PADS Desktop PCB Design

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

29 June, 2015

Is it true that the bigger the company you work for – the less aspects of the PCB design flow you’re involved with? Maybe….

I’ve had the privileged in my career to design PCB’s for a couple of cutting edge networking start-up companies and some well known public companies that includes the (as defined by wiki) worldwide leader in networking equipment for the internet. I’ve also been “that designer” that does it all including the ECAD and MCAD physical design. I’ve also been the guy on the other side of the wall responsible for PCB layout only.

BIG companies with large PCB design teams depend on an enterprise tool solutions that takes every design discipline into account to ensure quality and resource efficiency.  Today, more than ever, there are more and more individuals, small start-up companies, design bureaus, even Makers and DIY’ers that are developing complex designs that require PCB design tools with the power of an enterprise solution at a proper scale and an affordable price to complete their designs.

ManyHatsThe Many Hats of Today’s PCB Designer

A one-size PCB design tool solution does not fit all. It is important to have the right PCB design tool at the right time and at the right price. No one wants to pay extra for advanced features that they don’t require – BUT,  when the “right time” does come and advancements in technology and competition push your design requirements to the next level, you’ll want to ensure you can seamlessly access advanced capabilities from your design tool.

Now, PADS is delivering a range of affordable and proportionally featured products with options that support PCB designs of any complexity. Starting at only $5000USD*  (*including support), PADS Standard provides a complete full-featured PCB design tool for basic PCB design and in many cases may provide all the functionality you’ll ever need. That is, schematic, component management, layout, routing, and manufacturing prep.

But what if you are that small start-up company, Maker, or DIY’er that is developing a new high-tech product, perhaps you’re Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign funded over 100% overnight! And the next generation of you product will require advanced functionality from your PCB design tool including features like integrated constraint management, signal integrity analysis and thermal and analog simulation. Simple, get or upgrade to PADS Standard Plus!

In the black? Earlier I mentioned being part of a couple of start-up companies one of which was a cutting edge networking company and I was “that designer” in the illustration above that wore “most” of those hats. We were lean, efficient and worked hard to achieve our goals to become profitable and eventually either launch an IPO or accept an acquisition offer that we couldn’t refuse. I needed all the technology and horsepower of an enterprise solution that could handle the demanding and complex designs for just myself without the infrastructure and at a scale and price that a start-up company like ours could justify. PADS Professional would have been the perfect fit!

padsstorySteve Hughes and I discuss the evolving needs of “generalist” engineers.

PADS Professional, starting at only $18,000USD is that high-end enterprise solution for the independent, multi-discipline hardware engineer that can handle the design complexity without the unnecessary overhead and the associated challenges of usability and COO (cost of ownership). Built on the same Xpedition technology used to design the world’s most complex PCBs. Hardware engineers who do it all — operating independently or in small workgroups — will find PADS Professional to be the perfect solution that can do it all!

To learn more about or try any of these PADS solutions visit today!

Thanks for reading,  John

19 June, 2015

No matter if you are part of a small team focusing on just one aspect of the PCB design flow or you are “THAT designer” who can do it all – PADS has the right solution at the right price for you!

At $5000USD Including Support: PADS Standard delivers a full-flow solution for PCB development, including schematic, component management, layout, routing, and manufacturing prep. Easy-to-use schematic and layout translators help import libraries and designs from your current toolset, whether it’s Allegro®, Altium® Designer, CADSTAR®, OrCAD®, P-CAD®, or Protel®.

But if you are “THAT designer” who requires a design flow with integrated advanced board-level analog simulation analysis and verification capabilities, PADS Standard Plus is equipped with all the analysis and verification functionality you need to produce quality PCBs faster.


PADS Standard Plus includes all the features of PADS Standard plus signal integrity analysis powered by HyperLynx® technology enabling you to determine routing constraints and verify your routed PCB as well as identify and address potential “hot spots” through thermal analysis that takes into account conduction, convection, and radiation cooling effects.

What? – You’re “THAT designer” that does even EVEN MORE?

Then PADS Standard Plus can deliver EVEN MORE capabilities by offering tools for DFT, DFMA, MCAD Collaboration and even Advanced Packaging if desired.

But lets say you’re “THE designer” –  The one that HAS TO DO IT ALL? – And on the most complex PCB Designs.

If you need a tool with all the horsepower and features of an Enterprise solution that fits all your design needs and your budget – look no further than PADS Professional! PADS Professional utilizes Xpedition® technology that handles the most demanding and complex designs, where other solutions fail. Get all the features and functionality of PADS Standard Plus including high-speed routing and access to the most advanced features like advanced FPGA synthesis, FPGA I/O optimization, unified constraint management, electrical sign-off based on full board DRC screening and signal/power integrity analysis, just for starters. Add to that a best-in-class layout PCB environment featuring concurrent 2D and 3D physical design and a correct-by-construction approach to placement, plane design and routing.

PADS Professional also delivers the industry’s most powerful interactive routing environment for large busses, single ended and differential pair nets AND includes our new ground-breaking sketch routing technology! Whats that?, you need even more advanced fabrication design features including HDI, RF, flex circuitry and embedded components? Done!  Check out PADS Professional today!

See how PADS has set the standard in PCB design solutions for yourself!  Click here and compare these 3 PADS solutions today!

compareTry PADS Standard today for FREE !

Try a FREE PADS Standard Plus or PADS Professional Virtual Lab. in the cloud!

Thanks for reading!   John

15 June, 2015

Today I’m excited to announce a new podcast – PCB Tech Talk! In the first episode I talk about a paradigm shift in routing.

Listen to the first episode and subscribe to the podcast by clicking on from your mobile device or manually adding the podcast within your mobile podcast app using that same link. Or, if you prefer, you may listen through the player below. Future episodes will be announced here on the blog and will show up in your podcast app of choice if you subscribe.


Have questions or topics of interest? Add them in the comments below or send them to so that we can feature them in future episodes. 

PCB Tech Talk: Episode 1 – The New Path to PCB Routing Success

Ask any PCB designer you know about autorouters and you’ll likely get the same response, “they just don’t get the job done.” You’ll often hear that autorouter results “aren’t good enough or even close” to being comparable to what PCB designers know they can accomplished with hand routing.

Packing 10lbs in a 5lb Bag

Fact is, when we break up todays PCB design cycle into individual tasks – like library development, schematic, component placement, pre-routes, etc., one of the biggest, if not the biggest chunks of time we spend on the design is with design connectivity. That is, turning all those rats, thousands even tens of thousands in many cases into traces.

Oh, and if things weren’t already tough enough how about adding rules and constraints to 90 percent of those nets!

Rules on EVERY net?  So what!

With designs becoming more complex, rules on nearly every net, and PCBs becoming smaller and denser every year, autorouting designs is not getting any easier.

But, imagine this — a new technology, one that combines automatic routing power with user-controlled interactive routing. That is, a technology capable of producing the same high-quality results that are achieved with hand routing.

Seeing is believing!

Sound interesting? Listen to my podcast and you’ll learn about a new technology called Sketch Routing. If this short demo video just looks too good to be true, then test drive it yourself in the cloud with this free virtual lab.

6 June, 2015

If you’re a PCB Librarian, PCB Designer, ECAD Engineer, NPIE, new to PCB design, involved in PCB manufacturing or anywhere in-between you’ll want to keep these four white papers on file for future reference and guidance. Each paper provides PCB design industry guidance, design best practices and the educational information you need for the surface mount component families that you use the most.

Each paper discusses everything from the land sizes for each of the applicable lead type to the placement courtyard and routing schemes to consider for the different technology and density levels.

Part 1 is dedicated to the creation of Molded Body components. Click here to download.

WP Front page

xDX Molded

Part 2 covers the  Small Outline Transistor (SOT). Click here to download.

SOT 1thru4WP page sample

Part 3 covers BGAs. Click here to download.

WP pageBGA

Part 4 includes both QFN and PQFNs with pullback leads. Click here to download

blog image 1

blog image 2

If you want to build IPC-7351B compliant land patterns 90% faster ?  Check out the Land Pattern Creator Click here!

To learn more about PADS Library Management, Click here!

Thanks for reading!  John

3 June, 2015

The PADS brand has a long, rich history and many users have been loyal customers for nearly 20 years. There have been rumors that PADS is on its way out and that is far from the truth. The PADS brand products directly address the everyday challenges and needs of thousands of independent engineers.

Before I continue, I’d like to introduce myself. I am Paul Musto and I recently joined Mentor as the PADS product line director. With over 25 years of experience in PCB systems design, I am excited to move forward with you as the industry continues to evolve. I have worked in both R&D and marketing and applications engineering roles for PCB and IC packaging tools. In each role, I emphasized time interacting with customers to ensure that our products and solutions were well aligned with customer and industry requirements.

I look forward to learning more about and from the PADS community so you’ll be seeing more of me here on the PADS blog.

New PADS PCB Design Solutions

As you may have heard, PADS Standard, Standard Plus, and PADS Professional were announced in April. Each delivers compelling offerings at a competitive price.


These new product offerings were designed to align with a certain type of user. They all include both front-end (and, yes, logic is still a supported schematic capture tool!) and PCB design capabilities. But, as you go up, you gain more high-speed, thermal, and layout capabilities.

Based on these platforms, we will begin to provide a continuous flow of new functionality and capabilities targeted for that end user. Our recent release includes support for Windows 8.1 and significant improvements in our translators. We also have a release scheduled at the end of this year that will add some very big new functionality.

The best is yet to come for all our loyal users and new users, alike. To our existing users – thank you for being a part of our community. For all that are considering PADS, we look forward to the opportunity to provide you with a tool that will grow with you as your needs continue to evolve.

What do you like most about the new PADS offerings and what do you most hope to see in future releases? If you haven’t tried the new product offerings yet, I encourage you to do so today. Try PADS Standard Plus here and try PADS Professional here.

2 June, 2015

This is the final post in a routing series.

After introducing sketch routing in the first of this series, I then discussed the functionality and use models in more detail in the second post. As I wrap up this series, I will focus on the ease of use and productivity gains that you should expect to experience when using sketch routing.

Sketch routing is extremely easy to use and FAST! The only real setup required is to decide which via patterns to use and whether to route in a packed or unpacked mode (discussed last time).

Then, just select your netlines, draw a sketch path to guide the routing in your desired direction, and then hey, presto!

Sketch Routing Image 1Sketch Routing Image 2

If you don’t like the results, just use the “Undo” command, draw another sketch path and try again:

Sketch Routing Image 3

Sketch Routing Image 4

It’s not uncommon to experience anywhere between 10X – 40X improvement in productivity using sketch routing during the layout of your PCB design.

But the easiest way to effectively demonstrate how easy and fast sketch routing can really be is to just take a look at this short video (under two minutes). I’ve left the commands highlighted in the video so that you can see exactly how simple this is to operate.

Notice how quick and easy it is to route multiple sections of the BGA, even using “Undo” to use a different sketch path and changing layers for different areas. I toggled between the top and bottom routing layers by using the arrow keys, but other that, I only used four different commands:

  • Select netlines
  • F8: Draw sketch path
  • F9: Sketch Route
  • CTRL + Z: Undo

How easy is that?

In my recent article, “The Changing Face of the Hardware Design Engineer,”  I mentioned that ease-of-use and reduced learning curve are key requirements that effectively increase productivity for the independent hardware engineer. Sketch routing delivers unsurpassed performance and productivity gains even for the casual or novice user.

Sketch routing is a revolutionary new concept in PCB routing. It combines the speed and efficiency of auto-routing with the manual precision and quality of manual routing. Unparalleled productivity is achieved while at the same time producing high quality results that you would believe were routed manually by a seasoned PCB layout designer with many years of layout experience.

The time has arrived to rethink the prejudices you have against autorouting and any biases you may have towards manual routing. You now have the best of both worlds at your fingertips with sketch routing.

Here’s a question I posed last time – do you use auto-routers or do you route your designs manually? What do you believe are the pros and cons of auto-routing? Let me know, I’d like to hear from you.

To learn more, download your copy of “A Stroke of Genius: Saving Time and Effort with Sketch Routing,” a routing white paper, today.

27 May, 2015

This is the second post in a routing series. View the first one here.

Last time I introduced a powerful new automated routing technology called sketch routing. This time I will discuss how sketch routing is different from autorouting and how easy is to use.

How is sketch routing different from autorouting?

Due to the simplicity of the Sketch Router methodology, it can be applied to a wide range of conditions. It is easy to use, setup (there really is no set up required!), and control. It has a level of unsurpassed quality that mirrors manual routing results and provides an automated method of routing small or large groups of netlines.

The user controls:

  • Netlines to route
  • The routing path
  • Layers to route on
  • Via patterns
  • Style of routing (packed versus unpacked)

Selecting Netlines to Route

There are several different methods of interaction methodology to start and control sketch routing. Try each one to determine which methods best suits the specific task. I’ll discuss a few of those methods here.

  1. Draw a sketch path and select the Sketch Route command: the netlines to be routed will be automatically selected based on proximity of the start and end points of the sketch path.
  2. Select netlines, draw the sketch path and select the Sketch Route command: as you would expect, only the selected netlines will be routed.
  3. Select netlines and select the Sketch Route command: in this case because you never drew a sketch path, the routing algorithms will decide the best path for the routing.

Routing Path

In the first of this blog series, I illustrated the method of creating a route or sketch path. The sketch path is simply a free-form path that you draw on the screen; it is used to define where the routing needs to be placed.

Routing Layer and Via Patterns

While drawing the sketch path, you may change layers and define the preferred via pattern to be used. A graphic symbol, which represents the different via patterns, is displayed as you toggle through the options before selecting the optimal pattern.

Routing layer and via patterns

There are four different styles, two different directions, and eight possible rotations that provide a total of 34 different patterns to choose from; you’ll always be able to find a combination that is just right for your routing situation.

Packed and UnpackedPacked and unpacked autorouting

Using the packed style of routing will pack the routes together, closely following the center of the sketch path and minimum clearance rules. Some meandering and additional segments will result as the algorithms optimize spacing and use of the available real estate.

Using the unpacked style, routes are not packed together and the routing is glossed to minimize the number of segments; this style takes the most direct connection for each net.


The methodology for the sketch routing is unique and very different from existing interactive routing technology. Once you understand the principles and options as well as the conditions which allow it to be effective, sketch routing will become your preferred method for most interactive routing tasks.

In the last of my posts on this topic I will discuss performance and productivity.

Here’s a question I posed last time – do you use autorouters or do you route your designs manually? What do you believe are the pros and cons of autorouting? Let me know, I’d like to hear from you.

In the meantime why not take a look at the sketch router in action on

19 May, 2015
This is the first post in a routing series. More to come.

I grew up about 60 miles, as the crow flies, from Stratford-upon-Avon so I hope no one takes slight with the fact that I’m making liberal use of one of Shakespeare’s most famous lines.

The question itself is valid and one that has been a dilemma for PCB designers ever since the first PCB CAD tools were available.

Designers pride themselves on creating artistic masterpieces from complex routing challenges and are often reluctant to trust an auto-router to generate aesthetically pleasing results.

So what’s stopping you from using an autorouter?

As design complexity increases, it becomes more of a challenge to maintain all of the different design rules and constraints while simultaneously making the trade-offs necessary to achieve the required system performance and meeting the manufacturability requirements. An autorouter can’t possibly manage this and also deliver a masterpiece right?


Artistic masterpiece

Here are a few examples of why you may not be using an auto-router today:

  • How on earth do you set up all those rules?
  • It’s just not as pretty as manual routing.
  • Too many vias!!
  • You spend too much time cleaning up afterwards.
  • You could have routed it yourself quicker.
blue computer circuit board image - iStock

A routing masterpiece

So what’s the alternative?

A powerful new automated routing technology called sketch routing delivers extraordinary efficiency during PCB layout that accelerates interactive routing, and maintains focus on quality with high completion rates.

User-defined sketch paths give control to the designer’s routing intent. Select the netlines and simply draw a route path:

select netlines and draw route path

Then watch as the traces are routed in real time while adhering to design rules and producing manually routed quality results:

traces routed in real-time

In my recent article, “The Changing Face of the Hardware Design Engineer,”  I discussed ease of use and reduced learning curve as key requirements for the independent hardware engineer. Sketch routing addresses both of these head on.

Now that I have introduced sketch routing, I’ll take a more in-depth look at how it works in my next post in this series.

Here’s something to think about in the meantime – do you use auto-routers or do you route your designs manually? What do you believe are the pros and cons of autorouting? Let me know, I’d like to hear from you.

In the meantime, why not take a look at sketch router in action on

13 May, 2015

Attention Electrical Engineers, PCB Designers and Managers.

EVENT: 2015 PADS® World Tour  – “Built for the Challenge” – will explore the all new PADS solutions recently released by Mentor Graphics and the game changing technology to help with the everyday challenges engineers face.


The PADS World Tour a half day seminar brought to you by Mentor Graphics, covering the new solutions, new technology in the PADS flow, addressing design challenges to increase efficiency, enabling virtual prototyping, scalability of your designs and cleaner output to manufacturing in an easy to use environment.

More than 33 locations World Wide


The tour kicks off on May 14, 2015 Marlborough, MA 

What you will learn:

  • During the day, demonstrations and discussion will explain how new PADS solutions and capabilities can be applied to your designs.
  • Introduction to the three PADS product offerings
  • Demonstrations of correct-by-construction design including libraries, constraint management
  • Archive management to reduce the overhead of manual backup creation, providing a simple vault-based storage mechanism
  • Simultaneous 2D & 3D design environment with the world’s only hierarchical group planning and placement technology along with 3D DRC
  • How to take full advantage of the 10x faster layout with the world‘s fastest and most advanced interactive routing technology
  • Multi-domain simulation and analysis environment powered by HyperLynx®
  • Scale your design solution based on your needs

RegisterYou don’t want to miss this event!


27 April, 2015

Hardware engineers are taking on new roles in which they are required to wear many different hats.As the workforce evolves and design complexity requirements increase, we are seeing roles expand. Engineers who were once regarded as specialists will now be required to understand a variety of tasks. Yesterday’s specialists in individual point tools will become tomorrow’s design specialists, capable of problem-solving across the systems development spectrum.

Challenges facing engineers

In my recent article, “The Changing Face of the Hardware Design Engineer,”  I discussed some of the challenges facing the independent hardware engineer.

There are also an increasing number of trade-offs to consider:

  • Complexity is being driven in a number of ways: smaller device footprints with increased functionality, higher electronics content in vehicles, higher speeds, advances in packaging, and so-forth.
  • Looking at customer designs, over the last five years, layer counts have dropped 12 percent, board area has dropped 35 percent, and densities have gone up by 15 percent.
  • Competitive business environments increase the need for better time-to-market, lower cost, and higher quality; the pressure is on.

Managing the trade-offs between all of these variables can be near-impossible and the tools at the engineers disposal must evolve to simplify design complexity, increase individual productivity, and enable engineering organizations to do more – all  the while remaining affordable.

Engineers may operate independently, or within smaller project teams. Either way, the need for readily available, ease-to-use, and affordable design tools that address design creation, analysis and verification, FPGA integration and PCB layout, and more is very much a reality.Engineer Tool Kit

A gap in tool offerings

Traditionally, enterprise-level tools may be inaccessible due to cost, or because the engineer was working outside of the enterprise “grid.” Furthermore, lower-cost desktop tools often simply do not have the horsepower or functionality required to get the job done.

Filling the gap

The new PADS portfolio, introduces innovative technology at unbeatable prices to fill the need of today’s engineers who wear many hats. With scalable functionality, PADS products grow with you as your technology demands increase.

Are you one of the independent engineers who find themselves doing it all? Are you becoming less of a tool specialist and more of a design specialist? Let me know, I’d like to hear from you.

Also, why not take a look at the new PADS product portfolio? Compare pricing, check out some of the product videos, test drive the software or download an evaluation, and see for yourself how PADS can address your complex technological challenges.

Try PADS Free

Check out PADS Professional, the PCB design flow for the multi-discipline engineer who does it all, in this cloud-based trial.

Try PADS Professional

Want to try PADS Standard Plus yourself? Two great options—try PADS in the cloud, or download time-limited software for use on your desktop.

Try PADS Standard Plus

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