There are hundreds of PCB Design software programs in the market today. PCB designing is a field of design engineering which comes under EDA, or electronic design automation. These programs are used by designers to create a computer-based model of their PCB, which can then be sent for fabrication and assembly.
Picking the right PCB design software is quite important, and often is a challenging task. In this guide, we have provided a comparison between OrCAD vs PADS Professional. They are both powerful programs that contain features to help you deal with complex design requirements.
This article on PADS vs OrCAD PCB Designer contains an in-depth comparison of all technical and workflow related parameters, and other considerations while choosing PCB design software such as pricing and more.
 Major Differences Between PADS Vs OrCAD
Considering that PADS and OrCad both are capable design programs, selecting one for your work can be a difficult choice to make. Below, we have mentioned the 8 main differences between PADS vs. OrCAD.
These points of comparison contain the main features available for carrying out design tasks, performance of the programs, ease of navigation and use, productivity-enhancing features and factors such as pricing and system compatibility.
 Schematic Capture and Editing
A schematic is one of the first sections you work on while designing a PCB. The schematic contains details and representations that the board will be built based on. The routing and layout are also done with respect to the schematic. Therefore, having a software program with a good schematic editor is vital.
If you are looking to work on high-level projects, you should ensure that your program supports advanced schematic management and has features to tackle multi-sheet schematics and complex designs.
OrCAD offers you their schematic module by the name of OrCad Capture Schematic Entry. It packs in a host of advanced tools and features to help you work on all types of projects. You get flat or hierarchical schematics, which help by arranging multi-sheet schematics in a hierarchical manner, for better ease of working.
It also includes a schematic manager, which has features to help you manage schematics and related items easily, and sort and search your files quickly. It also lets you arrange sheets thematically, by using functional blocks. The UI is pretty smooth, and all these tools can be accessed quickly through customizable panels.
PADS offers an advanced feature set, packaged in a highly integrated work environment that reduces navigation and unnecessary third-party inclusions.
You get all the essential schematic functions, and with that, PADS offers intelligent part selection and verification, table-based design creation, rigid-flex design support, logical and physical variant management and hierarchical schematics.
PADS is built with all the features you will probably need, to work efficiently and confidently on any type of schematics without any hassles.
 Component Creation and Management
Sometimes while designing, you may want not want to use pre-built parts. For this, the program should have a functional component and part creator system, so that you can build your own parts and use them in the design.
PADS offers multiple methods to create parts. You can use the PartQuest system for modifying existing parts, or creating new components and symbols. You can even use existing footprints or create custom footprints.
The software offers different workspaces based on the creation mode you select. They vary from quick editors to highly configurable editors, where you have complete control over the creation parameters.
You also get a variant management and reuse feature, which allows you to use parts, schematics and layouts for multiple design iterations.
In OrCad, you get an intuitive symbol creation system that supports automation, IPC compliant pattern generators and part verification systems that can be used for creating footprints, schematic symbols, and even 3D STEP models.
 Part Libraries
Libraries included with the software serve as collections of ready to use parts and components, which you can download and use directly in your project, or modify as per your requirements.
OrCad includes Ultra Librarian integration, so you can access all their libraries from within the software window itself. You can use the in-built part creator wizard, and you can even use the quick online editor, which contains templates and shapes you can select for part creation.
PADS has a comprehensive library manager. The software automatically syncs the database for faster component management. The libraries also get updated regularly. You can access part details easily from a single file through the efficient integration with CRP databases.
The ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) provides access to industry-standard components through the cloud. You can also access the database through all major formats such as text, Microsoft Access, Oracle SQL and more.
In the process of ensuring the creation of a good quality PCB, simulations play a very important role. You can run simulations to check various performance-related aspects of your circuit, and ensure that the PCB performs as per the design requirements.
PADS includes all the standard simulation types. It can run analog, digital and mixed signal, and mixed technology analyses. In addition to these, PADS also features a special analysis set.
It allows you to perform a thermal analysis as well, which does a board level thermal mapping, so you can consider thermal reliefs if needed and so on. PADS also includes a power integrity and signal integrity analysis option.
OrCad features an ngspice simulation module. ngspice is developed by SPICE, which is a widely used simulation engine and offers analog, digital and mixed signal circuit simulation. OrCad also allows you to conduct signal integrity simulations.
You can even run this directly from the schematic, by selecting a net and clicking on the simulate button. Either the included default Cadence models or IBIS models can be used for this. To run a more detailed analysis, you can use the other mode, which includes parameters and settings you can configure for a more precise result.
 Layout and Routing
PCBs today are designed to meet complex technological requirements and deliver a good performance at lower costs, to increase consumer interest in newer technologies, such as home automation and wearable tech.
The layout and routing are aspects of design where you can implement creative and innovative design ideas and practices. You can decrease the fabrication cost and design time through good placement and connections, and even improve the manufacturability and assembly processes.
PADS offers a good solution to the manual vs. automatic routing dilemma, by combining the best of both worlds. Since it is becoming increasingly complex to route dense boards manually, and since autorouters don’t generally perform as well, PADS has combined the two of them.
You can control the entire autorouting process, and configure routing settings, select the design rules to follow, define the signal and manufacturing constraints and the system will route by adhering to the settings defined by the user.
OrCAD also offers a powerful autorouting system, through the SPECCTRA autorouter. There is no limit on the number of layers allowed, and it offers a whole set of tuning options that can be used to refine the routing settings.
The router mode supports rule checks for design and electrical rules, and also for high-speed design rules. OrCAD includes a feasibility check as well, which can quickly check the routing feasibility and validity.
 3D Visualisation and Modelling
The option to create 3D models can really come in handy sometimes, especially if production is the goal of your design. Converting 2D drawings into 3D models allows you to inspect the PCB in new ways.
You can also check the fit and dimensions of the PCB with its other mechanical components such as the enclosure, and ensure that you get the perfect fit in the first try.
OrCAD features a 3D model generation system, which creates models and allows you to interactively view them and check dimensions and other details. The software also features an inbuilt 3D footprint viewer.
The component editor also includes a function to map and link 3D STEP models to components, for easier accessibility.
The PADS program has a highly integrated 3D layout design which is truly parametric and gives photo-realistic quality. The software features 3D constraint management with dynamic collision detection and an integrated MCAD collaboration tool. 3D rigid flex designing is also included with PADS.
The program supports all major CAD formats for export, and the libraries contain over 4 million 3D models.
 Additional Features
These features are what the software offers beyond the standard PCB design tools and functions. Such features mostly help by improving productivity, reducing navigation and searching or design process times and so on.
PADS is built on the Xpedition Technology. This is the same foundation used in most of Mentor’s flagship design products, and offers great performance along with being reliable.
To help designers meet the rising demands of technology, which involve designing with complex features, PADS offers FPGA I/OrCAD optimization. This works by automating the FPGA (Field Programmable Grid Array) symbol creation process, which saves up to 30X as compared to the traditional methods.
It also offers a comprehensive set of rules, both for design and electrical rule checks. And in addition to these, it also has rules that are not used in usual design projects, such as for EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) and EMC (Electromagnetic Compatibility) compliance. The Multi-Trace HSD it provides also helps in reducing process times.
OrCAD has some great features to help with a smooth design to production transition. It also allows you to create and manage BOMs (Bill of Material), and even include mechanical data in them.
The image to footprint conversion feature works by converting the selected image into a footprint that can be directly used for your project. The program also includes an option to use images as hierarchical blocks.
Designers can also customize their workspace in OrCad by re-arranging toolbars and panels, and choosing which features to display or hide.
 Pricing Package
Purchasing a good PCB design program is always a little tricky, and some of the programs are quite expensive, so it is always a good idea to try the software before purchasing it. In this case, both Mentor’s PADS and Cadence’s OrCAD are paid programs, with free trials available.
PADS is available on a license basis, with a full featured free trial available with 14 day validity. Students can avail the student version for 1 year.
To purchase a perpetual license to PADS, you will have to pay $8995.00 for the starting version. You can customize it further, with additional payment for the added features.
In comparison, the starting price of OrCad is much lower. You can avail a free trial for 30 days. OrCad also offers a student version, although with some limitations. To purchase an annual license, you will have to pay $1300.00.
For a perpetual license however, the cost is $2630.00. OrCad has other versions as well, to cater to different requirements, the details of which can be obtained from their website.
Which Software Is Best For PCB Designing, PADS Vs OrCad
For designers who are looking to work on highly advanced projects, or are required to work for industrial design requirements and so on, PADS would be a great option. This software has a whole range of features that enable you to work on virtually any PCB design, without hassles with software performance or functionality.
OrCAD is also a great choice, but is much cheaper than PADS, and so naturally has a few limitations in the number of features available and performance. But even so, it has a wide user base and is the easier software to learn and use, hence, a better option for novice users.
PADS Vs OrCad PCB Designer: Who’s the Winner?
A definite winner would be difficult to pick, as both programs have different user bases and their license costs are quite different. For those who can afford PADS, or work in companies or industries that have purchased PADS, then it’s great.
But to consider value for money, OrCAD would be the better candidate here. It offers all the features that you may require to work on most PCB designs and it is trusted software, which has been in the market for over a decade now.
PADS and OrCad both run only on Windows based systems, however, PADS can run on both 32 bit and 64 bit systems, while OrCad can only be used on devices running a 64 bit Windows OS.
So, Which One Should You Pick?
Deciding which PCB software from PADS vs OrCAD is the best for you is a question that will have a different answer based on the individual. Your requirements and budget, as well as system compatibility need to be satisfied by the software.
Both PADS and OrCAD are capable programs, and the main distinguishing factor here is the license cost. You can get a free trial for both of them, and see which one suits you best.
For those designers who need software for specialized PCB designing and high level projects, PADS is the one for you. For everyone else, OrCAD can be used for mostly all kinds of designs and is also much cheaper, and a little easier to use too.
Hopefully, you have found this PADS v OrCAD PCB Designer comparison guide worthwhile and it has helped you to make an informed choice about these two PCB Design Software.