EDA Tools: Automation vs. Control


Over at PCB Design 007, Andy Shaughnessy just posted this interview with Stephen Chavez at UTC Aerospace.

EDA Tools – An Aerospace Designer’s Perspective

What Stephen has to say matches exactly with what we’ve been seeing in our PCB123 user base over the last 12 years. Designers who started with us way-back-when, are usually doing more complex work than when they started. Designers new to the discipline of PCB design may be doing simpler work now, but they’ll get more complex with time and experience.

In the article, Stephen says, “For me, I’d have to say the areas of design I favor more automation are as follows: constraint input/edits/updating, auto-routing, generating outputs, documentation, DFM checking (Valor), design re-use and library part creation (symbols and cells). These are areas I feel where taking advantage of today’s automated tools is a must and can be a game changer.”

In PCB123, we’ve paid careful attention to making tasks – especially repetitive tasks – as efficient as possible. From time to time, for example, we even run side-by-side “click tests” to see how many mouse clicks it takes accomplish common tasks in our tool versus common competitors. If we find we’re too “click-heavy”, we figure out how to improve the functionality. That’s also why PCB123 includes an auto-placer, an auto-router, and some powerful parts-creation automation features – to make your job go faster than it used to. PCB123 includes detailed DRC checks that enforce the exact constraints and tolerances at the Sunstone factory – without any detailed setup required by you, the user. Sunstone offers DFMplus for free, giving you no-cost access to industrial-grade DFM checking even when you can’t afford the tool for yourself.  And PCB123 will check the availability of the parts you specified in your design, to help you determine if a parts availability delay is going to delay your project. All key information for a professional designer.

Remember, though, that what you want to automate and what you want to control are not the same thing for everyone. The need for maintaining control generally increases where there are more constraints; automation becomes preferred where the constraints are “don’t care” constraints. So flexibility about turning automation on or off is a valuable thing to build into the EDA tool.

So, if you, as a designer, have suggestions for places where PCB123 could improve our inefficiencies for you, let us know.  We’re listening.