Schematic Software

Written by Adam Blau
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With the advent of feature-packed computer-aided design (CAD) programs and the introduction of low-cost printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing plants, it is possible to see the development of an electronics project from beginning to end without the creation of a schematic diagram. Schematics, after all, are traditionally used to create an actual working circuit from the plans of an inventor. Since the PCB fabrication can take place directly from files outputted from CAD software, there may seem to be no immediate need for a schematic diagram.

For the sake of troubleshooting, and for the sake of your end user, though, it will behoove you to take the time to create a schematic diagram of your electronic masterpiece. If a component malfunctions within your device, it is far easier to diagnose the problem when you've got an overarching diagram of the entire current flow within the system. This is particularly true if the person doing the troubleshooting is an outside electrician or end user, who may not be as intimately familiar with the connective intricacies of your device.

It is easier to divine the proper current flow from a schematic diagram than it is from simply looking at a PCB. On a schematic, the components are usually laid out logically according to the sub-circuit or the system they comprise. In the real world, components may be physically placed far away from their component compatriots.

Using Software to Create a Schematic Diagram

With a decent CAD program, creating a schematic design is usually easy and painless. Most often, you simply need to toggle your view to "schematic," and the diagram will simply create itself. To make the view more user-friendly, you can often customize this view with your CAD software by adding helpful legends and labels to the schematic diagram. The better CAD applications will also usually include some rudimentary graphic design features that will allow you to align your component icons and make things generally more comprehensible.

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