Top 10 of the best electronic design software
Do you need to design the enclosure of an electronic device? Or to create some PCB layouts (Printed Circuit Boards)? Do you just need to design and simulate the assembly of some electronic products? Whichever your purpose, there will always be a 3D design software for it! Currently, there are numerous 3D design packages for electronics on the market, so we know the selection of the proper design software may be hard. For this reason, we have listed some of the best electronic design software, categorized upon the needs of your project.
Electronic design software
The following 3D design software are some of the world’s most used CAD tools for the creation of 3D digital prototypes used in the design, visualization and simulation of products. In their design environment, they all use similar parametric solid modeling techniques, that make them suitable for the design process of electronics. Some of them can be used only for creating geometric-like exterior CAD models such as enclosures for electronics, while some others can be used for more complex purposes, such as the creation of PCB (printed circuit boards).
Moreover, the following 3D modeling software give designers the opportunity to create a model for 3D printing directly from the program. In other words, you can work in any of these 3D design software and then export directly your 3D CAD models in .stl file format with a high level of precision. So, if you are designing some parts related to electronic components or devices and wish to 3D print them, at least one of the following 10 3D design software will work for you.
3D design software n° 1: SketchUp
SketchUp is the easiest and most beginner-friendly software you can choose to getting started with. If you don’t need to create very complicated electronic products, SketchUp 3D design software will be sufficient for your needs. Even if you lack prior experience in 3D design, you will find all the features you need to create your electronic parts or enclosures successfully. The dedicated learning center of SketchUp will provide you with useful tutorials about how to use their 3D CAD tools. Moreover, as you can see in the video below, it is very simple to use its features and create a simple part in a short amount of time.
3D design software n° 2: Catia
Catia is a 3D designing software widely used by engineers of all fields. In the electronics industry, Catia is widely used for its features that allow a very detailed visualization of the electronic components. Catia 3D design software allows a higher level of precision on dimensional sketches than other similar software don’t. One of the key features of this design suite is that it supports the creation of flexible 3D PCB (printed circuit boards). With Catia, you can design complex and flexible 3D PCB with a large number of components and you can switch between its flattened and folded representation. It is also possible to import and export IDF files (Intermediate Data Format) including the definition of layers and conductors and their electrical properties.
3D design software n° 3: Creo
Creo is a widely used 3D design software among engineers, that supports a feature called “Creo View ECAD”. This feature is addressed mainly to more experienced users. Creo’s UI (User Interface) is easy to use, it supports the creation of circuits and the opening of documents from a multitude of sources. Creo View ECAD can also communicate with another extension of Creo, called “Creo Parametric”. Thanks to the combination of these two features, the designer can select a component in Creo Parametric and have access to an inside view of his designing space that he usually doesn’t have. At the same time, the designer can select individual electronic components and use the parallel 3D viewer for these components and of their surroundings both on “Creo View ECAD” and “Creo Parametric”.
3D design software n° 4: Solidworks
Solidworks is another 3D design software that can be used in many engineering and industrial fields. This 3D design software comes with a special feature addressed to the electronics industry, called “SOLIDWORKS PCB”. It is a very useful extension as it offers the designer a big variety of CAD tools to design everything he wants related to electronics. The list of tutorials provided by Solidworks about electronic design tools are very helpful for those who want to get started with circuit design, designing simple electronic components, footprints for board layouts or even enclosures for their electronic parts.
3D design software n° 5: Inventor
Inventor is a 3D design software as user friendly and easy to handle as SketchUp is. It is a 3D design software that can be used to create any kind of 3D electronic parts, from very simple to quite complex ones. Take a look at the video below to get an idea of how to use the different design tools Inventor offers:
Polygon-based 3D design software for electronics
The following 3D modeling software are polygon-based. This means that they use an approach for creating 3D objects by representing their surfaces using polygons. Thus, they can be considered as great simulation software for creating animations. Though, they can be very useful to people who handle electronics, for purposes such as simulation of electronic components, texture implementation on 3D parts, animation and visualization of multiple parts etc.. So, if you are already familiar with some polygon-based 3D modeling software, it will be easy for you even to design some basic parts for electronics or creating simple enclosures.
3D design software n° 6: Blender
Blender is a 3D modeling software that is widely used for the creation of 3D models and digital art. It is a design software that can also be used in the electronics’ design, with some restrictions. The main difficulty when using Blender for designing electronic components is its measurement tools. This 3D design software uses a system of measurement which is not based on a measurable unit. However, if the 3D part you design will be 3D printed or manufactured in any other way, it’s important to define a unit of scale. However, this software is a great choice for creating animations or simulations of how some of the parts may perform under given circumstances. As an example, the video below is an animated visualization of the flow of resistance (R) of some electronic components.
3D design software n° 7: 3DS Max
3DS Max is a 3D design tool can be used either by 3D designers coming from all engineering backgrounds or specifically electrical engineers. It offers several approaches for 3D design which can be adapted to everybody’s needs. It offers many tools to create and visualize 3D models, which is a very useful feature when designing an enclosure for electronics or an assembly of multiple objects. For instance, in the following video, we see the dynamic assembly of diverse electronic parts, wires and buttons.
Other 3D design software for electronics
The 3D design software mentioned above are some of the best and most-used 3D modeling software in the manufacturing and engineering fields. Though, there are other 3D design software that would be adequate for creating electronic designs too, like PCB design software or schematic editors.
The following 3D design software are not packages that are commonly used by manufacturers or engineers. However, they are special suites that focus on electronic design and that you can use for creating custom-made electrical enclosures or PCB designs (printed circuit boards).
3D design software n° 8: AutoCad Electrical
AutoCad is a well known architectural 3D design software and comes with a special extension for electronics. This extension is called AutoCad Electrical and includes all the functionalities of AutoCAD software, plus a complete set of electrical design CAD features. Thus, if you are already familiar with handling the AutoCad software, it will be very easy for you to learn the new features of AutoCad Electrical software. This 3D design software, allows the designer to combine and integrate electrical and mechanical design. In addition, thanks to its schematic editor, it offers some features for extracting a list of schematic components to create panel layout drawings. Moreover, it can run multiple reports with the integrated customizable report generation tool. Check out some of the electrical features of this 3D design software for electronics:
3D design software n° 9: Protocase Designer
Protocase Designer is a 3D CAD software, perfect for those who want to design custom-made enclosures for electronics, panels or various electronic components.
It is a very user-friendly software that even beginners with no prior experience can easily use.
The software itself contains various templates of enclosures, panels and brackets. The user chooses the template of the part that fits his needs and then starts working on it. During the design procedure, it is possible to select the material of the part, its color, its size and other parameters. The part is furtherly edited by adding cutouts, mounting hardware, labeling and graphics until the desired outcome is achieved.
The video below illustrates the way this 3D software works:
3D design software n° 10: DesignSpark Electrical
Design Spark PCB is a CAD software which enables you to capture schematics and design 3D PCB (printed circuit boards) and PCB layouts. One of its key features is that has unlimited schematic size and the designer can use as many layers as needed for his PCB designs. DesignSpark PCB offers a variety of PCB design tutorials, so as the users to get familiar with the features of the software. Here is a video to get familiar with the UI (User Interface) and the basic elements of this 3D design software for electronics.
We hope you find this guide useful to choose among the variety of the existing 3D design software for electronics.
Want to learn more about electronics? You can check out our blog post about 3D printing for electronics. Moreover, we encourage you to check out how to create plastic 3D printed enclosures for electronics in this article, prototyped with our online 3D printed service.
If you feel inspired enough to give shape to your next project related to electronics, feel free to browse our page dedicated to 3D Printing electronics and upload your 3D file!
Photo Credits: 3dsCATIA