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Electronics CAD for small company?

Discussion in 'CAD' started by mikem, Oct 28, 2003.

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  1. mikem

    mikem Guest

    ECAD users,

    Looking for recommendation for an ECAD system suitable for use by
    a small to medium engineering company. We have 5 EEs, and a few techs.
    We do relatively small, up to four layer, surface mount, PC boards,
    with less than a hundred components. Probably only do a few boards
    total per year. Big goal is to have schematics be useful for
    documentation and parts lists for purchasing and fabrication.
    Parts libraries are a big deal. Ideally, the physical parts/simulation
    model libraries should have any part you can buy from DigiKey...

    We would like to put schematic capture, Spice-like circuit simulation,
    waveform tools in the hands of each engineer, running on PC platforms.
    The PC layout, routing, and creation of artwork can be concentrated
    onto one trained specialist, and run on just one workstation (ie dont
    need each engineer to lay out PC boards).

    If would be nice if there was a way to export a 3d physical
    representation of a complete PC board to our 3d mechanical design CAD.
    Thermal analysis of heat flows might be nice, but not if it breaks the

    So what are other folks with similar requirements using? If you care
    to reply via email, substitute the letters ced for CharleyEchoDelta.
    Hams and pilots would know to do this...

    Mike Mladejovsky
    SLC, Ut
  2. Bill Sloman

    Bill Sloman Guest

    This is a frequent question on Terry Pinnell
    has listed some 60 programs on his web-site.

    If you are willing to run Linux on your PC's, gEDA could be
    interesting - it is free.

    Mandrake 9.1 and SuSE 9.0 are useful Linux distributions that install
    almost as easily as Windows, and without wrecking your Windows

    For serious advice, sci.electronics.cad is the place to go, but they
    tend to pay serious money for their packages.Protel seemed to be
    popular when I last looked.
  3. You didn't give an idea of what your budget would be. For a small
    company needing 4 layer boards, <$10K is probably your price range. In
    this case, Orcad, PADS or Protel seem to be the usual packages.

    : If you are willing to run Linux on your PC's, gEDA could be
    : interesting - it is free.


    I use and love gEDA. It provides great schematic capture and good
    SPICE capabilites (IMHO). However, the layout package (PCB -- not
    part of gEDA, but commonly used along with it) is not up to snuff for
    real, commercial work (IMHO). Currently, I use gEDA for schematic
    capture and SPICE work, but then do layout with Protel's PCB stuff.

    Therefore, for a small company, I would recommend buying one of Orcad,
    PADS, or Protel. Each one has its own problems, but all can
    produce working boards. If you feel like you can run Linux successfully,
    gEDA is great, but will require some occasional care and feeing. (Not
    that the commercial packages don't . . . .) And you'll still have to
    buy a decent PCB layout package.

    The upside to running gEDA is that the UI is very natural -- allowing
    you to do anything you want -- and you have complete control over your
    design. That is, your design is captured in a fully documented ASCII
    file, not a obscured in a binary file or hidden in a "database" where
    you can't get to it without the original tool. Therefore, you can
    write scripts against your design files, and you will never again need
    to fear vendor lock-in with your EDA package.

  4. Leon Heller

    Leon Heller Guest

    Pulsonix ( is excellent. It competes with
    CADstar, Protel and Orcad but is much easier to use and relatively
    bug-free. The new version 2.1 has just been released.

  5. Oh the world would be a better place if things like that happened :).. but
    back to reality.

    just in case you want to know.. I've been using Protel 99SE forever.. and
    aren't interested in Protel DXP for at least another service pack (which are
    free by the way).

    One thing to remember when looking at the price is cost of ownership..
    Protel has free service packs and no subscription fees.. but I've always
    counted on approx $1000 per year for the next best version (of the bugs).

    Oh and even if you buy the latest version of Protel.. don't use it for at
    least 2 service packs.. will save you finding all the problems when others
    could find them for you.. is better to let it cool its heals on the shelf.
    and ask for the DXP Migration pack.. costs the same.. but you get SE and DXP
    licences ... only one can be used at a time.. Also ask about the multi seat
    discount.. its quite good.

    There is a wealth of users for SE .. most who are still like me and waiting
    for SP3 before doing anything more than trialing it.. what you learn for SE
    wont be wasted.. DXP has new features but is close enough for a head start.

    Also plan on a machine running Windows XP or Windows 2000. Mine is a P4
    2.6G 400MHz FSB dual port 512Meg DDR ... Graphics.. Matrox (ye old card!)
    now GeForce Ti4200.. I wouldn't consider less for DXP .. maybe 2G processor
    and defiantly 1G ram.. Protel loves memory.. but it doesn't use a dual
    processor.. not that it wouldn't hurt.. you could then read you mail while
    doing a DRC.
    DON'T use any cards from ATi.. it is a mistake you won't live to regret.

    now the important stuff....

    Have a check with your local PCB manufacturer as to what they use and what
    systems the other companies around you use. Especially if you only do a few
    boards per year.. check what contractors near you use.. :) If push comes
    to crunch its often easier to out source the boards if you only do a few and
    then the local guy comes into play. support from the supplier isn't always
    that good and if there's a users group answers will often be exact because
    if you found it.. chances are someone else has found it already.. and will
    have a work around if there is one.

    As far as libraries go.. don't hold your breath.... Protel is now shipping
    quality controlled libraries.. but I have never used a library part other
    than one I've created myself or modified myself in decades.
    Protel does have write only fields in its libraries though.. so you can add
    your favourite suppliers part number when you create your part.

    I've not really done much other than play with the spice simulator..
    occasionally I've used the PCB analyzer to check impedances and capacitances
    but there are a few tricks to getting correct results there too.

    Protel also give you FPGA access.. if your interested but I doubt it would
    compare with the more expensive packages.

    Protel does do a very nice solidworks export.. but you need a 3rd party plug
    in (see .. we use it all the time but again.. expect
    your 3d guy to create Protel 3d libraries as its limited and, if you don't
    use standard package names, you don't get access to the standard 3d library.
    We have used AMP connector models before.. by renaming the solidworks part
    and shifting the reference point / orientation so it matches our Protel PCB
    footprint. worked without much pain. NOTE that I'm still talking SE here..
    haven't seen DXP doing this yet.. and there's no developers kit out yet so I
    can't imagine the 3rd party guys having it ready yet.. unless the talked
    nicely to Altium (Protel).

    And that's a "that's right" ... using Delphi you can create a Protel/Windows
    native DLL that plugs into Protel and ca seamlessly do stuff with direct
    access to the schematic or PCB. I've created a BoM program that sifts thru
    the schematics and grabs useful data and stuffs it into a BoM so I know it
    works.. it just takes time to learn. (but worth the effort IMHO)

    I hope I gave you something to think about.

  6. Simon, could you tell us the name of this plug-in or the supplier?

    Best regards,
    Spehro Pefhany
  7. Bob Stephens

    Bob Stephens Guest

    Interesting information. How did you learn how to access Protel databases
    via Delphi? I see allusions to this in the (DXP) documentation, but no clear
    cut tutorials or discussions on this topic.
  8. DXP doesn't currently support the Delphi interface.. I believe there is one
    out there.. but it would be under NDA and ROD (that's Risk of Death).

    I did it the hard way.. picked up Delphi and played with that.. I hadn't
    seen OOP or Pascal or Delphi before hand.. but am a natural board
    programmer.. and I have formal C programming training.. makes it easier.

    And the same for Protel.. hunted for things similar to what I wanted and
    spent a month or so playing.. then cranked the handle on the real thing.

  9. Am not sure exactly.. I will have to check later at work.. but Desktop EDA
    for one..
  10. I forgot to mention.. the documentation for the developers kit comes with
    it.. and there is incredible detail on all the functions available.
    5 megs of examples & 6 megs of pdfs and hlp files.

  11. Does 99SE run on Windows-XP? I'm still running it on WIN98 and have no
    real need for XP, but one of these days I might upgrade to WIN-XP.

  12. Bob Stephens

    Bob Stephens Guest

    Sorry, but I seem to have dropped a post. Development kit?


  13. I'm running both Protel 98 and 99SE on Windows-XP, and previously on
    Win2K - no problems (both versions are installed, but I don't think
    I've tried to run them simultaneously).
  14. Okay, thanks. No need to hang on to WIN98 then ;)
  15. Best to dump it at your earliest convenience. Win2K is MUCH more
    stable, and I assume XP is as well.

    Best regards,
    Spehro Pefhany
  16. It seems a good idea. My WIN98 is pretty stable, only after using
    many large applications for a while, it starts to fall apart ;)
    Typically, one reboot per day. Sometimes as a preventive action,
    while getting a coffee.

    But I hate to re-install all my goodies, finding passwords and
    registration keys and what have you. Luckily I've kept a real-world
    folder with paper copies of emails with registration keys and the
    like. On average it takes me a couple of weeks to get back to
    'normal', with a new PC or other major upgrades.
  17. Russell Shaw

    Russell Shaw Guest

    Run win98 within win4lin on linux. A windoze reboot takes 2seconds
    instead of 2 minutes, and you can easily save and restore the win98
    state from the previous day if it gets screwed.
  18. Unfortunately Windows and Protel 99SE aren't a good combination.. There are
    limitations within Win98 that will cause Protel to crash on a regular basis.
    I would advise against running win98 if you are using Protel. As far as DXP
    goes. I believe it won't run on win 98.. too old and MS won't support new

    As far as Linux goes. It doesn't make me money so I don't use it.

  19. you will have to wait for the DXP version.. Sorry.
  20. I have heard tales of frequent crashes of Protel 98 or 99SE with
    Windows 98, but I had very few problems myself.
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