Platform Independent CAD Models for PCB Design

Author: 911EDA News Desk
Oct 6, 2015

SnapEDA's DesignHub portal allows hardware developers to access platform independent component CAD models and download them in the PCB design tool of their choice.

 Pity the poor hardware developer faced with taking a printed circuit board design to completion in an environment in which there are more than 25 million components. Even after picking the microcontroller and peripheral devices and building a hardwired prototype, there are still numerous challenges before a design is ready for production.

 If you are lucky your design may fit into a standard board computer format. But unfortunately it is likely you will have to design your own, especially in the case of extremely resource- and size-constrained wireless IoT applications. Fortunately, there are many online library resources that provide component specifications, pricing and availability. A number of printed circuit board tools are available as well, both free and proprietary.

 But which one? The tool for which the most component models are available? The one which has the capabilities you need? The one you can afford? Or the one with which you have the most experience?

 No matter which choice you make, you'll be stuck with creating models containing necessary CAD information about physical dimensions, electrical characteristics, how it is connected to other components, simulations of its characteristics, and where it needs to be placed on a physical circuit board.

 A company that hopes to solve that problem is SnapEDA, founded in 2013 to provide a platform-independent way of generating CAD models, linked to online parts repositories with information about availability and pricing.


SnapEDA provides a library of platform independent component CAD files and models which can be translated into a developer’s preferred printed circuit board design tool.

 Rather than force a hardware developer to go through the process of creating the building blocks for each EDA tool the developer wants to use or evaluate, SnapEDA provides tools by which to create platform independent versions. The company uses a proprietary CAD translation algorithm to allow a designer to convert them into the appropriate vendor format, including Cadence OrCAD and Allegro, Altium, Eagle, Mentor PADS, KiCad, and Pulsonix.

 SnapEDA has just taken the next step and created an online tool called the DesignHub that founder Natasha Baker describes as a one-stop shopping resource for finding CAD building blocks for components developed or curated by industry-leading companies. The building blocks have been created by community members or supplied by SnapEDA. If the building block is not available and a developer has to create his own, it can be uploaded and added to the library of CAD models to share with the community. Baker said SnapEDA’s DesignHub currently provides access to datasheets, specs, pricing and availability on millions of components, of which about 50 percent have been provided with the necessary CAD model data.

The ultimate goal of the company is to create an open environment in which developers are encouraged to develop CAD models and share them with others within the SnapEDA community. To further this aim the company uses what is called a ‘Freemium’ model, similar in some ways to the shareware approach in software. "In addition to free community services, we have paid products for semiconductor manufacturers, and will also launch a premium version of our tools for engineers that will allow for more customization of PCB footprints and symbols, batch export, etc.", Baker said.

 All the CAD models created by SnapEDA conform to the IPC standards from the Association Connecting Electronics Industries, and all symbols follow a combination of ANSI IEC and its own internal symbol standards. "As time goes on, our goal is to incorporate all global standards (IPC/JEDEC/IEC/ANSI/JEDA, etc.) and allow engineers to dynamically modify the CAD data to meet the standards in their particular geographic region."


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