What are ECAD libraries?

April 10, 2020The SnapEDA Team

ECAD libraries vs. MCAD libraries, and all the acronyms you need to know in the electronics industry!

The more time you spend exploring the electronics design industry, the more you realize how much we love our acronyms! Whether you’re just getting up to speed on the industry, or you’re an industry veteran, the sheer number of acronyms floating about can be overwhelming.

To help you untangle the madness, we’ve made this quick guide!

What is the difference between ECAD and EDA?

CAD: CAD stands for computer-aided design automation. Designers in nearly every industry use some form of CAD software to design products. Whether it’s electronics or fashion designers, they all use CAD to design their wares. Think of CAD as a general term used to describe the software which allows products to be designed on a computer. 

ECAD: ECAD stands for electronic computer-aided design. It’s the subset of CAD that deals specifically with the design of electronics. Originally, ECAD (often referred to simply as CAD) referred primarily to the software used by designers in the PCB layout or drafting departments as opposed to the design departments. But today, the industry uses the term ECAD as a way to refer to any electronics design related activities, whether it’s schematic design, simulation, or board layout.  Some popular ECAD tools include Altium, Eagle, OrCAD, Allegro, and KiCad, which are all supported on SnapEDA’s component search engine.

MCAD: MCAD stands for mechanical computer-aided design. You might be wondering why we’re discussing mechanical CAD in the electronics industry. Great question! The mechanical aspect of electronics design is extremely important, since electronics are placed inside of mechanical casings. Ensuring proper clearances, for example, between electronic components and the mechanical casing is critical. 

CAE: CAE stands for computer-aided engineering. This term isn’t used as widely today in our industry. However, it was once used to refer to the front-end design (schematic capture and simulation) as distinct from the board layout (where ECAD software would be more pertinent). 

Which brings us to…. EDA! In the 1980s the terms CAD (or ECAD) and CAE

coalesced into this one term.

EDA: Today, EDA (which stands for electronic design automation) is a synonym for ECAD. So – just like ECAD – it encompasses any aspect of the electronics design process that happens on your computer. 

When people refer to ECAD or EDA models and libraries, they’re typically referring to the same things: schematic symbols, PCB footprints and 3D models for electronic components.

We hope this primer has been helpful for you. If you have any questions about ECAD or EDA models, or need ECAD models created, our expert team of component engineers are here to help!

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