CADSTAR for layout professionals

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Introduction to CADSTAR Layout

CADSTAR is a powerful PCB design software suite used by professional PCB layout engineers. It provides a comprehensive set of tools for schematic capture, PCB layout, routing, and manufacturing preparation. With its intuitive interface and advanced features, CADSTAR enables layout professionals to efficiently design high-quality PCBs for a wide range of applications.

Key Features of CADSTAR Layout

  1. Schematic Capture
  2. Hierarchical design support
  3. Extensive component libraries
  4. Electrical rule checking (ERC)
  5. Netlist generation

  6. PCB Layout

  7. Multi-layer board support
  8. Advanced placement and routing tools
  9. Real-time design rule checking (DRC)
  10. 3D visualization and collision detection

  11. Intelligent Routing

  12. Automatic and interactive routing modes
  13. High-speed design rules and constraints
  14. Differential pair routing
  15. Length matching and delay tuning

  16. Manufacturing Preparation

  17. Gerber and drill file generation
  18. Bill of Materials (BOM) export
  19. Design for Manufacturing (DFM) checks
  20. Assembly drawing creation

Getting Started with CADSTAR Layout

System Requirements

Before installing CADSTAR, ensure that your system meets the minimum requirements:

Component Minimum Requirement
Operating System Windows 10 (64-bit)
Processor Intel Core i5 or equivalent
Graphics Card OpenGL 3.3 compatible with 1 GB VRAM
Storage 10 GB free disk space

Installation Process

  1. Download the CADSTAR installer from the official website.
  2. Run the installer and follow the on-screen instructions.
  3. Select the components you want to install (e.g., Layout, Schematic, etc.).
  4. Choose the installation directory and click “Install”.
  5. Wait for the installation to complete and launch CADSTAR.

CADSTAR Layout Workflow

Creating a New Project

  1. Open CADSTAR Layout.
  2. Click “File” > “New” > “Project”.
  3. Enter a project name and select a location to save it.
  4. Choose the template that best suits your design requirements.
  5. Click “OK” to create the project.

Importing Schematic and Netlist

  1. In CADSTAR Layout, click “File” > “Import” > “Schematic”.
  2. Browse and select the schematic file (.scm) generated from CADSTAR Schematic.
  3. Review the import settings and click “OK” to import the schematic.
  4. The netlist will be automatically generated based on the imported schematic.

Component Placement

  1. In the PCB layout editor, locate the components in the “Components” panel.
  2. Drag and drop the components onto the PCB workspace.
  3. Use the placement tools to position the components accurately.
  4. Apply placement constraints, such as component spacing and orientation.

Routing the PCB

  1. Define the layer stack and design rules for your PCB.
  2. Use the routing tools to connect the components based on the netlist.
  3. CADSTAR offers automatic and interactive routing modes:
  4. Automatic routing: Select the nets to route and let CADSTAR generate the optimal paths.
  5. Interactive routing: Manually route the traces using the interactive routing tools.
  6. Apply routing constraints, such as trace width, spacing, and via settings.
  7. Perform design rule checks (DRC) to ensure the routed board meets the specified constraints.

Design Verification and Optimization

  1. Run a comprehensive design rule check (DRC) to identify any violations.
  2. Review and resolve DRC errors, ensuring the design meets all the specified rules.
  3. Optimize the PCB layout for manufacturability and performance:
  4. Adjust component placement for better routing and signal integrity.
  5. Fine-tune trace widths and spacing to meet high-speed design requirements.
  6. Perform length matching and delay tuning for critical signals.
  7. Utilize the 3D visualization feature to check for potential mechanical issues.

Generating Manufacturing Files

  1. Once the PCB layout is finalized, generate the necessary manufacturing files.
  2. Click “File” > “Fabrication Outputs” to access the output generation options.
  3. Select the desired output formats, such as Gerber, drill files, and pick-and-place files.
  4. Configure the output settings, including layer mapping and file naming conventions.
  5. Generate the manufacturing files and review them for accuracy.

Advanced CADSTAR Layout Techniques

High-Speed PCB Design

  1. Define high-speed design rules and constraints.
  2. Use differential pair routing for high-speed signals.
  3. Implement controlled impedance routing techniques.
  4. Apply length matching and delay tuning for critical paths.
  5. Utilize ground planes and power planes for effective signal referencing.

Flexible and Rigid-Flex PCB Design

  1. Define the layer stack for flexible and rigid-flex PCBs.
  2. Create separate rigid and flexible zones in the PCB layout.
  3. Apply special design rules for flexible regions, such as minimum bend radius and coverlay requirements.
  4. Use teardrops and strain relief features to enhance the reliability of flex-to-rigid transitions.

Design Reuse and Templates

  1. Create reusable component footprints and symbols.
  2. Develop custom design rule templates for specific applications or manufacturing processes.
  3. Utilize CADSTAR’s design reuse features, such as blocks and snippets.
  4. Share design templates and libraries across team members for consistency and efficiency.

Collaboration and Version Control

  1. Use CADSTAR’s built-in version control system to track design changes.
  2. Collaborate with team members by sharing design files and libraries.
  3. Implement a proper workflow for design reviews and approvals.
  4. Utilize CADSTAR’s design comparison tools to identify changes between versions.

CADSTAR Layout Best Practices

  1. Start with a well-organized schematic design.
  2. Define a clear and consistent naming convention for components, nets, and layers.
  3. Set up design rules and constraints early in the layout process.
  4. Use a modular approach to PCB layout, separating functional blocks and subsystems.
  5. Keep signal integrity and EMC considerations in mind throughout the design process.
  6. Regularly run design rule checks (DRC) to catch and resolve issues early.
  7. Optimize component placement for manufacturability and assembly.
  8. Follow industry standards and guidelines for PCB layout and manufacturing.
  9. Collaborate closely with schematic designers, mechanical engineers, and manufacturing partners.
  10. Continuously learn and stay updated with the latest PCB design techniques and best practices.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What are the system requirements for running CADSTAR Layout?

The minimum system requirements for running CADSTAR Layout are:
– Operating System: Windows 10 (64-bit)
– Processor: Intel Core i5 or equivalent
– RAM: 8 GB
– Graphics Card: OpenGL 3.3 compatible with 1 GB VRAM
– Storage: 10 GB free disk space

2. Can CADSTAR Layout import schematic designs from other EDA tools?

Yes, CADSTAR Layout supports importing schematic designs from various EDA tools. It can import schematic files in popular formats such as:
– CADSTAR Schematic (.scm)
– OrCAD Capture (.dsn)
– Altium Designer (.SchDoc)
– Eagle (.sch)

To import a schematic from another EDA tool, use the “File” > “Import” > “Schematic” option in CADSTAR Layout.

3. Does CADSTAR Layout support high-speed PCB design?

Yes, CADSTAR Layout provides a comprehensive set of features for high-speed PCB design. It offers advanced routing capabilities, such as differential pair routing, controlled impedance routing, and length matching. CADSTAR Layout also supports high-speed design rules and constraints to ensure signal integrity and meet performance requirements.

4. Can multiple designers work on the same PCB layout simultaneously in CADSTAR?

CADSTAR Layout supports collaborative design workflows. Multiple designers can work on different parts of the same PCB layout simultaneously using CADSTAR’s design partitioning and synchronization features. Each designer can work on their assigned portion of the layout, and the changes are synchronized in real-time, allowing for efficient collaboration among team members.

5. What manufacturing files can be generated from CADSTAR Layout?

CADSTAR Layout can generate a wide range of manufacturing files required for PCB fabrication and assembly. Some of the commonly generated files include:
Gerber Files (e.g., copper layers, solder mask, silkscreen)
– Drill files (e.g., NC drill, Excellon)
– Bill of Materials (BOM)
– Pick-and-place files
– Assembly drawings
– 3D STEP files

These manufacturing files can be generated using the “File” > “Fabrication Outputs” option in CADSTAR Layout.


CADSTAR Layout is a powerful and versatile PCB design software that caters to the needs of professional layout engineers. With its intuitive interface, advanced features, and comprehensive set of tools, CADSTAR Layout streamlines the PCB design process from schematic capture to manufacturing preparation.

By following best practices, utilizing advanced techniques, and staying updated with the latest industry trends, layout professionals can leverage CADSTAR Layout to create high-quality PCBs efficiently. Whether working on high-speed designs, Flexible PCBs, or complex multilayer boards, CADSTAR Layout provides the necessary capabilities to meet the demanding requirements of modern electronics design.

As a layout professional, investing time in mastering CADSTAR Layout and continuously expanding your skillset will enable you to tackle complex PCB design challenges and deliver outstanding results. By combining the power of CADSTAR Layout with your expertise and attention to detail, you can create PCBs that are reliable, performant, and ready for manufacturing.