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Here at Nine Dot Connects, we believe that having the right tools brings efficiency to the entire design process. Though EDA tools tend to be the centerpiece of the process, there are useful products that go beyond the capabilities that EDA tools provide. That is why we have partnered with the following companies:

In-Circuit Design: Stackup Planner - Every EDA tools has the ability to declare a layer stack up, and most do a decent job in providing the stack up in some form of documentation. The ICD stack up tool, which contains a 3D field solver, allows the user the ability to determine the impedances of traces based upon the dielectric being used, the use of copper planes, the layer heights, the solder mask thickness, and the width and clearance spacing of the traces. The accuracy of the ICD tool rivals that of many higher priced 3D field solvers! In addition, the tool is capable of assisting in calculating flight times and matched delays.

ICD also provides the PDN Planner, a Power Distribution Network tool, that allows the user to evaluate the board's potential for AC power noise. By using the capacitor library provided in the tool, the frequencies which may likely cause these AC impedance noises can be suppressed.

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Desktop EDA - In the past 10 years, one of the biggest innovations in PCB design is the ability for EDA tools to interact with MCAD tools through the use of the STEP format. This interaction not only allows for 3D component and PCB representations to be passed between the mechanical and electrical tools, its allows both of these fundamentally different worlds the ability to communicate and work out the optimal board shape and component real estate. STEP has it limitations. It is a very inefficient format and most MCAD tools convert STEP into their proprietary format. In addition, due to its size, features such as silk screen and traces are not generated with the STEP.

Desktop EDA brings several innovations to the table. First, it provides for a real-time bridge allowing both the electrical and mechanical teams to pass the design back and forth in real time. Second, Desktop EDA allows for exportation of silks and copper traces.

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SolutionQuadrant - One of the biggest headaches of the PCB design process is maintaining a component library. The library has to be consistent in its symbolic representation, its footprint mechanical layer information, and its intellectual data (i.e., component description, manufacturer’s information, etc.).

By their nature, EDA tools were developed for the individual designer. The library methodology is no different – it, too, is a product of a single designer tool suite. The other option tends to be a database system that requires some time and knowledge to implement properly.

SolutionQuadrant has developed ADLib, a database that is both intuitive to use and affordable. With its web browser interface and its user-friendly features, components can be added following the desired formats with instant accessibility to the part upon entry into the database.

We at Nine Dot Connects have studied design methodology and have definitive opinions on the subject. Please take a look at our commentary. It is a read that may save you thousands of dollars in library hassles. Click here to read our library commentary.

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Zuken E3 - All too often, engineers use drawing tools that are not suited for system and cabling design work. Using tools like PowerPoint or Visio may provide a visual representation; however, the components of the design have no intelligent data assigned to them. EDA schematic editing tools are also used because, in many ways, one can use such tools in an “off label” fashion to pull something together. However, EDA tools are geared for components associated to a PCB and inter-connectivity associated to copper. Drawing cables with any intelligent data can be tricky, at best.

Zuken’s E3 tool suite was specifically designed for system level engineering. In addition to making cables and harnesses, E3 is suitable for any project that goes beyond the PCB. From household appliances to automobiles and aircraft, the E3 tool is for the projects that have a lot to be brought together.

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CAM 350 – Have you ever sent documentation of a known existing PCB to a new fabricator, only to find out that they cannot provide a board that electrically works? Yet, the prior fabricator had no issues. What gives? Most designers do not know that in many cases, their designs are being modified by the fabricator using CAM tools. This is due to the fact that the fabricator has to adjust for things that their equipment is not able to do or make adjustments so that the board will be within tolerances of the entire fabrication process. CAM 350 contains a comprehensive set of rules that go far beyond the design rules of most PCB editors. By comparing these rules against the fabrication files, the designer can make adjustments to the ORGINIAL source files rather than having hidden differences exist between the source files of the company and the fabrication files of the fabricator.

Blueprint PCB – All EDA tools can produce the fabrication and assembly files. However, organizing the information can be a hassle at times. Would you like to provide a single page to the fabricator with the stack and via stack up, assembly drawings, notes, and other details pertinent to the fabricator? More so, would you like to do this without having to manually draw tables or even have to copy and paste tables into this drawing? Even more so, have a template that would simply pull all of this in? Blueprint PCB does all of that for both fabrication and assembly documentation. Blueprint can turn hours of documentation into minutes.

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