Digi-Key and Mentor cooperate on low-cost PCB design tools

November 04, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
Aiming to “meet the needs of today’s engineers” Mentor Graphics – as the software provider – has joined forces with distributor Digi-Key – with access to a worldwide base of designers – to present an “entry-level” range of three software tools that are intended to get designs started more easily and, in many cases, take them through to production.

The software is in the Mentor product family, at a new lower entry point than either its (high-end) Xpedition or its PADS offering. Mentor and Digi-key are emphatic that this is not free software (“We've got free software as well,” says a Digi-Key spokesman, “this is different”) but a fully supported and maintained software offering. It may lack some of the higher functions of PADS or Xpedition, but it is only capacity-limited to 1500 connections, six layers and 50 square inches.

The three tools are Designer Schematic, Designer Layout, which are the chargeable elements, and both give access to the Mentor PartQuest website. Digi-Key points out that while the tools will directly access its own inventory and parts database, there is no restriction to use parts or devices from its own catalogue. The jointly developed Designer Schematic and Designer Layout tools are available exclusively from Digi-Key.

For the first 90 days, Designer Schematic and Designer Layout will be available at a 30% discount, starting at $199 and $449, respectively. The product licenses are sold as an annual subscription, exclusively from Digi-Key. Also, for a limited time, the software is available for a 15-day evaluation period, free of charge.

“Mentor Graphics’ leadership in design software combined with Digi-Key’s connection to hundreds of thousands of design engineers around the world makes perfect sense,” said Henry Potts, Vice President and General Manager of Mentor Graphics Systems Design Division. "Together we found a way to lower the barrier of entry for engineers seeking better ways to accelerate cycle time from concept to prototype to production.” The companies make no secret of the fact that they are targeting the “maker” sector, but say that the tools are equally applicable to design starts in an environment where a board may later be passed to PADS or Xpedition. However, one estimate from the partners is that perhaps 80 to 90% of all boards can be completed in