If your designs include printed circuit boards (PCBs), there is a pretty good chance that at one point or another you have wished you could have an accurate 3D representation of the finished board for fitting or design checks. Well you might not be aware that SOLIDWORKS has the tool to help you out here, CircuitWorks. Formerly, CircuitWorks used to be included in only the highest level of SOLIDWORKS, Premium. However, last year with the release of SOLIDWORKS 2015 a packaging change meant that CircuitWorks became available in all Professional licenses as well. Don’t worry SOLIDWORKS Standard users you aren’t completely without hope, there is a limited version of CircuitWorks available for you as well, called CircuitWorks Lite.
Let’s take a look at the differences between CircuitWorks and CircuitWorks Lite.
From the SOLIDWORKS Help file you can find the following comparison table:
Starting with the import, the full version of CircuitWorks is capable of opening five different types of 2.5D PCB files, most of those in common use, while the Lite version is restricted to only two types. If you are looking for the more detailed PADS or ProStep EDMD files you are going to require a full version of CircuitWorks.
Once imported the resulting model takes a drastic change. The full version of CircuitWorks will generate a SOLIDWORKS Assembly, unlocking that functionality, while the Lite version creates a single multi-body SOLIDWORKS part.
Notice how one of these boards looks much more realistic than the other? That’s because CircuitWorks Lite simply takes the outline of components and extrudes it to the component height, leaving much of the actual detail out, including the board details. Full CircuitWorks, on the other hand, uses a Component Library, meaning you can use detailed models of the components rather than simple extruded models. When it comes to making modern electronics, compactness is essential, so the more detailed the models the better our design can be.
CircuitWorks Lite is also limited in the number of components that can be on a board. According to the table, it is in the hundreds of components. The exact number is not given because it is hardware dependent. CircuitWorks Lite actually uses an API to create extrusions in a multi-body part, so the computing power ultimately dictates how many is too many. CircuitWorks on the other hand is its own tool so it is capable of handling thousands of components before taking a noticeable performance hit.
Well, if you are worried about the number of components on your board, maybe you don’t need to see every single one of them. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could filter out the minutia? CircuitWorks can do that. With its full interface there are an abundance of options. It allows you to filter out by component type, size, or individually. CircuitWorks Lite, on the other hand, lacks the interface to allow you to filter, it is all or nothing.
Finally, once you have your model in SOLIDWORKS, what do you do if you identify a necessary design change? Well, with CircuitWorks Lite, you are going to need to call the electrical designer over to your desk or send a very detailed email describing the problem. With the full version of CircuitWorks, you can just make the change on the model and save back into a 2.5D file to send to the other designer. This opens the door to that word your boss really likes, collaboration.
So there are the major differences. All versions of SOLIDWORKS contain a PCB import tool, however, it is Professional and Premium which have the advanced functionality of CircuitWorks. If you want to learn more about CircuitWorks, consider taking our online CircuitWorks class only available from Hawk Ridge Systems.