PADS Desktop PCB Design

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

27 July, 2015

We’ve heard other EDA vendors talk about providing broadly published roadmaps and future direction transparency. When I have seen these, they have appeared to be manifesto statements of everything that everyone could ever want in a tool. Which brings me to question how soon vendors can realistically deliver these solutions.

I’m sure all vendors have similar goals, strategies, and roadmaps. However, achieving them is where the true challenge lies. When you scan the various markets that we, the EDA vendors, need to serve, selecting important features to focus on can become daunting.

EDA Technology Roadmap

It is no secret that the main focus in the market today is IoT. In the marketing world, we always talk about “verticals”, like consumer, automotive, etc. However, IoT is really horizontal. In other words, IoT crosses a wide spectrum of markets and is in pretty much everything being designed and built today. In fact, we see that many of our PADS customers work in a broad and vast set of technologies and industries, from individuals to large teams, and at small to large companies.

So, what features do we work on? To decide, we need to truly understand both the overarching technology trends and, more importantly, the users we serve.

Horizontal technology markets, as stated above, crosses nearly all vertical market segments. This means that end users require capabilities in many disciplines, including RF, analog, mixed signal, and high-speed.

Take high-speed, for example. It used to be that only high-speed systems (computing, networking, mil/aero) required detailed analysis and simulation. Well, the fact is that today, there is high-speed in nearly everything we design. In some cases, the components that are being used can only be acquired with faster operating speeds, even if not required for the system.

This brings the topic, and importance, of high-speed to a far greater audience than ever before. While users may not be high-speed experts nor want to be, they are pushed to either simulate and validate their design or risk having it not work…something that can make or break time-to-market goals.

The PADS Roadmap

How does this all relate to the PADS roadmap? We are analyzing how we can bring robust, highly capable, high-speed tools such as Hyperlynx to a community of designers in a manner that is non-obtrusive, easy to setup, and simple to use. Furthermore, we know these tools must provide accurate results that can be validated in the lab.

This may also sound pie-in-the-sky like every other roadmap, but, Mentor has the ability to deliver such a solution. Hyperlynx is already known in the high-speed world as the simplest, most powerful environment for the design engineer and is already part of PADS (Standard Plus and Professional). Our roadmap takes this same technology and extends capabilities even further to deliver capabilities in power aware SI, IR Drop, and comprehensive SI analysis…all within your PADS environment.

Mentor has the ability to anticipate future needs and deliver powerful technology to meet those needs. Users may not have had to deal with these in the past but should anticipate that, as complexity increases and their needs expand, they will need a tool that can grow with them.

Another example is thermal. In cases such as miniaturization and wearables, thermal has become a larger concern.

PADS solutions contain Hyperlynx Thermal for quick “what-if” trade-offs. However, Mentor also has, as part of its broad technology portfolio, FloTHERM which has set the industry standard for systems level thermal analysis. In the past, this tool was primarily used by thermal experts. Later this year, it will be available in a PADS package! Right from within your PADS cockpit, you will be able to extract a design into FloTHERM, analyze, and quickly get results that will enable real-time design decisions.

Other examples of upcoming technology include FPGA synthesis and optimization, system-level analog and mixed-signal analysis, industry-leading manufacturing analysis through Valor, and even mainstream IC design capabilities with our recently acquired Tanner EDA technology.

Most designers start with the standard capabilities of design entry and PCB layout and we know that PADS must provide the best solution possible for those challenges as well.

Later this year, we will introduce a leap frog 3D/2D co-design capability along with new capabilities that improve user productivity. Still to come? A steady stream set of enhancements in six month intervals to address all the needs of designers working on rigid-flex, micro-via, mixed signal, and high-speed PCB designs.

Pulling this all back to the topic of roadmaps, we need to take a holistic view of our industry and end users, understand the changing world in which they are designing, and anticipate new challenges that will arise in getting their product successfully designed, simulated, validated, and to manufacturing in the fastest means possible.

When we analyze what that means to PADS, we are confident that we are in a position to deliver the industry best solution. Anyone can tell you what the world needs but who can really deliver? And do it in a way that delivers best-in-class technology that’s highly-integrated and easy to use? Even if they can, the world doesn’t need a solution years from now…we need one today.

14 July, 2015

It’s hard to believe that nearly three decades have past since I designed my first printed circuit boards. I can still recall how impressed I was with the first CAD system I’d operated. It was in a futuristic ambient-lit computer room where six or so minicomputer based Calma Systems were installed.

Each Calma workstation included a digital read-out of x-y coordinates illuminated in red located in the upper right corner of the huge digitizer table. Each station also included a console complete with mechanical keyboard and green monochrome CRT’s.

This image Calma(courtesy of David Weisberg) gives you an idea of the floor space taken-up by the Calma system.  A separate “computer room” complete with a raised floor hiding all the AC ducts and cabling housed all the data storage systems that served and backed-up the workstations. There was also a huge HP plotter used to print out each layer of digitized routes that would eventually be scaled and photographed on to clear film in the lab located across the hall. Sound familiar?

You don’t have to have been in the PCB industry for decades to see the evolution of EDA tools for PCB design. The industry has come a long, long way from hand-taping designs and digitizing hand-drawn layers as done with the Calma systems that we literally used to build rooms around. We now use powerful desktop tools installed on laptops and carry them around in backpacks that “usually” fit neatly under the seat in front of you on an airplane.

PCB designers’ responsibilities have evolved proportionally over the decades. A design flow where individuals may have been solely responsible for the schematic or just symbol creation or only the layout of the design without any involvement with other individual tasks in the design flow are long gone.

Today, we must consider every aspect of the design throughout the entire flow. That is, interest in every component, every layer, every trace and every via. We consider signal integrity, we simulate and we validate. We know where the PCB is installed and design with EMI and thermal influences in mind. We collaborate directly with mechanical CAD tools and we analyze completed designs utilizing DFMA tools developed to ensure first-pass manufacturing success.

“PCB design, the methodology of the past, has become the entry point to the wonderful new world of System Design Automation (SDA). PCB itself is being teamed-up with MCM design; 2D, 2 & ½D design, and 3D design; MEMS Design and Mechanical Design. This is giving Mentor and Cadence a door to the future.” (Source: 2014 Marketing Trends: Executive Sumary – Gary Smith EDA.  ~ We are left with heavy hearts upon learning that Gary had passed away over the July 4th weekend – he was a true leader and visionary in the EDA industry. We extend our deepest condolences to his family.~)

PCB designers now have the capability and in many cases the responsibility to perform much if not every aspect of the design flow. PADS solutions: Standard, Standard-Plus and Professional are specifically tailored to suit the needs of today’s designers no matter the level of responsibility. Appropriately bundled and proportionally priced to fit your budget.

PADS Standard is geared toward the engineer looking for high value, production proven tools. It provides schematic design and layout capabilities in an intuitive and easy-to-use environment. PADS Standard is ideal for less complex board design where cost is a high priority. Try it now

PADS Standard Plus is packaged to empower the independent engineer who requires a more complete design flow that includes advanced tool-sets. It has everything that Standard has, plus it is equipped with the enhanced layout and integrated analysis and verification functionality needed to produce quality PCBs, fast. Try it now

PADS Professional is the most powerful solution, packing all the technology required to accomplish the most demanding and complex designs at an unbelievable price. Professional provides the independent engineer with the technology required to accomplish the most demanding and complex designs.  The full flow of PADS Professional lets you design, validate and manufacture PCB-centric systems including advanced FPGA devices. Try it now

Click image below to compare to PADS productscompare PADSPADS solutions are appropriately bundled to fit your level of design complexity and your budget to ensure that you maintain your competitive edge.

Thanks for reading,  John

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.


The 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 your 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!


Steve 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

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