Printed Circuit Board Design and 3D Visualization

Proteus PCB Design Software seamlessly combines schematic capture and PCB layout to provide a powerful, integrated and easy to use suite of tools for professional PCB Design. The Proteus EDA tools range is a professionals’ choice for modern PCB Layout.

With over 25 years of continuous development and innovation, our focus remains on adding functionality while maintaining a simple, clean user interface and tight integration with the schematic design.

Main Features of PCB Designer:

Multi-Board Design

Multi-Board simulation in Proteus provides a formal way to design, code, simulate, debug and deploy more than one development board and/or any supported microcontroller in a single project. When you create a new project, you end up with a single schematic and a corresponding board. To create a multi-board project you have to switch to the layout tab and select the “new board” command from the file menu. Once you have more than one board in the project, a board selector drop-down menu will appear at the top of the layout module; each board has its own stackup, drill ranges and design rules, which means you can work on each board independently. Although, the Design Explorer module provides an easy to navigate global overview of the whole project.

All of the output systems work on a per-board basis, whether it is Bill of Materials, Differential Pair report or CADCAM Output itself, you will need to generate the file set for each board individually.

Footprint Libraries

Proteus comes equipped with over 50,000 library parts covering a large range of through-hole components; it also includes the full IEC libraries and SMT footprints with all the standard discrete and IC packaging styles. Both, the IPC-782 and the IPC-7351 surface mount standard libraries are included.

More importantly, both an integrated web search import and a dialogue-based import tool for CAD parts are included, which provide access to over 14 million parts from popular vendors such as SamacSys Library Loader, SnapEDA, PCB Library Expert and Ultra-Librarian.

Length Matching

Length matching of tracks is an essential step in ensuring correct timing at the signal receiver for high speed transmissions. Proteus includes support for automatic length matching of tracks via a simple “select and match” user interface. This includes the ability to have track segments in multiple match groups which is needed for routing topologies like the DDR3 fly-by configuration.

Much of the difficulty with length matching lies in the arrangement of the extra trace, used to lengthen the shorter routes (often called the serpentine). Depending on the signal rise time, the frequency of the signal, the requirement for via sites on the PCB and many other factors, the PCB designer may need to adjust or constrain serpentine height and width. In Proteus, this is all handled through a single dialogue form where the topology of the serpentine can be controlled. You can also adjust either an absolute or a relative tolerance for the length match according to the timing budget for your interface. For large BGAs the internal signal distance can be added to the component as a CSV file and a length match report can be generated at any time.

Shape-based Auto-Routing

Proteus includes a world class integrated shape-based autorouter as standard with all professional purchases. The router uses advanced cost-based conflict reduction algorithms, proven to maximize completion rates on even the most densely packed boards.

For total control of the routing process, users with the advanced feature set can also drive the router either by writing custom routing scripts or by directly entering routing commands interactively. This provides many additional features such as the ability to route only particular areas or net classes, and also additional flexibility such as the ability to specify the fanout direction or length.

Power Planes, Stitching and Shielding

Proteus features the ultimate in power plane support – user placeable polygonal regions within which inner boundaries are automatically created around existing pads and tracking. Change the pads and tracking, and the boundaries are recomputed to maintain design rule clearances. Thermal reliefs are supported and you can choose whether to hatch or fill each polygon. Inner zones (nested zones) can be included and/or islands of unconnected copper suppressed. Moreover, all computation is based on gridless shape geometry and occurs in the background so that there is no interference in manual board placement for computationally intensive layouts.

Via stitching is a technique used to tie together larger copper areas on different layers, helping keep return paths short and reduce noise on the PCB. You can automatically stitch planes in Proteus through a simple context menu command. This gives you control over via style and also spacing and row offsets for the stitching pattern.

A via shield or picket fence can be added around the border of the planes in much the same way. This will create a single row of vias around the perimeter of the zones and can help prevent electromagnetic interference with other equipment. The same technique can be used with high speed routes such as microstrip or stripline to help isolate signals on the PCB operating at different frequencies.

Verification – DRC
(Design Ruler Check)

During manual routing, Proteus checks each track as you place it and warns you if any design rules (physical/electrical) are broken. Then, you can fully customize the board constraints and set rules by physical region such as a layer or a user drawn area of the PCB. You can also set rules by electrical net class and then, if necessary, combine both to form even tighter constraints (e.g. power lines on top copper layer).

A live indication of both the connectivity and the design rule status of the board is provided on the status bar at the bottom of Proteus. Clicking on either produces a report listing of any missing or extra connections – double-click on any entry in the list, and the software will zoom in to show you exactly where the error is located on the PCB.

Finally, the pre-production check runs prior to manufacturing output and is designed to be an automated quality assurance check. In addition to testing connectivity and design rules it tests power plane geometry and integrity through a completely separate code path and runs separate tests for common design mistakes.

3D Visualization

The 3D Visualization Tool (3D Viewer) in Proteus provides a way to extrude a layout and view the board as it would appear in real life. This is extremely useful as a design aid during board layout. Navigation, both orbital and ‘fly by’ is extremely intuitive and mouse controlled. The user can also specify a ‘height plane’ corresponding to the board chassis which will appear as a semi-transparent box around the board, allowing for a quick visual check for protrusions.

Proteus libraries come supplied with 3D footprints and comprehensive support for creating custom 3D footprints directly inside Proteus or by importing models via the standard STEP/IGES and 3DS file formats. Files can be exported in these formats from the majority of commercial MCAD packages and there are a large number of free internet resources (e.g. 3dcontentcentral) which have vast libraries of STEP files.

Direct output from the 3D Viewer includes the open source 3ds standard, STEP, IGES, 3D DXF and STL. IDF output is available from the output menu in the layout editor.

Output Formats

As well as supporting the basic ability to output your PCB to standard windows printers, Proteus provides a full set of features for professional board manufacturing. Gerber X2 is the primary supported manufacturing output format. This format, together with an IPC-D-356 netlist and optional assembly drawings, provides an intelligent and complete representation of the PCB to your manufacturer. Traditional Gerber/Excellon output via the RS274X format is also supported.

ODB++ is the secondary supported manufacturing output format. Like Gerber X2, ODB++ is also an intelligent CAD/CAM data exchange format, capturing all CAD/EDA, assembly and PCB fabrication knowledge in one single, unified database. Finally, you can output to MCAD software like Solidworks directly via the STEP, IGES or IDF file formats.

ISO 10303 is an ISO standard for the computer-interpretable representation and exchange of product manufacturing information. Proteus uses this format to import 3D models for footprints and also to export 3D representations of PCB boards to Mechanical CAD products. Both relevant Application Protocols (AP-203 and AP-214) are supported.

STEP models for footprints are widely available on the internet. Many manufacturers provide STEP models for their parts and there are several dedicated sites with many thousands of freely available models. The PCB Library Expert tool will allow you to quickly create library parts and also create STEP files. Both the 2D footprint and the 3D STEP file can then be imported into Proteus.

MCAD Compatibility files exported from Proteus will import into almost any professional MCAD software package. Indeed, such is the popularity of STEP that most tools will import from a single command on the file menu. Proteus includes component data as standard in the STEP file output so you will find object browsing and identification straightforward in the receiving software package.


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