You need to get SOLIDWORKS assemblies made of your PCBs. What is the best method to do that?
There are two options: CircuitWorks and SOLIDWORKS PCB. Which is best for you? What’s the difference?
CircuitWorks is just a bridge to allow SOLIDWORKS to open files produced by other ECAD PCB design software. It requires an intermediary file format be used, referred to as IDF files. IDF (Intermediate Data Format) is an open file format that has gone through a few revisions. Most common is IDF 2.0 and 3.0. IDF 4.0 contains the most data but many programs don’t support it yet. CircuitWorks does support up to IDF 4.0. IDF files typically have the extension “.emn/.emp” or “.lib/.brd” and are produced in pairs. IDF 4.0 is a single file with the extension “.idf.”
CircuitWorks is included in SOLIDWORKS Premium and is great for customers who have already invested a significant amount in PCB software that can produce IDF files. It will create solid models of your board assemblies so that you can check the form and fit of the board in the housing. It is definitely a step up from using exported step models, as it does allow the mechanical team to communicate better with the electrical team. Moving components or modifying the board outline can be communicated back to the electrical team through the IDF files.
One of the downsides of CircuitWorks, is it does not allow for editing of traces or schematics. That gets into the territory of full board design, which is achieved through SOLIDWORKS PCB.
SOLIDWORKS PCB, is a full-featured software package that allows for design of the schematic and layout of printed circuit boards, as well as enabling bi-directional collaboration with the mechanical design. It is great for customers that are open to moving to a new software package for their board designs that provides everything from start to finish.
SOLIDWORKS PCB has tools for schematic capture, and board layout. It has many features that make designing a circuit board and producing the required documentation very efficient and intuitive. When it comes time to collaborate with the mechanical team, it is as easy as clicking a button.
All the information is pushed over to SOLIDWORKS so that a complete assembly can be produced in a fraction of the time it takes to import step models. It contains all of the 3D information, including the board, components, holes, traces, and silkscreen. In the 2020 release it even allows for the modeling of rigid-flex circuit boards. Using standard SOLIDWORKS tools, the mechanical designers can make necessary modifications to the board outline, component placement, holes, and rigid-flex area definitions, pushing those changes back to the ECAD software seamlessly without the requirement of any IDF import/export.
Hopefully that gives you a better idea about what the difference between what CircuitWorks and SOLIDWORKS PCB both do and which one would be the best method for you to use. If you need more information, feel free to give us a call and we can schedule a time to show you the software in action.
Senior Application Engineer Specialist, Electrical
Computer Aided Technology, Inc.