The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all into quarantine, observing social distancing and avoiding crowds. With the authorities at the backend trying to contain the virus it would be foolish for companies to continue work in the same way. Instead, companies have been directed to either temporarily shut down work or initiate remote work from home.
Image Courtesy: Solid Edge
What is PCB Design Software?
Quite simply, it is software used to aid electronic engineers in designing layouts for PCBs by using layout software for component placement and routing in the PCB design.
Here is a list of the top seven collaborative PCB software programs you should consider making use of.
Altium 365 is a cloud-based platform that allows for real-time collaboration. Altium not only provides its users with software for PCB design but also the ability to view and share designs on a web browser. Altium 365 was launched in 2018 particularly as a cloud-based tool with the goal to ‘connect designs directly to the manufacturing floor’. You can access it with Altium Designer or from a browser. It comes with a number of software-based services to assist you in the designing process.
Image Courtesy: Altium
With Altium 365 you can view schematic, PCB, and 3D views from any internet-enabled device. Altium 365 comes with two products i.e. Concord Pro and Altium NEXUS. You can request for Altium’s free trial to test their services before you proceed to subscribe. Highly useful for engineers who are not familiar with the software or beginners stuck at home.
Autodesk EAGLE (Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor) is an EDA (electronic design automation) software that allows PCB designers to create PCB designs. It comes with a number of helpful features including schematic capture, PCB layout, auto-router and, CAD (computer-aided design).
Image Courtesy: Autodesk
Autodesk EAGLE also comes with a CAD tool called “Fusion 360” which is perfect if you’re working on a project with multiple people. Be sure to check out the “Fusion Team Collaboration” feature.
Let’s talk about the Fusion 360 tool. Fusion 360 allows for collaborative product development, particularly through ECAD/MCAD collaboration. Even so, not everyone will have a copy of the Fusion 360 tool, so how would you share your designing data with someone at the other end of the world if need say?
They would have to search for a free design viewer in order to work on the project, or they would view the design right from their browser. How? Through EAGLE’s “Fusion Team Collaboration” feature. With this feature, you can share your work with anyone who has access to a PC, tablet, or smartphone. It also comes with interactive markup tools, plus you can download your design in a number of file formats as required including inventor and STL for 3D printing. You can also invite others to collaborate and comment on your designs via the markup tools, and allow your manufacturer to explore the designs no matter where they are.
You can download Autodesk EAGLE for free along with Fusion 360, however, you may not have access to the full features which you will have to pay for.
Altium has another very interesting product we’ve added to this list, known as ‘SOLIDWORKS PCB’. SOLIDWORKS PCB also allows for collaboration on PCB design, particularly between electrical and 3D mechanical design teams. It allows for ECAD/MCAD collaboration.
Image Courtesy: Solidworks
It comes with a number of features including design and data management, read time 3D clearance checking, and design commenting and revision management.
This will allow you to track exactly when and what changes were made to your design. You can also use the design revision feature to accept or reject changes made. Highly useful if you’re working with multiple people on the same board design.
Upverter is an EDA system which is designed to help engineers design, share, and review schematics and Printed Circuit Boards. PCB designers will usually pitch in with the pros and cons of products used in a PCB and add many changes to the design. This collaboration requires a platform that can assist the designers in their work.
Image Courtesy: Upverter
This is where Upverter steps in. Upverter provides its users with a collaborative, user-friendly platform for PCB design. You can collaborate with your team and work on a single design together in real-time. You can share your design reviews and updates with your colleagues, manufacturers, and reviewers.
Any edits made to the design by a collaborator will get logged down and recorded for you to keep track of what was done where. You can also keep a shared to-do list and assign different design tasks to different team members.
Upverter is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. You can use it without having to install anything and absolutely free of charge.
EasyEDA is a free circuit designer, circuit simulator, and PCB designer that you can run in your web browser. It is built specifically for those that like to work anywhere, build projects with their team members, and share their projects. This is one of the key reasons why EasyEDA operates as a cloud-based EDA.
Image Courtesy: EasyEDA
You can use EasyEDA in your browser or via a desktop client. The desktop client is incredibly useful as it allows working offline.
In order to add another team member, you simply have to go to your project and right-click to open a drop-down menu. Next, go to “Member” and share the project with whoever you like. You simply need their e-mail address which they have used to create an account on EasyEDA. Next set up your project member as a “developer” or “manager” or “observer”.
As for the pricing, EasyEDA is available for free with its core features. However, EaseyEDA plans to introduce its planned subscription packages in the near future which will come with more juicy features.
CADLAB is another “cloud-based hardware development program” which is built for collaboration on projects. It allows you to view design files from your browser and comment on the schematic design, view any changes /revisions, and discuss your design ideas.
Image Courtesy: Cadlab.io
CADLAB also allows you to view the history of changes made so you can easily switch between any design version, and you can also leave interactive annotations on a schematic and board layout. Overall it may not have as many features as the other programs on the list but it is a fairly nice program.
You can also install the CADLAB chrome extension to view schematics, PCB layouts, and visual diffs right from Github.
As for pricing, it comes in a free open-source version and the pro version for $11/month.