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Visualizing circuit boards with SketchUp and the PCB Converter

In the world of electronics, designing a stylish, functional and ergonomic product casing around a complex circuit board—with its chips, connectors, buttons and displays—is a critical step. As it turns out, SketchUp can help in this process.

Recently, RS Components (Europe's leading high-service distributor of electronic components) developed the PCB Converter plugin for SketchUp. Its function is to convert IDF files from most 2D circuit board design applications (like their own DesignSpark PCB) to COLLADA, which SketchUp can read and write.

The PCB Converter plugin converts IDF v3.0 circuit files into COLLADA that can be brought into SketchUp to validate for proper fitting.

Mark Cundle of RS Components was good enough to help explain how the PCB Converter can help in the design process:

In the typical electronic product design process, the mechanical engineer defines the board shape, specifies important regions and pre-places critical components such as connectors, switches and displays in a 3D MCAD system. This information is passed to the circuit designer via an IDF file to be used as the basis for the board layout in a 2D ECAD system to create the circuit board (PCB) design. The PCB is sent back to the mechanical engineer as an IDF file to ensure the board assembly fits into the final product package. The design can go back and forth between the mechanical engineer and the circuit designer many times until the PCB is finalized.

IDF is therefore extremely important for electronic product design and becoming more so as increasing miniaturisation of electronic products means spatial constraints are of growing importance and the link between electronic and mechanical engineers strengthens.

An electronic (PCB) engineer using SketchUp in conjunction with the PCB Converter for SketchUp can decrease the number of time-consuming interactions with the mechanical engineer by doing a much of the groundwork (such as checking potential collisions with mechanical components) before sending the final board design to the mechanical engineer. The collaborative process becomes much more efficient and productive for both parties, which allows for faster development.

RC Components’ intention is to lower the monetary barrier to innovation by providing tools like PCB Converter and DesignSpark PCB. Hobbyists, students and seasoned professionals can create products from board design through to mechanical design at little or no cost.

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|z|y|x| pedals said...
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Löbo said...

Great Job!


Anonymous said...

That'll save a lot of time, and engineers and designers could devote more of their time to creating more PBCs. The COLLADA model could even point out mistakes in design that aren't obvious in the IDF model.

Armand Magsamen

alansaki said...

Wow! Nice one i can,t believe that we can also design pcb with google sketchup.. what an rocking software by google.
pcb design

Unknown said...

PCB converter can definitely helpout in the design process of Printed Circuit Board.Bergen Systems is also one of the leading providers of PCB Assembly Equipment, Photovoltaic Equipment and many more such industrial solutions.

Printed Circuits said...

Very interesting and easy to use tool. I have experience of using SketchUp creating models for Google Earth so to now be able to create 3D models of circuit boards is very useful.

Anonymous said...

how can I download the PCB Converter? is it free?

pcb assembly

Unknown said...

Great software with profound features!Thanks for keeping us update..PCB

Anonymous said...

Simply marvelous!!! Your article provides a fresh new insight to this topic which was yet undiscovered. I must say your research skills are sharp and your narration is interesting
Printed Circuit Board

Mincior said...

This is good news, as stated, for engineers and designers. Electronics hobbyists on the other hand will continue to work with less professional homemade PCB, which as exciting as it is, is also a little frustrating :) When you see what the giants in industry achieve, it makes you think twice on the effort of making your own boards. And still, we somehow continue doing it :)

Unknown said...

Good news for all electronics hobbyists, the more kids we can get into electronics at an early age the better. Electronic Components

Unknown said...

Designing a circuit board is really a work of hard struggle.

GreenTech Patent Agent