I’m pretty used to the idea that many of the consumer devices that require batteries to function don’t actually get packaged with the batteries that they need. That’s a pretty standard operating procedure for a lot of products. What is annoying, however, is how many products don’t contain some of the essentials that they need in order to appear or operate as advertised: “Realistic Illuminated Model Spaceship (lighting kits sold separately).” This seems to happen a lot with toy products resulting in disappointed children and frustrated parents.
It also seems to happen a lot in EDA tools as well. You may think that your new electrical schematic drawing software has everything you need to do the job, but does it really? Many “affordable” schematic capture tools are stripped down versions that have large feature restrictions built into them. Others don’t offer the functionality that you need to be productive. Using tools like this can also cause a lot of frustration. Here are some considerations to keep in mind as you look at what schematic tools to invest in.
What You Should Expect from Your Electrical Schematic Drawing Software
One of the most important features in schematic software is that it should be simple to use and easy to learn. This doesn’t mean that it should be lacking in features, it should have all the functionality you need to get the job done. What it does mean though is that all of those features as well as the entire workflow should be structured intuitively throughout the tool. Menus and icon pallets should be grouped in a way that makes sense and naturally guides the user through their work. Since it is more than likely you are not going to spend every minute of your work day using these tools, the ease of use becomes even more important. Most engineers will spend time doing other tasks in support of their design, and after being in the lab for several weeks you don’t want to spend time relearning how to use complicated schematic tools.
On the other hand “more power” isn’t just good, it’s great! Your schematic drawing software should give you all the capabilities you need to draw primitive shapes, add text, create symbols and components, and connect nets and groups of nets. It should also have a lot of versatility to add properties and attributes to net and component objects, and it should have a powerful set of design rules checking to keep you honest.
You don’t have time to deal with software that requires you to come up with creative work-arounds for missing features and functionality, you need powerful tools that you can rely on. But there is a lot more to creating schematics than just placing components and connecting nets, you need good libraries to work with, database management with bills of materials and netlists, and simulation tools as well.
A good schematic editor allows you to easily place and route symbols and manage libraries
The Importance of Schematic Libraries and Simulation
The importance of good CAD libraries cannot be overlooked. Without good libraries you will get bogged down in library creation and verification. A good schematic capture system needs to be built on a solid library foundation with three important parts to it:
Library Construction: Your schematic capture tools need to have the capability to easily build library parts. Creating symbols and storing component properties should be an intuitive process along with the other workflow features of the tools. Additionally, good schematic tools will also feature symbol creation wizards to help you create your library parts accurately and with minimal effort.
Library Management: As important as it is to be able to build your library elements, it won’t do you any good unless you have a manageable library system to store them in. Your schematic tools should give you the ability to create and manage symbol libraries in a way that best suits the workflow of your company.
Available Libraries: There is no reason to keep on reinventing the wheel, and having accurate pre-made symbols that you can easily access through your schematic software is a great productivity enhancement tool. Not only does it save you time, but with the complexity of a 600 pin part you need to know that the part is correct. Many component vendors offer pre-made symbols of their parts, and many schematic tool vendors have pre-existing libraries that you can attach to and download.
And just as important as it is to have libraries that are easily accessible, you also need simulation tools that are within your grasp as well. To keep up with your product markets you can’t afford extended design cycle times. One of the best ways to shorten the design time is to have built in simulation software that is ready to go when you need it.
Trying to attach to and use third party simulation software can add an extra bump in the road when you are trying to get results in a hurry. The best solution is to have that simulation software right there as another menu item in your electronic schematic drawing software.
The ability to simulate your schematic is critical to shortening design times
How Your PCB Design Tools Should Put it All Together
The best solution for your PCB design tools is for one system that contains all of the tools you need for your job: Schematic capture, library, simulation, PCB layout, and manufacturing file creation. This keeps you from having to constantly relearn different software and translating design data in order to jump from one tool to the next. Fully contained PCB design systems like these are configured so that the tools complement each other and work together saving you time and effort. This allows you to focus on the task of PCB design instead of spending your day doing CAD system management and software training.
Fortunately the schematic drawing software that we’ve been talking about is already here in the PCB design tools from Cadence. OrCAD PCB Designer includes a state of the art schematic capture system, and it is constantly growing and improving in order to deliver to you the latest design technology in the industry.
If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts.