VHB, Thanks for sharing. One thing that concerns me is I am not personally a big fan of having to move things from one package to another. This is a personal preference, but it is based upon me coming from the manufacturing world. It can get very dangerous if data is not connected together. A change can be made, but then not propagate through to the end design. This then makes it hard to trouble shoot a problem. This may not be a concern for others as they may be more organized than I am ;)
I had looked at that one when making this list. It does look like it could end up maturing into something very nice, but it did not quite have all the features that I was looking for. I do appreciate mentioning it. I do like to keep track of these groups. There is another group that I am following as well, hoping that they can get some of these things together into a nice poilshed package.
Most of the PCB packages do not have built in modeling, though one does that I mentioned above. Many of these still do not understand that STEP is the industry standard.
That aside, I mainly do 3D mechanical package design in a cad tool and then attach it to the part library. DesignSpark Mechanical is not as weak as you indicate. In the base package compared to the base packages for SolidWorks and SolidEdge, I would say that it is pretty close to comparable. The biggest thing, and I needed to get some understanding of this, is that the work flow is different in DesignSpark Mechanical. Once I got to learning the new work flow, I have found it to be rather great to use. If you are speaking of lofting and surfacing, the yes, both of the packages that you listed are better than DesignSpark Mechanical. Thankfully, though, most of the people needing to use a low cost MCAD package for designing electronics components should find that DS Mechanical will do what they need.
as a schematic entry package. It is an elegantly simple schematic entry program that makes it easy to create a library of your own symbols. It has a nice design-rule checker for schematics. I like the fact that you can use color in your symbols to create visually meaningful circuit designs. You can also add metadata (e.g. Distributor, Manuacturer, Circuit Parameters, etc.) to each symbol or symbol instance and create both BOMs and Net Lists with this information. I export the PCB net list into FreePCB to do the actuall layout. I've found that it is also fairly easy to create part footprints in FreePCB. The user interface in FreePCB is attractive to me becuase it seems to have been designed to make creating manual layouts easy. A small number of aptly named keystrokes makes it easy change layers, run traces, wire and unwire segments, etc. My collegues and I have created about 30 PCBs over the past couple of years using these tools and we've been very pleased with the results.
@TonyTib I agree... one other tool that is more CAD-friendly is Rittal / ePlan's harness & connector design tool, ePlan3D. One nice thing about this tool is that it lets you calculate the equivalent length of straightened cables (nail board model) before you can shape it in 3D. It supports all major CAD tool formats.
Yup, that's fine for chips and such (which are pretty simple mechanically), but pretty useless for connectors (which I use a lot). Here's a model of a break out board I designed in Eagle PCB, and then did the 3D model in Alibre Design (now Geomagic Design Elements).
How easy is it to create an equivalent model in PCB software only?
BTW, I haven't got played with it yet, but my quick impression of RS Design Mech is that it should be pretty good for PCB modelling, but not competition for traditional MCAD (e.g. Solid Edge, Solid Works)
@TonyTib typically one has to define the package dimensions and store in the library for 3D visualization. At the bare minimum, one has to define the component height.
Regarding usable output formats like STEP or IGES, very few or none(?) do that at the moment. Cadence's Allegro does have 3D visualization of the board assembly but the current version does not export to the mentioned formats. STL is good for 3D printing (as are the other models) but not ideal for importing to CAD assemblies.
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