is tight) varying thickness. I use
QCad to draw all relevant parts of an assembly, and create dimension
layers that guide my milling. It is not "easy" but it works. I create
one layer per view per component - systematic naming is critical to
sanity. To that, add one or two (maybe three) dimension layers per
component. My biggest complaint is that QCad does not anticipate the
range in sizes, which can vary by a factor of ten or more. A reasonable
text size for a 0.5x0.5x3.0" inch bracket is much too small for labeling
a drawing of a 1x2x3 ft "box" for the instrument. I get around the
hassles. I have not used AutoCAD in a long time; it stuck me as bloated
then, but a good 3D system could have some advantages.
On the other extreme, I sometimes use Squeak (www.squeak.org) Smalltalk
to create 3D models using its Alice clone. I used it to create a *VERY*
crude way to "fly" around a model of a shelved cart with discrete
boxes. I was solving a political problem more than a
scientific/engineering one, and needed to be damn sure some things would
fit on a particular cart. I had not yet discovered QCad, and frankly,
the visualization was helpful. I have used the same trick a few more
times. Squeak is free and I will gladly set you up with a framework and
some examples, but there is just so much I can do to teach programming.
If you have some programming experience, you might want to take a
look. A more mainstream alternative would be POV-Ray
(http://www.povray.org /) or perhaps Blender. All three are (AFAIK)
limited to visualization. CAD (of course) offers the opportunity to
create layers with dimensions and machining instructions. QCad will not
offer the fly-around views, but what do you expect for $35? I find it
worth every penny BTW.
Very much a MacGyver sort of operation, but as my name is McIver,
I have to remind folks that I'm much smarter and better looking than
that guy when they mispronounce my name. :)
I support a handful of physicists, doctors, and engineers. One
physicist brings a vague set of requirements and lets me run with it.
I actually like that the best, because I get to deliver a system my
way, quickly, simply, and modifiable. The EE comes up with a circuit
board, has me assemble it, and then spends days trying to make it
work, grumbling that I must have screwed up something, when rarely
it's the case. He has specific expectations but doesn't tell me what
they are. Another program manager tells me the overall program goals
with a task and lets me go to town, which I also like.
My challenge when it comes to diagrams is that I need an electronic
way to create and store my diagrams that anyone can read and modify, a
way to interface those diagrams with the EE, who needs to run analysis
on some of the odd designs. In R&D, we play in the outer limits of
just about everything, working with extremely high and low currents
and frequency, high vacuum, cryogenics, magnetic fields, radiation,
blah, blah, blah, and I have to work with microelectronics, motor
controls, basic and complex control circuits, and all sorts of off the
shelf and homemade sensors, and these items can be in all the above
environments. These designs need to be able to be pasted into
reports, modified easily by those with a minimum of training, and
analyzed. It strikes me as odd that there is no software for folks
who need to do something other than power distribution and circuit
boards. Trying to do wiring between boxes just doesn't seem to exist,
which boggles my mind. I need to go find out what software the
commercial aircraft division of my employer uses for their wiring, as
I know they have the same issues I do.
Oh, there certainly are programs if you can pry loose the funding.
Viewlogic will break up a design into a hierarchy with each module's
schematic appearing as a connected block at the next higher level. I
could design a Xilinx FPGA and simulate its schematic while also
placing it on the board as a component, the board was a block on the
backplane schematic, and the backplane was a block on the master
schematic. Each board level schematic was exported to PADS for the
board artworks. The interconnect cabling could come from the master
schematic if everyone was careful to put all I/O on each block.
There is enough drafting capability that I could create an isometric
view as the symbol for strange experimental devices with unlabelled
It helped significantly that I ran both the CAD room and the
electronics lab and could make sure everything worked together.
I think both packages will output PDFs that can be pasted into Word.
My computer is littered with a number of lousy software, and I think I
may have found something that might do the job. Has anyone used
Designworks by Capilano? I've spent a few moments working on a
diagram I currently have in pencil, and so far it seems to be doing
the job. Any other experience out there?
Many CAD packages enable one to capture graphics and schematics. I
use AutoCAD simply because I'm familiar with it and can "sketch" or
draw in ACAD faster than I can with a pencil -- and then share,
maintain and archive my drawings electronically. Other than quick
scribbles, I haven't made a drawing with a pencil for well over a
decade. Every drawing I've made, and there are certainly hundreds
and possibly thousands, is chronologically archived in folders on
this computer and in a backup archive. If I know about when I made it
and something about its purpose, I can find it in a couple of minutes.
I use programs similar to those used by your EE for circuit
simulations and circuitboards. I use ACAD when I just want a
schematic (no simulation), and/or to make drawings of mechanical
parts and devices. If I were an ME I would want something like
SolidWorks. I'd like it anyway, but it's way beyond this pensioner's
Many or most PWB (printed wiring board) programs make a netlist from
a schematic. If you enter a wiring diagram as a schematic, you can
get a netlist listing every "net" (set of things connected together)
and the nodes (terminals on devices) that are connected to each other.
It needn't be a single board, could easily be a panel or an entire
Electrical verification of wiring is easily done with any of the
various SPICE programs. They can "test" anything that can be
represented with a schematic. If you could check the real thing with
an ohmmeter or continuity tester, SPICE can certainly ohm out the
schematic. They also enable easy schematic capture, and they are
certainly not limited to circuit boards. They're of no use at all
for physical drawings of panels, wiring harnesses, etc, though. The
CAD packages do that, with a wide variety of capability, ease of
learning, ease of use and price.
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