RS Components has unveiled Version 3 of DesignSpark PCB, the company’s free professional standard PCB design software, used by professional designers, hobbyists and students. Developed by RS, in conjunction with Number One Systems, the latest version of DesignSpark PCB provides extra functionality and enables the PCB design software to be used with Spice simulation tools from several major manufacturers. In addition to the tool’s new simulation interface, Version 3 includes enhancements such as component and circuit element grouping, and design calculators, which model circuit performance characteristics.

“The success of DesignSpark PCB, the world’s most powerful free PCB design tool, is unparalleled in our industry,” said Mark Cundle, Technical Marketing Manager at RS Components. “The release of the third version of this award-winning software clearly demonstrates the commitment from RS to continually improve this highly successful product. We promise to carry on supporting DesignSpark PCB and continue to make it available free-of-charge to users.”

“We’ve gathered feedback from engineers through our fast-growing DesignSpark community to integrate the new features they’ve requested in Version 3,” added Cundle. “Additionally, the tool is fully functional – with no limitations or locked features – and is well suited to commercial use, which is not always the case with some free tools.”

More than 100,000 users have downloaded DesignSpark PCB since its launch in July 2010, with the tool proving to be one of the most popular free PCB design software packages available. Since then, thousands of users have contributed suggestions for development, which has resulted in DesignSpark PCB Version 3 being strengthened in three key areas: simulation interface, groups and design calculators:

The simulation interface means that DesignSpark PCB can be linked to industry-standard Spice simulators that help verify the circuit is operating correctly, before moving to board layout or the next stage of the design. DesignSpark PCB Version 3 currently supports four simulators: LTSpice, LSSpice, TopSpice and TINA.

The ‘groups’ feature allows multiple items in the design to be associated, so they act as one unit. Once defined, ‘groups’ can also assist in the selection of related portions of a circuit. On translation of the schematic circuit into the Autoroute tool, the ‘group’ information is also transferred along with the components, allowing easy placement.

The design calculators allow the selection of a track or via and perform basic electrical calculations, including: track width required for a given current; track impedance; optimum copper density; approximate temperature rise on a track; and the resistance of a via, given its physical characteristics.

DesignSpark PCB remains unique in the industry as a free and fully featured PCB development environment. Existing users will be alerted to the upgrade via release alerts in their existing version of the tool.

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