Several electronic component distributors that target the design-and-development phase of the product life cycle now offer design-tool support on a free, or low-cost basis. Mouser Electronics has a relationship with National Instruments and has recently extended its range of offerings based around NI’s MultiSIM.
Mouser is a reseller of NI’s MultiSIM Full Edition; the standard NI circuit design environment that includes schematic capture integrated with comprehensive simulation tools. At the other end of the scale the distributor has been offering a free download of MultiSIM Blue – to give it its full title, “NI Multisim Component Evaluator Mouser Edition”. This is a circuit simulation package that integrates printed-board design and bill-of-materials features; it allows the user to carry out schematic capture, to simulate, do PCB layout, BOM and purchase all in one integrated tool. Although has limitations (but not in board size, and it does allow up to 64 layers, with autorouting) Mouser claims that, “no other free tool gives you this level of integration... an easy-to-use, seamless environment for the functional simulation of linear circuits using the Berkeley SPICE Engine along with advanced electronic components.”
In a recent presentation, a Mouser spokesman acknowledged that the free package is mostly used for small boards and small applications – but that the package has been downloaded over 30,000 times. MultiSIM Blue is a stand-alone, Windows-based executable that can access a parts database that Mouser puts at over 100,000 items.
Now, however, Mouser has introduced an intermediate version that is not free, but offers – the distributor says – a great deal of design power for a modest cost. MultiSIM Blue Premium uses a subscription model; $299 per year. It has no limitations on number of components per board and Mouser says it represents two or three times [the capability] of what has been available at this level. The integration is retained, tagged as “four circuit design tools in one”, a professional