Digi-Key launches CAD tool suite

11 November 2014

Digikey has become the latest distributor to launch a suite of CAD design tools aimed at engineers.

The US company has partnered with Mentor Graphics to offer a cut down version of Mentor’s DxDesigner PCB schematic software and PADS layout tool. The two tools can also be used in conjunction with Mentor’s PartQuest website to merge Digi-Key part numbers into symbols and footprints.

Unlike competitors who have launched free versions of their design tools, DigiKey will be offering the two Mentor-based tools on a subscription basis; $299 annually for its schematic tool, and $649 annually for the layout tool. But, for the first 90 days, Designer Schematic and Designer Layout will be available at a 30 per cent discount, $199 and $449, respectively. Also, for a limited time, the software is available free of charge for a 15 day evaluation. 

The company justifies the charge by claiming that the tools it offers are professional quality with very few restrictions when compared to rival’s free software solutions. The free versions have various restrictions on board size, numbers of layers and number and type of components. 

Digi-Key also states that Designer Layout and Designer Schematic are aimed at the top end of the maker circuit and professionals looking for a fully-featured tool suite, rather than the occasional hobbyist. 

Digi-Key’s software does have some limitations - it is limited to 15,000 connections, a total area of 50” and six layers. The company claims the software packages are only missing some very top-end features from the professional software provided by Mentor and it also has full access to Mentor’s libraries. Component creation is allowed and created components can be saved and reused. 

Digi-Key has had the two tools in beta testing for several months, with over 300 customers and volunteers providing feedback. The software is easily upgradeable to the full Mentor version, and will also be upgradeable to several other versions planned to be released by Digi-Key in the near future. Saved designs and components will be compatible with any version of the software.

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