Electronics > PCB/EDA/CAD

Making the decision: CAD software

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I work for a university in the USA and we keep arguing about which PCB/EDA software to use and teach.

There are some strong advocates for Altium (the current incumbent), some EAGLE fans, and for some reason we have a license of  Cadence/OrCad is another option, so we could renew that. 

Teaching PCB layout and design is hard and the software plays a huge role in that. Any body willing to step up and take some jabs at any of these packages or offer praise?  I'm not looking to start a flame war, but I am interested in some logical opinions.

I keep having the same arguments at the University where I work in the UK. The university insists on spending public money (several thousands) when free open source software could be used (Kicad). I've gotten rather tired trying to persuade people so I'm no longer getting involved.
Hope you have better luck than me.


--- Quote from: drewtronics on August 23, 2011, 07:57:55 pm ---I work for a university in the USA and we keep arguing about which PCB/EDA software to ...  teach.
Teaching PCB layout and design is hard ...
--- End quote ---

The above is maybe your main problem. You haven't made your mind up if you want to teach the usage of some software, or PCB design as such.

What kind of university are you? One of those where you train monkeys how to click the right buttons in the right order in some "industry standard" software, telling students this is a marketable skill? Or a university where you teach principles, engineering and the accumulated engineering knowledge of PCB design, based in science?

If you are the first kind of university the software doesn't matter. Because you will teach people clicking buttons in predefined orders. That can be done in any software. All you have to do is to tell your students that the selected software is "the best", and that everything will be fine if they just use that software.

If you are the second kind of university, the software doesn't matter, too. Because the principles and engineering you then teach should by their nature be independent of the tool used to perform the work. Your education would be successful if your students are in the end capable of evaluating the usefulness of a software for a particular job on their own.

Remember, a fool with a tool is just a fool, with a tool.

I work at a university in the UK, and we are stuck with Orcad as someone arranged a good deal many years ago, so we have more seats then we could ever use. Management sees changing package as "buying something we already have again", and its hard to change that mentality.

I have used OSS offerings, Orcad, and Altium. I would personally pick Altium for teaching, mainly because its UI is quite discoverable, it has some nice offerings for embedded and FPGA development (something we teach our students), its training materials are good, and it has source control integration. Its not perfect, but its the best ive found so far.

The other plus of Altium is that we use Solidworks for mechanical CAD, and the back and forth interop would be quite helpful for mechatronic projects.

As for djsb's comment, if all you need can be achieved with kicad then great, but at our Uni at least, that would not cover everyone. A licence for Altium is around the £1k mark for universities in singles, and I believe Orcad was much less than that when we got onboard, and as a researcher, if altium shaves 5 days off pcb design time over 4 years, then that has paid for the seat in costs.

well choosing an freeware/open source solution like KiCAD is not a bad idea. Not everyone will go and work for a big company that blindly wants skills in one particular package and yes the principles are always the same. Of course introducing students to an open source package gives those interested in programming something to get involved in as it benefits them directly.


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