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Understanding ECAD and MCAD

Differences, advantages and disadvantages, integration, trends, innovations

ECAD vs MCAD – differences

ECAD (Electronic Computer-Aided Design) and MCAD (Mechanical Computer-Aided Design) are two separate forms of computer-aided design (CAD) software that are used at different phases of the product development process. A product’s mechanical components, such as its housing and other physical structures, are designed using MCAD as opposed to ECAD, which is used to create electronic circuits.

While MCAD and ECAD are separate software, they can be integrated by using software tools, such as MECODES, that allow for seamless communication between the ECAD and MCAD systems. This collaboration allows for the electronic circuits designed in ECAD to be incorporated into the mechanical components designed in MCAD, and vice versa.

Advantages and disadvantages of using ECAD vs MCAD for electronic design

While MCAD software is usually used for mechanical design, it can be used for some aspects of electronic design such as creating models of electronic devices and enclosures.

advantages of using MCAD for electronic design

Some advantages of using MCAD for electronic design include:

  • the ability to create detailed 3D models and enclosures, which can be useful for visualization and communication between teams and other included in the project,
  • the ability to simulate the behavior of electronic devices in real-life conditions (thermal and structural analysis),
  • the ability to test the design of electronic devices in different scenarios (drop testing or vibration testing).
disadvantages of using MCAD for electronic design

However, here are some disadvantages to using MCAD for electronic design:

  • MCAD software usually does not have the same level of functionality and tools as ECAD software which is specifically designed for electronic design,
  • MCAD software may require a big amount of computer power as well as users expertise to be used effectively, which can be an obstacle for some users.

Although ECAD software is specifically created for electronic design, it also has certain advantages and disadvantages when working with it.

advantages of using ECAD for electronic design

Some advantages of using ECAD for electronic design include:

  • the ability to quickly and easily create and edit electronic circuit designs,
  • the ability to perform simulations and other analysis on the design, such as electrical analysis and power consumption analysis,
  • the ability to generate detailed schematics, layout diagrams, and other documentation for electronic devices.
disadvantages of using ECAD for electronic design

Disadvantages of using ECAD for electronic design:

  • ECAD software can`t create detailed models of electronic devices and enclosures, which are important for visualization and communication,
  • ECAD software may not be well-suited for the simulation of the behavior of electronic devices in real-life conditions, such as thermal and structural analysis.

To summarize, both ECAD and MCAD have their advantages and disadvantages. ECAD is primarily used in the early stages of product development, when the electronic circuits are being designed, while MCAD is used later on, when the physical components are being designed. However, there are software tools that allow for integration between the two types of CAD software which enables that the ECAD and MCAD processes run “simultaneously”.

This is where MECODES comes as a great solution to incorporate incremental changes and greatly increase the speed of electronic product design.

From ECAD to MCAD and vice versa

Transitioning work from ECAD to MCAD, or vice versa, can be a complex process, and there are a few best practices that can be followed to ensure success:

  1. To have a clear communication between the ECAD and MCAD teams, as well as any other teams or members involved in the product development process. This includes setting clear expectations, goals, timelines and milestones for the project.
  2. To ensure that the data being exchanged between the ECAD and MCAD teams is accurate and up-to-date. This includes using software tools that allow for seamless data exchange between the two teams, such as MECODES which offers a common PCB library management system that is a key element in the ECAD/MCAD collaboration. Additionally, via MECODES clients on the MCAD side can import the ECAD model in CATIA with the ECAD parameters visible in the CATIA tree. Furthermore, MECODES algorithms allow faster traces generation (as surface or solid) and copper planes (including internal layers) visibility in CATIA.
  3. Finally, it is important to invest in training to ensure that software tools are being used the right way and in full capacity. It will give people knowledge and skills they need to effectively work on product design and in the end to make the design and development process faster.

Note: With MECODES, it is possible to incorporate a multi-layer PCB design with ODB++, clash analysis, documented transaction history, “what-if” analysis, all to optimize the required product properties and performance.

The future of ECAD and MCAD collaboration

Emerging trends and innovations in ECAD and MCAD collaboration are driven by the need to speed up electromechanical product development, from the initial product idea to completion.

There is a growing trend towards cloud-based CAD software and collaborative design tools. These tools allow for easy sharing and collaboration on design projects which enables remote teams to work together in real-time, regardless of location . The result is improved communication and collaboration between different departments and better design process in general.

As previously mentioned, one example of such a tool is MECODES, which enables collaboration between ECAD and MCAD teams by providing features like:


See MECODES in action

EDMD Protocol

Last minute change scenario

ECAD – MCAD Library

Copper import with MECODES

Transaction history