Selecting between OrCAD, Altium Designer, Zuken, or PADS

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by RunFromYourWife, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. RunFromYourWife

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 25, 2014
    I have used all four of the above tools for circuit design, simulation, and PCB design/layout. I have the option (and responsibility) of selecting my company's ECAD software going forward. I am already leaning in one direction, but thought I'd see what folks think on this issue.

    I have either used, or seen in use, all of these tools in pretty sophisticated designs involving low-power applications, high-speed processing applications, inductive coupling, microwave wireless, as well as varying mixed-signal applications. Therefore, I think that any one of the tools can be used to do well. My company does not do high speed or high power designs, but more low power and microprocessor muscle only for communications (wired & wireless) so super high speed features are nice but unnecessary for my purposes.

    So...what is your preference in circuit/PCB design tools and why?
  2. gdallas


    Apr 25, 2012

    why? because this is the tool I was trained on at uni. Has execllent tech support in the uk through parrallel systems and is recognised by prety much all electronics vendors so sourcing component symbols an footprints is never a problem.

    cons, not always the most intuiitive.
  3. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
    You should put together a detailed list of features/functions that your company will require in a software. Then gather initial purchase pricing/maintenance costs/subscription service costs,etc... Then, most importantly, get demo versions of each program and evaluate them to your companies needs by attempting to run through a couple of your companies current designs or something similar.
    Make sure you run through all the functions not just pcb layout.. Look at part/library creation/schematic symbol definition, schematic creation,etc... Take the extra time to really evaluate it now or pay later in lost productivity. A hands on demo is the ONLY way to really nail down your needs. There is just too much marketing blah blah out there now that can get you really excited at first only to be let down when you actually use the program..

    We use Diptrace (Standard Version) where I work.. Why?.. because we don't need any of the "fancy" analysis tools/rf/high speed,etc... that come with a high priced PCB package either and just didn't see forking out big bucks for tools we will never use.. And its just so simple to do layout/schematic capture and super fast library/component creation. Or course prior to Diptrace I was literally doing PCB design in Autocad.. yes it was an absolute PITA and Diptrace paid itself off in just a few hours.
  4. tindel

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 16, 2012
    I haven't used the orcad layout tool, but their spice tool is very cumbersome and not at all intuitive, and has weak help files. I'd shy away from them for that reason alone.

    I use zuken at work and it's much more intuitive, but can be a bit tricky to find the function you want... Chances are that the function is there, you just don't know where.

    At home I use kicad. It is very intuitive, but lacks some of the high end functionality, but the price is right (free). The baseline parts library is a bit thin too.

    I can't comment on any others
  5. iRonEE

    New Member

    Mar 1, 2016
    I started making double-sided PCBs using colored plastic tape on clear acetate in college. 'Tried to talk my brother-in-law into doing his Cal Poly Sr. Project on a program to take the drudgery out of the process.
    The first CAD system I used was made by Applicon, a very spendy system with a very large graphic screen with a pen-pad programmed to decode command gestures. 'Coolness factor off the charts!
    The next few jobs, it was back to pencil, paper, and big erasers for schematic capture, and supervising someone else doing multi-layer acetate colored tape PCB.
    I'm glad it wasn't me doing the grunt work. When I had to change something, sometimes entire circuits had to be ripped up and recreated somewhere else. PCs were still rare, few engineers had them, and they were monochrome.
    The first new generation CAD system I used was a slick schematic and layout package called Team Visionics. The cool part about that program was the color gradient thermal display.

    ORCAD then started showing up everywhere but layout was generally sent out to cottage industry contractors using PADs.
    It worked well for a while, but there were lots of opportunities for expensive mistakes. You sent a netlist, Bill of Materials, and a list of instructions including any required physical constraints. High-performance boards generally required some (admittedly annoying) micro-managing hand-holding, and that became the rule as clock speeds grew higher. The hazard was if the part you intended to use somehow got misconstrued and a different package ended up on the board, or the pinout associations were convoluted, or decoupling capacitors were no where near where they would do any good.

    I obtained an Eagle license to do some contract work between jobs. I could do both schematic capture and layout with one tool, the libraries were plentiful, and help felt like dialing 9-1-1, it was so fast. But there were some quirks I never quite got used to.

    When I moved to ALTIUM, it was like someone finally got it: Integrated Libraries!! When you place a part in the schematic, it already has all the metadata embedded describing the physical part, so all those association errors are gone. Hierarchical schematics were also not a given with the other packages. Very important for managing big designs!! And letting the engineer place and route his own boards was long overdue in the industry.

    But the ALTIUM feature that floated my boat is the one almost no one ever mentions: the ability to grab text strings in the part database of large selected sets of parts and manipulate them in a spreadsheet. This enables ALL KINDS of efficiency tricks!
    I remember being asked if I used spreadsheets during a job interview back in the day. I was puzzled by the question because I regarded them as the domain of business & asset managers. I said "No, but if I ever found a practical use for them, I would."
    I have. Thanks to Altium, I used one practically every day!

    I purchased my own Altium license because a single integrated system that allows you to capture a schematic design, lay out a pcb, program FPGAs, drop in a microcontroller model, and program your own ideas is a great career safety net.
  6. WBahn


    Mar 31, 2012
    MOD NOTE: Your post is known as a necropost because it is reviving a long-dead thread. In this case the TS was asking for input for making a purchase decision that had to be made nearly two years ago. But sense your post was relevant to the topic, others might find it useful and it has been allowed.