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Hierarchical Design With OrCAD X

Key Takeaways

  • Hierarchical schematics make it easier to manage and edit complex circuits by organizing them into manageable sections.

  • Save time and effort by reusing individual circuits and known good blocks from other designs.

  • Easily navigate through schematics and facilitate signal passing with busses and ports.

Top-level view of the hierarchical pinout for a high-speed RAM circuit block.
Top-level view of the hierarchical pinout for a high-speed RAM circuit block.

Hierarchical design is a better way to organize your PCB designs. In this approach, you have a main design or top sheet that contains block symbols representing all the subcomponents of your design. Each subcomponent in a hierarchical design can be blown up to reveal additional sheets, each with its own block symbols.

Hierarchy navigation in OrCAD X

Hierarchy navigation in OrCAD X

Hierarchical Schematic Design: A Better-Organized PCB Design

The nested structure of a hierarchical design allows a designer to move from sheet to sheet, creating new blocks for new components and reusing old blocks where necessary, greatly improving PCB designer productivity. The schematic editor automatically resolves any data conflicts, making it easier to manage net names, avoid conflicts, and make changes.

Ascending hierarchy in OrCAD X

Ascending hierarchy in OrCAD X 

The Problem With Flat Schematics

Flat schematics are fine when your hardware designs can be captured in one or two pages, but as your projects grow larger and work gets distributed among more designers, you’re bound to run into a few problems.

While the components contain references to each other in the form of net names and callouts, the pages themselves are static—no software links one page to another, and the engineer must manually navigate the pages of the schematic to understand the whole design.

Reasons to Avoid Flat Schematic Design

Problems with Flat Schematic Design


Difficulty in Understanding the Whole Design

In a flat schematic, each major component of a design gets its own page. This can make it difficult to understand the overall design as you have to navigate through multiple pages.

Typos and Errors in Net Names

As projects grow larger and work gets distributed among more designers, typos and errors in net names can occur. This can lead to confusion and mistakes in the design. 

Circuits Must Be Replicated Across Pages

Circuits must be replicated across pages by manually copying, pasting, and renaming labels—all of which can be error-prone.

Time-Consuming Engineering Change Orders (ECOs)

Changes in one part of the design can affect other parts. In a flat schematic, these changes can be time-consuming as they may require manual updates to multiple pages. Engineering change orders can be time consuming, requiring an engineer to manually scrub all pages for additional changes.

Limited Reusability

In flat designs, reusing a part of the schematic in another project can be challenging as it may require significant modifications.

Hierarchical Design With OrCAD X: Make the Most of Your PCB Design Software

PCB design software has come a long way in recent years, making it easier to hold all the information regarding the assembly and fabrication of a PCB in a single CAD file. Cadence PCB design tools support hierarchical schematics. Why let that comprehensive interconnectivity go to waste?

A hierarchical schematic gives you a bird's-eye view of your design, allowing you to dive into each functional area by following each block symbol on the topsheet. Together, these technologies make a PCB designer’s life easier. Below, we’ve highlighted the top features for hierarchical design in OrCAD X.

OrCAD X Features For Hierarchical Design



Simplifies Complex Circuits

Hierarchical schematics make complex circuits easier to manage and edit.


Allows reuse of individual circuits at a higher level, saving time and effort.

Easy Navigation

Provides easy ascension and descension through schematics for better navigation.

Busses and Ports

Facilitates easy signal passing through the hierarchy into and out of blocks.

Block Reusability

Enables easy reuse of known good circuit blocks from other designs.

Quick Design Creation

Allows dropping in blocks and connecting them to quickly create designs.

Easy Block-Level Changes

Changes made at the block level are pushed to all instances of the circuit.

Unique Reference Designators

Ensures different reference designators for multiple instances of the same block.

Rapid Prototyping

Supports rapid prototyping to speed up the design process and time to market.

Experience the power of hierarchical design firsthand. Test these features yourself in OrCAD X today!

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