Electronic Design

Ready-To-Use PCB Tools Swing For Sweet Spot

In just about any software market, one can construct a "pyramid" diagram of users: power users at the top, mainstream users in the middle, and entry, "ready-to-use," or "shrinkwrap" users forming the foundation.

With a trio of printed-circuit-board (PCB) design suites, Mentor Graphics plans to blanket the lower half of the pyramid, emphasizing the foundation of ready-to-use tool users. And a hefty foundation it is. According to research company Dataquest, some 79% of PCB tool users are in that category. The move represents a re-emergence of the PADS brand, well known among shrinkwrap PC-tool users.

Three PADS Suites will make up the new offering, bringing features that will immediately benefit productivity. The three packages present a tiered approach in capabilities (see the figure). There's a common look and feel among them, as well as improved system integration between various components. They also provide an upgrade path, both within the three suites themselves and beyond into Mentor's higher-end Expedition tool.

Productivity enhancements come in various flavors in the PADS Suites. An OrCAD translator lets users quickly and easily translate OrCAD schematic and library data into the PADS-Designer environment. Therefore, new users can reuse their OrCAD design data. The suites also include a core component library of symbols, footprints, and parametric data. As a result, users can install the product and get right to work without investing in library development.

Don't get the idea that these are toy design tools. One example of a recent design done with the PADS tools, an Internet switch with a three-PCB set on a single blade, encompasses hot-swappable, redundant CPUs and sports differential data rates up to 1.2 GHz. It also includes over 2000 components and over 6000 signal nets, 60% of which are high-speed nets.

The PADS Suites start at $3495 for PADS PE and range up to about $15,000 for the high-end package.

Mentor Graphics

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