DesignSpark: For All Your PCB Designing Needs

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Fig. 4: Design Calculators
Fig. 4: Design Calculators

Design Rule Check. While designing a PCB, designers should keep in mind basic points like minimum track width, minimum annular ring, track-track clearance, track-pad clearance and pad-track clearance. Then there are other design rules related to nets, vias, drills and lot many things. When the Design Rule Check is run and errors found, textual error markers get added to the design with the appropriate code for that rule violation. This helps you identify and correct the error.

Auto-routing. DesignSpark PCB supports complete auto-routing, partial auto-routing and manual routing. Using an auto-router to route even part of your PCB will give you a significant saving in time. And by combining the power of an auto-router with your experience in PCB layout, the resulting design can beat even the most labour-intensive manual layout results in terms of manufacturability, cost and even aesthetics.

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Fig. 5: Manufacturing plot

Forward Design Change and Back Annotations. After translating schematic to PCB, if any changes are made in schematic the same can be transferred to PCB layout using Forward Design Changes option. It works to achieve netlist synchronisation between related schematic sheets and PCB designs. Design changes (addition/deletion) that are pushed forward include Net name, Connection/Net, Net class, Component, Component values, Component groups, Package, Pin changes.

Back Annotations let designers make changes in the PCB design and then apply those changes back to the master or original schematic design.

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Fig. 6: 3D view

Manufacturing plot (Auto-generating plot). Auto-generating plot lets designers automatically generate manufacturing plot. Auto-generation of plots for a design depends on the type of design and the type of output device selected. Designers may choose one of the following device types: Gerber, Pen Plot, Windows, PDF. Once the device type is chosen, designers may select what their set of plots should cover.

3D Viewer, DXF and IDF export. DesignSpark PCB supports 3D view of the PCB, which lets designers actually analyse how their PCB would look like physically. It uses a simple set of rules describing how each PCB symbol should be represented, together with various settings, like the thickness of the board, and uses the industry-standard OpenGL graphics toolkit to draw the 3D view.

In addition, designers can export their PCB in MCAD tool for designing product enclosure. DesignSpark PCB supports two MCAD export formats: DFX and IDF. DFX output generates an AutoCAD DXF format file containing the board outline shape and the requested drill holes. The IDF format is used as an alternative to DFX by some MCAD (mechanical CAD) vendors for importing into their own systems. IDF files are exported in IDF 3.0 format. The IDF format is used by DesignSpark Mechanical (free and professional 3D model design software sponsored by RS Components) for importing board and component data from PCB design.

Good tool with a good ecosystem

58E_Box_3DesignSpark PCB has lots of technical resources available online to help designers easily learn and use the software. DesignSpark.com features video and text tutorials for designers to get started on DesignSpark PCB. There are also technical documentations on install and upgrade instructions, list of input/output file formats and lots of other information. A technical forum is also available on DesignSpark.com for specific technical clarifications and questions. Periodic releases of new versions of the software maximise designers’ experience as new versions are released based on users’ feedback and are available for free.

B43_Box4Whether you are a professional designer making money from your designs, an electronics education professional, a student or a hobbyist seeking an easy-to-use, professional but unrestricted schematic capture and PCB layout tool, DesignSpark PCB could be the right one for you.

Download latest version of the software: click here


The author is a senior technical correspondent at EFY

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