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Mentor brings down cost for high-end PCB design platforms

Posted: 13 May 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Mentor Graphics  PCB design 

Mentor Graphics Corp. has announced a family PCB design tools based on its well-known PADS platform. Offered as a significantly cost-effective solution, the platform is priced at half that of competing midrange suites. In addition, it claims to provide capabilities previously only available on high-end design tools such as its own Xpedition Enterprise.

The midrange of the PCB design tool market has been in stasis for many years, with little or no significant change in pricing or design capabilities, said David Wiens, business development manager for Mentor's system design division. Most of the action has been at either the very low-cost, bare-bones functionality segment or in the expensive "all the bells and whistles" tools for large company design teams.

Wiens said Mentor wants to change that by going after an underserved market that has been hiding in plain sight: independent engineers who need tools that allow them to work alone early in a products development, but which can be used to eventually take a design to production if need be.

The engineers Mentor is targeting are not the self-driven independent developers who want low cost above all. They are either engineers working alone at a small to mid-sized company or are members of an isolated team within a large enterprise. For them, both cost and functionality are important criterion in their choice of tools.

Independent engineers working on PCB design

Independent engineers working alone or on isolated design teams exist at all levels within large and small companies.

"These engineers are usually involved in doing PCB related activities outside a company's mainstream production efforts: building prototypes, validating reference designs and performing manufacturability studies," said Wiens. "What they need are many of the capabilities of a full high-end tool for performing the complete design, analysis, and manufacturing data delivery of PCB electronic products. Not needed is the costly and complex usage arrangements associated with the high end."

Meeting the needs of PCB developers

To meet the needs of this ignored, but growing, category of developers, Mentor has expanded its existing PADS platform to offer three options: PADS Standard, Standard PLUS and Standard Professional. At the same time, it has dropped the entry point from the current $10,000 average in the industry to $5,000 for an unlimited usage license on its baseline PADS Standard.

"What we wanted to do with PADS is offer a PCB design framework that was attractive to the independent developer both in terms of cost and capability and that would not force him to make choices between the two."

Wiens also said that in the current PCB design tool environment, independent engineers had to make do with lower-priced or free offerings that eventually ran out of steam and were not able to support their growing needs. "While initially the design process may need no more than the schematic entry and layout of the PCB, it can very quickly evolve to a point where it will require detailed evaluation for signal integrity, thermal, design-for-manufacturability, and power distribution network integrity."

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