If you pick engineering design software based on the wrong criteria, you will, at best, get a product that takes more time and money to utilize than you’d otherwise spend. At worst, you’ll buy software that fails to meet your needs and gets in the way of work. Here are four factors to consider when picking a printed circuit board tool.
Maximizing the Efficiency of Your Team
The best PCB design tools maximize the efficiency of your team by automating as many tasks as possible or simplifying the process to the greatest degree. For example, software that automatically checks for electromagnetic interference and thermal problems eliminates the need for your team to do that work, too.
PCB tools that make it easy to check the design’s dimensions relative to the rest of the assembly or export designs so you can send them to your board manufacturer for initial input are preferable over those that make these steps a chore. If exporting a design so you can ensure that it will work once built is time-consuming or frustrating, you’re unlikely to do it more than once. If the process is simple, you’ll be able to run such checks more than once without a lot more work.
One of the benefits of the software Altium Designer is that it eliminates a lot of work that otherwise bogs down engineers. For example, it automatically generates parts lists based on the current design and manages configuration information, freeing up your designers to focus on troubleshooting problems with the design.
Many PCB designers choose software that has most of the features they want while losing others. Another mistake they make is choosing software that has their one or two “must-have” features instead of the dozen or more functions they truly need software to have. A solution to this problem is choosing software that is customizable.
The ability to customize software doesn’t make up for software missing key and necessary functions, but it can make a reasonably priced product that has all your must-haves but lacks a few wants the better choice over the more expensive package with all the bells and whistles.
The best PCB design software is useless if you cannot get tech support on the phone when mission-critical software crashes or locks up. You can only partially mitigate this issue by choosing software that is ultra-stable and automatically backs up design files. You need to research how well software vendors support their software as well as the support plans you may have to choose from. You cannot afford to buy the cheapest design software and be told to search user forums for advice when your schedule is shot because key files are corrupted.
Training and Learning Curve
A secondary issue is the learning curve and training available for the tool. You don’t want to get new software without some sort of training since people will make the most mistakes at the onset. And even if they have basic tutorials, you’ll need training on how to use more advanced features or train new additions to your team. Good training resources won’t eliminate the need for tech support, but it will reduce the number of calls to tech support caused by lack of knowledge by your team.
Now that you know the criteria that separate good PCB design tools from great ones, you should be able to better compare tools and find one that fits your style and needs the best.