Today there are very few products being developed that are truly 100% mechanical or electrical. In fact, combined mechanical and electrical components are part of virtually all contemporary value-add electromechanical products. 

However, too often there is a disconnect between electrical and mechanical design engineers during the development process that needs to be addressed and resolved for creating innovative products.

ECAD vs. MCAD: Bridging the Gap

In an effort to bridge the gap between electrical CAD (ECAD) software and mechanical CAD (MCAD) software, engineers have had to rely on “middle-man” software integration that allows both sides to communicate. 

But as electromechanical products and their technical requirements become more complex, sheer manpower and dated design methods are not getting the job done. In many cases, doing things the way they’ve always been done is costing manufacturers in terms of product innovation, quality, utility, time to market, and customer satisfaction.

Better ECAD and MCAD Communication

Electrical and mechanical design engineers need to work more closely together to ensure successful outcomes, but they need capable new tools and support systems. To develop innovative electromechanical products, it’s essential to replace current practices with best contemporary practices that involve both electrical and mechanical design technologies. However, ECAD and MCAD don’t always easily speak to each other.

To succeed, electromechanical design teams need software toolsets that can:

  • Provide integrated electrical and mechanical design

  • Provide the ability to easily exchange data without loss

  • Provide bi-directional associativity between MCAD and ECAD

TECH TIP: Board Design in Onshape’s PCB Studio

Onshape’s PCB Studio: An ECAD-MCAD Connection

Onshape’s PCB Studio provides on-demand collaboration between the electrical and 3D mechanical design domains, where printed circuit board assembly meets the body of the product. It offers a clear advantage to any company where ECAD and MCAD collaboration and agile design methods are critical for the overall success of electromechanical design and the resulting product.

Integrating Onshape for MCAD and PCB Studio for ECAD and their inherent benefits provide best practices for integrating the two design disciplines for developing outstanding products that provide real value for customers.

What is Onshape’s PCB Studio?

PCB Studio is a new tab in an Onshape Document that translates and converts data from ECAD systems used for PCB design into Onshape assemblies and vice-versa. It is now available to all Onshape Professional and Enterprise users.

The most common use of PCB Studio is to check that a PCB and components designed in ECAD will physically fit in an enclosure designed in Onshape. However, once you have a detailed PCB model in Onshape you could also use analysis tools to ensure the PCB will behave as expected, or use the models to create images, manuals, or assembly instructions. 

Users can also export Onshape parts and assemblies to ECAD. This enables the PCB shape to be designed in Onshape and then exported to an ECAD system. The electrical designer can then populate the PCB, and the populated PCB can then be imported back from ECAD into Onshape. 

WATCH: Onshape’s PCB Studio Demo

PCB Studio: Leading Edge of MCAD/ECAD Integration

There is a huge opportunity to save time and develop better products that will drive teams to integrate electrical and mechanical design processes. Software vendors appear to be increasingly aware of this as companies, like Onshape, have made significant advances in ECAD/MCAD integration.

Effectively designing products that incorporate electrical and mechanical components requires a radical transformation of the design process. There are tremendous benefits and rewards that can be realized in transformative processes using Onshape and PCB Studio. 

Onshape for MCAD and PCB Studio for ECAD can address many design challenges and are integral parts of the continuing evolution of electromechanics as the future of agile innovative product design.

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