RS’ free DesignSpark PCB software now links to DesignSpark Mechanical

January 22, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
Distributor RS Components has released Version 6.0 of DesignSpark PCB, its software for schematic capture and PCB layout, adding three of the most-requested new features: Simplified export to DesignSpark Mechanical, Cross Probe, and Custom Shortcuts.

RS says that DesignSpark PCB has more than 200,000 users globally and has become the 'open-source hardware' tool of choice for sharing and collaborating on designs and projects. In this sixth edition, DesignSpark PCB builds upon the previous version of the tool, and added further functionality including Online Design Rule Checking (Real-Time DRC) and design support for buses.

RS launched DesignSpark Mechanical in September 2013, with which users can design the mechanical elements of their products with a free-of-charge tool from the DesignSpark suite. This requires designs to be exported from DesignSpark PCB using the industry standard IDF format. The adoption of DesignSpark Mechanical was followed by feedback from users indicating the need for closer integration between the tools. In response to these requests, DesignSpark PCB Version 6.0 comes with simplified IDF export dedicated to DesignSpark Mechanical. This new interface makes the design transfer process easier and with various parameters pre-configured, enables designs to be exported more quickly while minimising the risk of user errors.

The Cross Probe (X-probe) functionality in Version 6.0 further speeds up the design process by allowing instant referencing between the schematic and the PCB-design views within the software. Usually it is relatively straightforward to identify a component in PCB view, but not necessarily so easy to find its corresponding symbol within the schematic - unless the system is extremely well known and understood by a user. Cross Probe allows the user to simply click on the component in either view, which will then immediately take them to the component in the counterpart view. The function works either way from PCB to schematic or vice versa.

The new Custom Shortcuts functionality in Version 6.0 allows more customisation flexibility within the user interface. Users can now configure the tool, defining their own shortcuts and hot keys thus making it much easier and quicker to use, especially if they are used to specific shortcut operations when using other