Creating PCBs with design software provides many advantages for engineers:
- Quick start – design software can store prior designs and commonly-used templates for reuse. Selecting an existing design with time-proven reliability and functionality, then adding or editing functionality is a quick way to get a project moving forward.
- Component libraries – software vendors provide a library that includes thousands of known PCB components and materials available for inclusion on a board. These can be edited to add new materials that become available or to add custom components as needed. As new components are offered by manufacturers, libraries are updated accordingly.
- Intuitive routing tools – place and move routing easily and intuitively. Automated routing is another important feature that saves time in development.
- Quality improvements – design tools provide a more reliable result, improving quality.
- DRC – Design Rule Checking is a powerful tool that examines the PCB design for integrity issues related to both logical and physical characteristics. This function alone can save considerable time in eliminating rework and validating the board design.
- File generation – once the design is completed and validated by the software, designers have a simple automated method of creating files the manufacturer needs to produce the product. Some systems further include a file checker function that verifies all files needed for production have been generated.
- Time savings – flaws or questionable design elements can slow the production process with questions between the manufacturer and designer. Each issue adds time to the manufacturing cycle, and could result in rework and higher cost.
- Design for manufacturing – DFM tools integrated into many design packages provide analysis of the design against manufacturing ability. This can save considerable time in fine-tuning the design before it ever gets to the fabrication process.
- Engineering changes – as modifications are made, changes are tracked and documented for future reference.
- Collaboration – design software facilitates peer review and suggestions from other engineers through sharing of designs throughout the development process.
- Simplified design processes – automated placement and drag-and-drop functionality allow designers to create and edit designs more efficiently and accurately.
- Documentation – design software generates hard-copy documents for PCB layout, schematics, component lists, and more. Manual creation of these documents is eliminated.
- Integrity – integrity checking of PCBs and schematics provides alerts for potential defects.
Through the combined advantages of applying software technology to PCB design, there is another significant benefit: management becomes more confident in the established timelines and budget for development projects.