Peter Smith, applications manager for automation & control at RS Components was bought into the company two and a half years ago at the inception of the DesignSpark Electrical project. He commented: “Existing CAD packages were both high cost and complex – even the learning time is prohibitive.”
The concept behind the DesignSpark software, launched with DesignSpark PCB back in 2010, is that it should be free, easy to learn and easy to use. It can be an alternative to other commercial CAD packages or sufficiently intuitive to be used by novices. The PCB package has 230,000 activations to date.
From its own research, the company believes that approximately two thirds of designers are not using electrical design packages. What’s more, the complexity of those that are used means development times are slow and results often inaccurate.
As with the other DesignSpark packages, all users need to do is register as a member of the community and then download the software for free.
Unlike other CAD packages that require the user to build up their own product libraries, DesignSpark Electrical gives users a start-up library of 250,000 parts with what Smith described as ‘robust and verified’ data on each one. 85,000 of these in the RS Components portfolio, which has the advantage of availability checking and easy ordering, and it also includes 80,000 parts from Schneider, which is a launch partner for the project.
In this age of multinational design teams, one interesting feature is that all information can be displayed in two languages (with a current choice of 14), which could be ideal, for example, if a design team in the UK is outsourcing manufacture overseas.
Other interesting highlights include the real-time cross-referencing to assure design validity throughout the design process. There is also a very neat device for automating tasks such as device and wire numbering.
Smith claimed his customers will, “save hours a day from these two features alone.”
Another feature is automated report generation and also the ability to create accurate 2D panel layouts so that the right cabinet can be selected for the project.
These may be tools that are incorporated in other electrical CAD packages, but these packages come at a cost both in terms of time and money.
Smith added: “You will get the same outcome [using DesignSpark Electrical] but less complexity. There is nothing, or not much, that other packages can do that ours will not be able to.”
Beyond the introduction of this Electrical package, the DesignSpark family is evolving, and the second revision of the Mechanical package is underway with release planned for next year.
But, it will not stop there. Mike Brojak, technical marketing manager for RS, concluded: “Our ultimate goal is create a suite of engineering software across the board, so there is something applicable to whatever the engineer is doing at any given time.”