PCB Design Software: Essential Tools for Electronics Product Development

The printed circuit board (PCB) lies at the heart of almost every electronic device we use in our daily lives. From computers and smartphones to appliances, medical equipment, automobiles and more – electronic products rely on PCBs to house various integrated circuits and electronic components that work together to power functionality.

With immense growth in consumer electronics and IoT enabling technologies, electronic product development has surged exponentially in recent years. This has created a booming demand for efficient PCB design and manufacturing solutions. PCB design software tools have evolved as indispensable aids for electronics engineers and product designers. Let’s take a deeper look at this crucial software category.

Evolution of PCB Design

Historically, PCB design was done manually using pencil, paper, graphics software or simple PCB layout programs. This analog process was complex, labor-intensive and error-prone. It has now been transformed digitally using advanced EDA (electronic design automation) tools specifically developed for PCB design tasks.

Early PCB CAD (computer-aided design) software enabled basic PCB layout by providing digital schematic capture and routing features. With rapid technological progress, modern PCB design suites integrate myriad other essential capabilities like simulation, library management, manufacturing output generation, bill of materials extraction and design reviews.

Key Features of Leading PCB Design Software

Schematic Capture: Core element that allows engineers to digitally diagram electronic circuits and interconnect individual components on a schematic page.

PCB Layout: Main interface for arranging components on the PCB and routing interconnects between them according to design rules. Used along with placement tools.

Device Libraries: Built-in component libraries simplify parts selection, while custom libraries add user-defined devices. Managed using library editors.

Signal Integrity Analysis: Simulation modules predict EM and signal interference issues before board fabrication through tools like DRC, ERC, impedance analysis etc.

Footprint Creation: Customizable interface to establish footprint patterns representing device shapes on the PCB and their fabricating parameters.

Manufacturing Output: Generation of outputs in industry-standard Gerber, ODB++ and other file formats for production at assembly houses.

Bill of Materials (BOM): Automatic extraction and organization of components and their properties, quantities from the schematic for procurement.

Collaboration: Cloud-based viewing and commenting features enable design reviews involving other engineers and clients.

Main PCB Design Software Vendors

PCB Design Software Market by Coherent Market Insights offers valuable insights into Main PCB Design Software Vendors

Altium: Popular high-end solution with integrated PCB design tools, 3D modeling, documentation utilities and cloud-based collaborative workflows. Supports all board design stages from concept to mass production.

Cadence: Comprehensive EDA suite comprising OrCAD, Allegro and other industry-proven design/layout applications used by electronics leaders worldwide.

Mentor Graphics: Provides broad PCB design capabilities through its PADS tool along with library management, signal integrity analysis and CAM packages.

Zuken: Offers CR-5000/CR-8000 platforms integrating PCB design, 3D modelling, signal integrity and other analysis modules for diverse industry verticals.

Autodesk EAGLE: Beginner-friendly yet versatile schematic-to-board design software with basic-advanced features at affordable price points. Widely used by hobbyists, start-ups.

PCB Design Considerations for Different Industries

Consumer Electronics: Emphasis on high-density designs, thermal/EMI management, high-speed digital routing, rigid-flex, industry standards like IPC-6012 Class 3.

Automotive Electronics: Strict adherence to heavy-duty reliability, operating condition testing, layered security schemes, ASIL automotive safety standards.

Industrial/Factory Automation: Robust designs for rugged environments, moisture/dust protection, long-term operation at wide temperature ranges, hazardous location certifications.

Medical Devices: Ultra-miniaturized board designs, biocompatibility, ISO 13485 medical device quality standards, electrical safety compliance e.g. IEC 60601.

Telecom/Networking: High-performance boards for 5G/edge applications, high-speed serial interfaces, DC power delivery designs, NEBS standards compliance.

Aerospace/Defense: Space-grade components, conformal coating, tamper-proofing, MIL-STD-810 environmental testing qualifications.

Market Outlook

With its multifaceted relevance in diverse industries, the global PCB design software market has steadily grown over the past decade. Rapid digitalization across sectors and the proliferation of connected devices are major factors driving this upward trend. Asia Pacific currently captures the largest share owing to presence of leading electronics manufacturing hubs. However, developed regions like North America and Europe are also seen strengthening their positions.

For more granular insights into regional trends, technology disruptions and top players shaping this dynamic industry space, refer to the in-depth PCB design software market research report available on Coherent Market Insights. The report offers a 360-degree view of the ever-evolving market landscape backed by qualitative and quantitative analyses.