PADS Desktop PCB Design

Discussions on the present, future capabilities and value of the PADS PCB flow.

18 December, 2014

The old saying is, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” Well, consider this story. I was teaching a schematic capture class and in that class were a number of people who had used the tool in question for six or more years. As I showed one really good feature, one of those people responded with, “If I had known that two weeks ago, I would have saved myself two days’ worth of work.” He had taught himself how to use the tool, and he could get the job done, but not knowing one little feature really did hurt his productivity.training_class

Mentor Graphics offers a wide range of PADS training to help you come up to speed, not just on the functionality of the tools, but also on the how and why of special features.   If you are simply the person doing schematic capture, if you are responsible for PCB layout, or if you have responsibilities in both areas, consider that training can help you be more aware of the how and the why of the use of your tool.

In the schematic capture world, there is a class on PADS Logic, the native schematic capture tool for use with PADS Layout. We also have a class on DxDesigner, targeted specifically for users who are taking designs into PADS Layout for PCB Layout. When registering for DxDesigner make sure you mention that you are using PADS Layout, so you can be directed to that class. There is also a specific DxDesigner class for customers using the recently released PADS VX Integrated flow into PADS Layout.

In the world of PADS layout, we offer the basic PADS layout class, for those who are just getting started or those who need to be more familiar with the basic usage of the tool.   There is also a one day PADS Layout Advanced class that deals with managing attributes, design reuse, split planes and more.

Probably the most neglected tool in the PADS Layout suite is the PADS Router. Many people think of it only as an autorouting environment and don’t understand the full functionality of that tool. We offer a two day class to help you be proficient not only in how to use the tool, but also how it can be a powerful benefit in your design tasks.

Check our PADS training offerings out at And if the current scheduled classes don’t meet your needs, contact us at and let us help get you a few steps better in your PADS Layout skills.

Because, in the modern design world, what you don’t know really can hurt you.

Thanks for Reading!


11 December, 2014

NASA logoCongratulations to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, United States

Category: Military & Aerospace  – End Product: Spacecube Processor

DESIGN TEAM: Dave Petrick, D.Albaijes, Banks Walker


This design is used in a multitude of applications for solving complex science data processing requirements as well as those that require a radiation hardened and reliable solution, including space systems.

Design goals and challenges:

  1. To improve performance by 10-100X over ‘state of the art’ space flight processors while lowering power consumption, size, cost.
  2. Most complex components on the board were back-to-back FPGAs which drove the stackup-up, via architecture, routing, signal integrity, power integrity, thermal design, structural design, and manufacturing requirements of the board design.
  3. 4 voltage rails with tight tolerances drove the layer stackup and PDN design (mirrored)
  4. First board manufactured with via-in-pad for a high-pitch column grid array. This was necessary to achieve fan-outs with 1mm pitch BGA’s. This was also required to achieve IPC quality certification and meet reliability requirements.
  • Multiple high-speed I/O protocols required extensive pre/post layout SI analysis
  • Tradeoff studies:

              -Stack-up: Routability (CGA fan-out) vs. manufacturability/reliabilty vs.

               PDN & SI performance

              -Placement (Dense design, need to leave room for vias, mechanical devices, etc. )

  • Design for space environment: thermal analysis to validate conduction to baseplate and placement of high-power   components; required extra stiffening for back-to-back components; rad-hard components and circuitry
  • Right-first-time: Eliminate manufacturing re-spins by analyzing and correcting problems throughout the design process.
  • Signal integrity analysis (pre- and post-route) was used to perform placement studies to arrive at solution to fit all of the components. Easily able to add layers based on design changes.
  • ICX and HyperLynx LineSim (pre and post route) were used to eliminate/optimize termination schemes in order to free up board area real estate and routing resources.
  • Used HyperLynx stack-up editor to validate manufacturer-provided material parameters
  • Power integrity analysis was required to ensure that the power distribution net (PDN) design would meet the electrical requirements on each of the voltage planes from DC to high frequency. The analysis was critical to the design process as it provided a means to identify and correct power distribution problems prior to manufacturing.
  • Performed IBIS-AMI channel analysis to validate 3Gbps data rate without having to back-drill vias (lowered mfg costs, accelerated delivery schedule)
  • Modeled multi-board scenario to ensure electrical specs could be met.

Be sure to check out all of this year’s winning design teams and see the electronics industry’s most leading-edge designs here: 2014 Technology Leadership Awards

Congratulations to all!



9 December, 2014

PCB design engineers have had the front row seat to the evolution of touch screen technologies. In this HMI (human machine interface) driven world inwhich we now live, touch screens continue to replace buttons and keyboards in nearly every industry. Today’s “Generation Z”, carry around smartphones and have likely never had to press keys to make a call or to text a message. Many of today’s laptops are equipped with touch screens and even detachable keyboards as consumers define their balance for computers as both a PC and a tablet.

Touch screens are showing up everywhere from the evening news and sport shows to your favorite game show and from restaurant menus to life sized directory listing in shopping malls. Here in the EDA world it only seems natural to wonder how or if this technology will find its place in designing PCB’s.


Imagine a large touch screen has replaced a conference room whiteboard and the design engineer meets with ECAD engineering and perhaps other team members to work collaboratively to explore component placement by touching and dragging components from the schematic over to the PCB outline with just a fingertip.  How about signal integrity or thermal engineers helping to sketch out an optimal routing strategy? Imagine design reviews where NPI engineers and design team members identify areas of concern like DFM and DFA and capturing any mark-ups and comments in real-time. Could you envision product reviews with all product team members where the PCB design is mated in a multi-board system, sub-assembly or mechanical housing in full 3D?

But what about all those Fingerprints?: If you’ve ever said (or wanted to say) “Don’t touch my screen!” you are not alone. Fingerprints are messy but technology has already been working on that too. In a recent television commercial, Intel®, is giving a glimpse into their new RealSense™ technology that includes technology that eliminates the need for the user (or others) to physically touch the screen. This means you no longer have to touch the touch screen to work, you just need to be close enough. Problem solved?

What do you think about using touch screens for PCB design?

Thanks for reading,  – John

30 November, 2014

Today, it’s hard to imagine a GPS that doesn’t list landmarks, street names, or even exit numbers. Every bit of visual information we can get from map symbols and text makes navigating easier and faster. The same is true for a PCB, yet we often overlook a great opportunity to provide a wealth of information about our PCB’s design on the silkscreen. The information we can, and should, supply on PCB silkscreens should go beyond component outlines, reference designators, and pin 1 indicators.SS_blog_1

In this white paper I’ll describe and display some of the enhancements you can make to your PCB designs’ silkscreens that can add value at both the bare board and assembly levels and from the test bench to the installation.WP_Click

Silkscreen items covered in this paper include:


I’m looking forward to hearing from you about the different ways that you’ve taken your PCB silkscreens from ordinary to extraordinary!

Thanks for reading,


19 November, 2014

Technology companies have been using 3D printers for years now for everything from rapid prototypes, product development and data visualization. Models for everything from industrial electronics, to fashion jewelry to teeth have been 3D printed. Since 2005, versions of 3D printers have even become available and affordable for the serious hobbyist.  Imagine, instead of having to run to the store to buy a holiday cookie cutter, simply downloading the desired 3D model and print it out at home. All of the sudden that magical “replicator” that I thought was so cool as a kid watching the Star Trek TV series doesn’t seem so far-fetched.


                                    “Yep! Just finished the PCB design, its printing now!”

Utilizing 3D printing for circuit boards is no longer in its infancy with significant progress made with printing designs on different materials including plastic, glass, ceramics and paper. Items like wearable electronics, paper circuits and even printed computers have been successful. We can expect to see support for even more substrate materials as these 3D PCB printing companies continue to advance the technology.

3D images                                                  Photo courtesy of Cartesian Co.

If you are interested in learning more about 3D circuit card printing check out the now fully funded EX1 project here on Kickstarter by Cartesian Co.  They have some really neat examples of fully functional PCB assemblies printed on fabric along with the more familiar substrate materials mentioned earlier. if you’d like to see some fun paper circuit board assemblies in action, check out Printoo, an Arduino-based platform of paper-thin, low-power boards and modules that enable you to bring power, even solar, to 3D products using internet and Bluetooth connectivity, including modules for motorization, light and motion sensing.

Thanks for reading!


12 November, 2014

Raleigh, NC — The premier show for printed circuit board design and manufacturing in the Southeast, PCB Carolina Conference & Exhibition, returned to the McKimmon Center at NC State University on November 5 and what an eventful day it was!PCBCaro_Blog_graphic

The standing-room-only keynote address was delivered by Dr. Eric Bogatin whose talk entitled “The Future of Circuit Boards in the 28 Gbps Regime: Is the end in sight?”  provided compelling insights on the decisions designers should make to increase the chances for success in their next high speed product design.

PCBC 2014 exhibit

Exhibitor products ranged from printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturers, PCB test equipment makers, PCB design tool vendors, and design services bureaus.  There was even one-stop shops to take PCB products from design conception to product delivery. I had the opportunity to talk with engineers and designers from industries ranging from lighting to computers, and from consumer electronics to Mil/Aero.   Conversations included topics like high density, multilayered boards, blind and buried vias, Xpeditions 3D design and integrated flows.PCBCPhotos1

I’ve enjoyed watching this events growth over the years. The exhibit floor once again was sold-out early and conference organizers jam packed this event with fun, food and technology for all. I can assure you no one left empty handed.

My hat’s off to the RTP Chapter of the IPC Designers Council for all their hard work and dedication for making this a successful event year after year!

If you did not make it this year, bookmark this site:  and save the date.  I hope to see you at PCB Carolina 2015.

Thanks for reading,


6 November, 2014

Did you hear the news? On Tuesday, Digi-Key announced the availability of Designer Schematic and Designer Layout. These are professional design tools, based on xDX Designer and PADS Layout for engineers who need the quality of high-end PCB schematic capture and layout, but at a very affordable price. The Designer products seamlessly integrate with PartQuest, a new component research engine tied directly to Digi-Key’s website of over 4 million parts.DK_BLOG

Unlike other free and low cost EDA tools targeting these engineers, Designer does not limit users to a specific technology, use a short list of manufacturers, store the design files on the Cloud, or have limits so low that you can only design smoke alarms! Most common design platforms/reference designs such as Beagle Bone Black, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi are easily designed in Designer (1500 connections, 6 layers, 50 square inch board). And, if your requirements grow, your designs can always be imported into PADS!

PartQuest allows engineers to parametrically search for parts to use in their designs. Over 350K Digi-Key parts have EDA data with them – the schematic symbol and PCB footprint, which will be downloaded directly into the Designer Schematic and Designer Layout libraries for immediate use to speed up design starts. PartQuest will also provide access to reference designs, such as the ones mentioned above, for download and use.

The Designer products are available now on the Digi-Key website. 90 day introductory pricing begins at $199 for Designer Schematic and $449 for Designer Layout (one-year subscription). An unlimited connection version will be available by the end of the year.

Thanks for reading!


3 November, 2014

PCB design is a complicated task, partially because each design task has an effect on the outcome of the rest of the design stages.


Get your ducks in a row !

Of course, you need to design your schematic, make sure you have no signal- and power-integrity issues, place your components, route your board, make sure your design can be manufactured, and so forth. But how much more complicated is it when the very basics, the library upon which you build your design, are poorly planned and poorly implemented?

Before your first schematic symbol ever touches the first sheet of your design, you need to set up your project library. Read this article to learn more about the twelve component properties you really should pay special attention to, to make your life a lot easier down the road.

To read the full article click here.  Also, if you want to learn more about how to ensure your design library content is accurate and reliable – download this whitepaper entitled “Six Things You Want to Have in Your Desktop PCB Design Library

Thanks for reading,


27 October, 2014

We all know creating and managing part libraries is not an easy task; it’s time consuming, error prone, and requires constant maintenance.  If you have ever tried using a library that you built with one design tool in a different design tool, you probably got an additional set of problems, starting from schematic parts that don’t reference the correct footprint name, to schematic parts that don’t have correct part numbers, and missing information. And how about L libraries that are provided with different design tools? Too often they’re low quality and unusable, causing consistency and integrity issues down the road.

Over the past year working alongside the PADS engineering team, I’ve identified three elements that can reduce some of those issues, and make the library creation and maintenance a lot easier.


#1 – Your design tool

The first thing that impacts the complexity of your library creation process is your chosen design tool. Having a design tool that allows easy and efficient library management is really what you’re searching for. For example, having the design tool support a central library concept, can save you time and eliminate errors and duplications, by gathering all your library information in a centralized location. Also, you want your design tool to have a really efficient and high-quality part creation wizard, to minimize part creation time and manual work.

#2 – Library translation

Find a good solution for translating old libraries into your current design tool, to avoid having incorrect parts in your library. A common problem people have with translated libraries is mismatches between schematic and layout data. Not aligning this information can cause consistency issues in your library, so you need to make sure you choose the correct part name, ref-des and cell name, and apply it in both sides. PADS for example, along with the translator, provides a script to automatically do this process for you. The result is reliable and complete library data.

#3 – Well-documented component properties

The third element is what really takes stamina! Make sure that for every part you create, you always take the time to update the important component properties – not just for now, but for all stages of the design flow. For instance, try to keep all the information related to the identity of the part (part number, manufacturer name), and always make sure to include links to part datasheets to have easy access to additional information about each part. It also can be helpful to keep information such as voltage for later use in simulation. Keep in mind that the more you put into the quality of the parts you create now, the easier it will make each and every stage of the design cycle, and with less issues down the road – from search and selection of parts, to layout design, simulation, and even manufacturing.

To find out more about library management in PADS, check the Library Management page. See how our starter libraries, the central library concept, best-in-class component management, and high-quality land-pattern creator can improve your library management process and make library creation and maintenance a little less exhausting.

Thanks for reading,


22 October, 2014

If you’ve never attended the PCB Carolina electronics trade show – you have been missing out!

This FREE event will be held Nov. 5th at the McKimmon Center at NC State University in Raleigh, NC. Organized by the RTP (Research Triangle Park) Chapter of the IPC Designers Council. This show offers education, networking, and a vendor exhibition presenting components, products, software, and services for the Electronics Industry.


This full day event host:

– A SOLD OUT vendor Exhibition floor with over 50 Vendors
16 Technical session speakers include: Eric Bogatin of Be the Signal, Dr. Douglas Hopkins of NC State, Dr. Bruce Archambeault of Archambeault EMI/EMC and Mentors own Steve McKinney presenting “Crazy Layout Rules and their Origins”.

Clck here to: REGISTER NOW640_PCBC2012_68

LIKE FREE STUFF ?    As if the free admission, technical sessions and exhibition floor weren’t enough, register and you’ll receive:  a Show Bag, a Show Shirt, a Show Pen. If you Opt In, you will be entered in the drawing for over 100 gifts donated by the vendors valued at $25 min. More giveaways at vendor exhibits too.

Free Breakfast: 7:30 – 9:30
Free Lunch: 11:30 – 1:30
and a Free Reception from 5:00 – 6:00  Sponsored by Mentor Graphics with Live Music by Ewes’ Tree

foodTo learn more, visit

Stop by the Mentor exhibit and say hello!     Hope to see you there,


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