In some ways there are packages that are converging to offer an integrated solution for the hobbiest level, and hence they may not realize that each is its own package. For this you can get away without having some of the fancier things listed that are involved with microwave signal frequencies and high power dissapation. Though the further you go, then many more tools will come into play.
@Max: I agree with your list and yes we would need all of those for a fairly complex boards to more & more complex boards. That is why electronics design has been known as a costly investment (software tools as you mentioned + the lab instruments + certification cost) and those tools don't come for free (for commercial use). Hence depending on the complexity of the design involved, we could sacrifice some of those as appropriate...compromising somewhere else - more bench testing, debugging and possible reiterations. :)
@Sanjib: That is why electronics design has been known as a costly investment...
I must admit that the ever-increasing complexity is starting to worry me -- how do younger engineers learn all of this stuff? There wa smuch less to learn when I was at university -- the other stuff evolved over the last 35 years (LOL)
I've actually designed very simple PCBs using just the layout tool and instructions from the mechanical engineer (who presumabley had some sort of 3D model) Of cours I'm talking about small boards with a couple sensors and pads to hook up the wires. For anything more complex I'll at least use the schematic capture. For most hobbiest stuff you probably don't need much more although I always seem to have to create at least one new part in the library. As Aeroengineer said, these capibilities are merging at the hobiest level so they see it as one package.
On the other hand if you want a complex design to work when it's produced by the thousands then you need to start using the analysis tools.
In my day job, I need to do power and thermal analysis and usually digital/ analog simulation, signal integrety and EMC/EMI on every design. I haven't gotten into the mechanical aspects or FPGA design so I don't personally use those tools but I use the results that are generated.
One of these days, I'll actually have time to do one of the "hobbiest" projects I've been contemplating. Probably something with LEDs...
If you really understand PCB engineering, you will eventually locate tools to help clear various "hurdles" of typical problems that will arise. A good set of tools and the understanding to apply them will allow you to produce a 100% functional board in ONE revision (assuming less than 500 parts). Since the lead time to produce a board at reasonable cost is usually a few weeks - it is better approach to spend an extra few days looking at crosstalk, paracitic capacitance, trace impedance, loop area ect. The physics of how a physical version of a circuit is well known and thus tools have been developed to help us engineers "see these problems". Until you get to frequencies above 100Mhz, a prototype is useful primarily in optomizing component values, rather than determining a need to revise traces on the board.
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
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