Welcome to the CADSTARguys Blog - Information, hints, tips and my waffle on the CADSTAR Printed Circuit Board design suite.

Please note that all names used are completely fictitious and any thing written is my own personal opinion or knowledge and not related in any way to either my employers or their customers (or Zuken).
Also this is not a replacement for proper Maintenence/support and you should read the help files before asking anything techy:).

Thursday 13 September 2018

How to make a new part based on an existing library part.

So you are looking for an 8k2 0603 resistor and cannot find one in the library,or you want a transistor that's not in the library either yet you already have something similar there, perhaps the same size resistor but not the right value.

What to do about it?
You could run around like a headless chicken, flapping and being disgusted, telling the rest of the world that the part that you want (and it may only be you that wanted it) is not in the library and you hate CADSTAR.

Or you could simply just make it, new parts do not actually take long to make if you know how PLUS you get to know exactly how that part is configured, exactly what the pinout is and the package size etc. (and by not long, for a resistor I'd measure the time taken in seconds.)

Library creation is a skill that all PCB CAD engineers should learn, either by studying the help-documentation and having a go (it won't bite) or by going on a library creation training course.

So how do you add a simple resistor similar to an existing one into your library?

Saturday 21 January 2017

How to deal with file locking in CADSTAR.

When working on a network where others may have access to your designs it is commonplace to be able to lock the design files and libraries that you are working on to prevent anybody else saving over your work.

CADSTAR manages this by placing a lock file of the same name as the design file in the same folder with a tilde (~) in front of it, this file is a hidden\system file.

I.e. for mypcb.scm it would be called ~mypcb.scm

When you close the design CADSTAR will delete the lock file so that someone else can open it for writing.

However, if CADSTAR cannot delete the file because it has had an abnormal  closure (a crash to you and me) then there are 3 ways to defeat this.
First, turn off file locking - not really a good way of managing it as it defeats the object of file locking.

Second, use Windows Explorer with the ability to view hidden and system files enabled, to browse for and delete the lock file. This too is not the most elegant way of managing it.

Saving the last for the best, it is very simple to manage from within CADSTAR itself with a few simple steps.

So when you open CADSTAR and try to open a file and get a popup saying it is locked (possibly to you too!) just cancel the opening.

  • Select File\Options.
  • Deselect "File Locking".
  • Open the file.
  • Select File\Options.
  • Select "File Locking".
  • Close the file.
 This will delete the lock file and allow you to open the design file again and continue to use file locking.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

How to Re Order the columns in a parts library Definition.

As a library evolves user attributes are added which can be seen within the parts library on the Definitions tab, however as you add them there is currently no ability to sort the columns within the Library Editor.

I have discovered that there is a way to sort them using a non-formatting text editor such as Notepad.exe.

Monday 5 October 2015

Hiding text, lines and origins - how to control where they appear.

There are some features that are applied to all components however we the user want to be able to control which ones we see and which we do not.
By this I mean, for instance - an attribute such as Value, Package, Voltage etc or perhaps a component outline or a pad and so on.

There are a couple of ways to make it so that we do not see them, the simplest being to disable them in the colours - however this applies to all components and we cannot disable them per component\part by design without a little ingenuity.

Thursday 3 September 2015

My Gerber files do not line up with my drill files?

This is something that I see and get asked about often, eyes light up when I tell them how to fix this.

What happens is that a user will produce Gerber and drill files centered in the bed in the scale & position dialogue and when they are imported into a Gerber viewer i.e. GC-Prevue the drill files are offset from the Gerbers.

This is not really a big problem as they can easily be aligned, but is would be nice if they simply lined up correctly - and they can so how?

Thursday 27 August 2015

I don't think the stats for this blog are very good.

Looking at the stats, I don't really have a large audience, perhaps I need to advertise it more on other sites - perhaps I could do with more people subscribing.

Catch 20 really, if no one looks I wont post, if I don't post no one looks.

Any suggestions?
Many forums etc ban links unless relevant to the discussion, they are not allowed in signatures etc.

So come on watchers - subscribe so I know your watching, I wont spam you.

Are your design files locked after a mishap?

If you have file locking enabled (set in the Options) and for one reason or another you have a power cut or a software crash, CADSTAR cannot delete the temporary lock file that prevents another user having write access to your design, so how do you get access back yourself?

Friday 14 August 2015

Handy hints and tips.

I have been using CADSTAR for 20+ years, I am familiar with most of it however even though I use it daily, show others how to use it and fix problems with it I am amazed that I am still learning all the little things, it is almost as if I learn something new every month. Why is this? Possibly because not every method of doing something is documented - besides, who reads the documentation?

Routing with incremental track widths in P.R.Editor.

When routing within P.R.Editor we route using Necked, Optimal and Typed track widths.

How would you like a variable track width that allows you to increment/decrement the track width while routing between the min & max values of the route code?

Sunday 10 May 2015

Create your components to consistent standards for free.

Why are we still making component footprints by hand, making mistakes with them and getting them wrong when there is no need to?

Time & time again I see component footprints made that are poorly made, non standard, inconsistent and often downright wrong!

Yet there are tools out there that will enable us to make all our component footprints to a consistent standard, following IPC7351 guidelines and best of all the best tool for this is FREE!!

Saturday 6 December 2014

My car is broken - what's wrong with it?

A message from support teams all over the world.

Here is a picture of a car, it does not work - what is wrong with it?
Can you fix it for me please? I need to drive somewhere quickly.

Well of course it does not work - its only a toy one, but if you asked these questions to a car mechanic they would want to know a little more about what is wrong with it, has the wheel fallen off? does the engine run? has it run out of petrol? and so on.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Imperial or Metric - Does it really matter?

There often seems to be discussions about which unit of measurement to work in, they pop up on the web several times throughout the year. Questions are asked on whether someone should use Millimetres or Thou as a measurement unit.

Which side of the fence are you on?

Friday 12 September 2014

CADSTAR 15 is out - but will you like it's new ribbon interface?

This April saw the release of CADSTAR 15.0 with a major change to the Design Editors GUI - the toolbars have been replaced with a ribbon menu bar.

Those of you that favour the ability to use toolbars for single mouse click access to commands may, like me be disappointed with the new GUI, not wanting to upgrade because we like our toolbars and do not appreciate now having to click the mouse 3 times for what was previously a single selection.

I have heard several others tell me that they will not upgrade because they do not like it, that they want the old toolbars back.
Unfortunately there is not a legacy mode so there are no more toolbars.

Or are there?

Thursday 30 January 2014

Library version control.

Would you like to be able to keep records of what changes are made to your library symbols/components and parts? Who created them, when were they made, why they were changed, what their change history is etc?

Well you can, it does not need any external programs, OLE or version control software - you can do it all within CADSTAR using various attributes in the libraries.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

CADSTAR Touch - how to use it.

In 2013 Zuken released the free CADSTAR Touch, the first PCB program related app which can be used on both IOS and Android.

However, like most free apps support is very limited -even if you have paid support for the main CADSTAR programs. Mind you - its a very simple app that once working should be very easy to use.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Adding teardrops to PTH pads in P.R.Editor.

Pad with broken track
Pad with broken track
When you have a component such as a terminal block with PTH pads that are likely to move during use (i.e. when tightening the terminals) the pad can rock and if that pad has a thin track exiting it there is a potential for the track to break at the junction with the pad as shown
(slightly exaggerated) on the right.

This problem is prevented by exiting the pad with a thicker and slowly reducing to the width of the track piece of copper, this copper item is referred to as a teardrop (due to its shape).

Wednesday 18 September 2013

CADSTAR Touch - Have you been touched by the app yet?

Introducing the new whizzbang application that all engineers that still have their own teeth must get, yes you guessed it - a CADSTAR app for the ithingy or Android devices.
OK so what does it do and how do you use it?

Monday 15 July 2013

Should my Inner layers be Powerplane or Electrical?

How the inner layers are defined is often a cause for confusion amongst new users of CADSTAR when it comes to power planes.

Why is this so?

Monday 1 July 2013

Adding file paths into an part entry hyperlink field.

Generally when creating a part and I am adding a hyperlink to a datasheet, I want to add the full path including file name into my parts library.
However typing it manually is very likely to result in a typo, copying it in Windows Explorer only copies the path.

So what I do is.....

Saturday 29 June 2013

Component with multiple pads/same connection.

I was recently asked how to make a component footprint for the inductor here and this applies to any component with a similar component footprint.

It is an inductor where the datasheet asks for 2 long pads but with only the ends of the pads being exposed for soldering to.
The question was - How to do this ?

Saturday 25 May 2013

Drill drawings for multilayer designs with blind/buried vias.

Many designers still produce drill drawings along with their Gerber files as Manufacturing Notes for various reasons and this is a how to for multi layer boards.
When you are designing a multi layer board that includes blind/buried vias you may want to provide a drill drawing per layer pair, to provide all the layer pairs on one drawing can confuse and enable mistakes to be made, let me explain how this can be done.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Sync your works library with your home/laptop library.

Do you work in several locations? Having problems using the network library and one used on a laptop at home etc and keeping them in sync?

Saturday 27 October 2012

Adding testpoint net names on your Silk layer.

Someone asked for the names of the nets that testpoints were connected to, to be placed on the legend layer instead of the testpoint names.

This presented a little problem for a few seconds on how to do this when the answer became obvious.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Does your dongle driver installation rollback?

Over recent years an issue has arisen where a user has problems installing the Sentinel drivers for the security key (dongle). The installation gets about 60% of the way through and then stops and de installs itself. This prevents a user from licensing CADSTAR.

Generally the reason for this is that the driver installation does a port check and detects that the port that it uses is already in use so rather than create a conflict it will stop and rewind the installation.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Installing CADSTAR - where have my files gone?

Just a little something that occasionally affects those that have Windows Vista/Windows 7  onwards.

During the CADSTAR installation you are prompted for the paths to install to, this is split into two paths - Program and User files.

Program files go into: C:\Program Files\Zuken\Cadstar13.0\Program

User files by default go into Public\Zuken\Cadstar13\.....

Later on when trying to find files the user - perhaps having recently upgraded from Windows XP cannot find half of the installed files - where is this elusive public folder and what is the point of it?

While I know where it it and it is supposed to be for sharing your files it is generally better to put your shared files on a network shared drive etc.

So during the install I ALWAYS copy the path for the program files to the user files path before continuing.

Saves a lot of hassle, confusion and head scratching.

Anyway - that is what I and a lot of others do -it is up to you what you do.

Update: As an update to this I want to mention that sometimes (Especially with Windows 7) Microsoft consider us all incompetent and do not allow us to write to files within the Program Files folder, this is why a lot of stuff gets put in public. So if you do as I have advised then you may also need to take ownership of the Zuken folder and all subfolders below it. (Mr Google can tell you how).

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Who want's a CADSTAR library with over 17,000 parts in it?

Did you know that along with the free CADSTAR Express demo version you can also get a sample of the online library that maintenance customers only get access to?

There is a free library containing 17,400+ parts including manufacturers such as:
AMD, Fairchild, Hitachi, Intel, IRF, Maxim, Microchip, Motorola, Nat Semi, OnSemi, Philips, Texas, Vishay, Xilinx and Zetex.
Need a Microchip Pic or Xilinx processor, there are over 1000. 1600+ Maxim parts.
The symbol library also has within it over 17,000 schematic symbols in and IPC7351 least, nominal and most component library's for the parts.

If the exact part you need is not there then surely there is something similar that can be renamed/modified to suit your needs.

It is available here after you have registered, download - install and enjoy.
Even maintenance customers would benefit from downloading this (also available in the support downloads section) as it would save them downloading individually from the online library.

Monday 20 February 2012

Extracting libraries from your design files.

Have you got a schematic and PCB created in CADSTAR 11 onwards but no libraries to enable you to modify them?
If so then you can easily recreate the libraries as CADSTAR keep a local copy of the parts library in the design files themselves. This makes it simple to extract and create a design specific library.

Here is how it works:.....

Monday 13 February 2012

Using a BOM spreadsheet to quickly add parts into a CADSTAR design.

Recently a colleague has been spending his time reverse engineering an old design that someone only has Gerber's, schematic diagram as PDF and a parts list for so that it can be reworked, modified and bought up to current standards.

At best this is a time consuming task requiring a printout of the schematic, a search of the spreadsheet for a component, copy the part name then paste it into the slide out library search field and then left drag the found part into the schematic, hit escape once then select the symbol properties and change the component name to suit the schematic.  Then join the symbols up with connections etc.

Sunday 12 February 2012

I have gone mobile!

Just a note to say - I noticed that in the blog setup there was an option for a mobile theme, so I have enabled it to allow the blog to be read better via a mobile.

Now I just need to pull my finger out and make enough posts to warrant you visiting it on your phone :)

Check your dangler shape!

Hey folks, I thought I would share a warning with you about danglers.

The dangler is that little blob that gets left dangling when making a schematic connection and you double click in free space. It is designed to allow you to temporarily leave a connection dangling while you sort out something for it to connect to.

Simply put - Danglers are created when you terminate a connection in space.

I.E. you bring a connection from an IC in one corner of your schematic sheet to the other corner only to discover that you have forgotten to add the part it connects to, you double click and drop a dangler leaving the connection there - saving having to redraw it all while you add your part then continue adding the connection from the dangler.

Apart from junctions, signal references and global signals, a dangler is the only way to leave a connection without it being connected to a symbol terminal. 

So what is the warning?

Well, if you are drawing your schematic on a very fine grid, (I.E. 1th) you have to be extremely accurate connecting to symbol terminals or other connections, if you miss and inadvertently double click then you can leave a dangler instead.
Unfortunately if your dangler is the same shape as a junction then it looks the same and you do not notice that the connections are not actually the same net.

This is actually a mis-connection near the
vertical net and a dangler.

Here the vertical connection has been
pulled to the right to show the dangler.

OMG! you think - why does it let you do this? Well it lets you do this because you are not using a proper grid system and it thinks you are just dropping a dangler.

I have had designs that others have drawn that have had danglers like this and there have been net disconnects which would have made the circuit a failure had I not changed the dangler shape as one of the first things I do in a schematic.

The default shape is a circle, I disagree with this due to the above possiblilities of errors so urge you to read on and change it.

So what is the answer to this?

Well its two fold.
Firstly, do not draw your schematics on a fine (1th) grid, speaking from experience it allows them to look awful, connections are not straight as they do not line up - symbols are all on different levels etc.

Use a decent grid, if your symbols are drawn on a coarse (100th) grid then place them on that, connect to them on a minimum of 25th. (Or whatever your metric version is).

Secondly, and this is the most important bit - Change the shape of the dangler!

Do not have it the same shape as a junction point (circle) make it something obvious like a square.
Use some colour and make them Red. This way they are immediately obvious and can be immediately corrected.

From the file menu, choose Settings\Assignments\Terminal tab - in the Dangler shape box, select it and from the drop down choose square and OK that.

In Colours, select Danglers then Change Colours, select the word Danglers on the left then choose a highlight colour different to your junctions on the right.

Now you can see the difference when you have made this mistake.

Remember to make this change in your templates and symbol library assignments.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Wow, has it been that long since I last posted anything on here?

It's been a tad hectic at work & home, however as no one has posted any comments asking anything I had nothing to lose.

How about a nice long piece on post processing?
(that will give me an excuse to disappear for a while :)

Monday 4 July 2011

Recycling your old electronic components or IT equipment?

With current environmental legislation preventing a lot of simple throwing away of old electronic components and equipment it can often be costly to dispose of, requiring licensed waste disposal contractors and so on.

However, if the components or equipment is still in a perfectly usable condition - for example an old slow laptop/pc/monitor - or perhaps you have found some non ROSH components at the back of the stores. There are still people that will reuse these without costing you a penny.


Sunday 3 July 2011

Further neat tricks for using the signal reference zone links.

Now that you are using signal references and the zone links - are you finding yourself restricted because they do not appear on other items such as Block Terminals, Bus Terminals etc.

However we are still able to use them by creating a signal reference that has no symbol - so it can be placed on the same net and terminal of any other item.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Importing a sheet border via DXF from another system.

Someone asked on one of the web forums how to import his sheet borders in from another piece of software where they have been saved as a DXF.

I'll type a response here...

Monday 16 May 2011

Further improving your schematic templates.

If you have followed the posts on setting up a schematic template to use documentation symbols and zone links there are a few other things that can be done to further improve them.

You may have noticed a little selection box when starting a new design entitled
"View New Design Settings".
By selecting this you will get an intermediate configuration box before your new schematic opens where you can configure initial settings for the schematic such as the units, grid step and style, colour scheme etc.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Now its time to actually use the zone hyperlinks.

Now that you have a schematic template prepared, we can start creating a massive schematic over many sheets with oodles of links in them, where by viewing or clicking on the links you can easily find where it goes. I can remember having to draw all over my schematics - marking up what sheet I can find the other end of linked signals - thankfully no more.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Preparing a schematic template with zone link support.

Now that we have documentation symbols (See here) we can start to use them, however in order to not have to setup the symbols & the zones for every schematic we should make a schematic template so that it is setup for each new schematic.

Friday 6 May 2011

Creating a zoned document symbol set.

When adding a border to your designs, in order to not be redrawing it every design it should be created as a document symbol. This can be added to both Schematic or PCB designs and easily scaled to fit around the design so it can fit another paper size. Let me explain how to make one that you can use for your drawings.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Using zoned drawings and signal reference hyperlinks

One of the little known features to come into CADSTAR in recent versions is the ability to identify from a pair of signal reference symbols where the each corresponding reference is.

Although only a small thing, this does make it a lot easier to work with diagrams that have lots of signal references shooting off to various parts of other sheets in your drawing set.

Prior to this we would have to put text to identify where you can find the other part of the signal, well now
we have a link that you can click on and it will take the screen to centre in on the other part of the signal.

Its been a busy few months.

I have been a bit busy of late, things I wanted to blog about I have held off because of a few technical issues I did not feel I should post.

Hopefully the next few days posts should make up for those.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

How High?

Depending upon what external applications you use with CADSTAR, your heights
may end up being all setup wrongly.

Monday 10 January 2011

Why do I need a drill drawing?

A question I often get asked when I mention drill drawings is "why bother when the drill sizes are in the NC data" they say.

Monday 20 December 2010

Busy Busy, Busy....

Sorry folks - its been a busy time recently with the run up to Christmas and I have not had time to put anything together.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Any better?

OK I have had a little play with what default templates are available, hopefully this looks a little better now.

Wish I had some pictures I could use though.

Monday 22 November 2010

OOPS! what have I done...

Oops - I was looking at the templates to try and find one to make the posts wider.

Now it looks awful  -I'll play with the settings some more when I get a chance to see if I can make it better.

Having trouble with components with thermal vias in heatsink pads?

Are you having trouble figuring out how to prevent your components that have a heatsink pad with thermal vias in causing errors when you run a DRC?

The type of package I am talking about is for example the QFP style with a large square middle heatsink pad that also has some vias that go through to copper features on other layers.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Dangerous Diodes!

Just a little something that I noticed in a CADSTAR library I was browsing through.

How do you draw your diodes? Although there is an obvious choice of whether you want them filled or clear some disastrous mistakes have been made because of bad choices made when creating the simple diode symbol.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Assignments - what are they then?

So what are the "Assignments" in CADSTAR for?

Basically assignments is the term given to they settings for all the route, line, pads, text, copper, via codes amongst others. You assign values to them.

They are all kept within the assignments in CADSTAR, it is worth noting that CADSTAR keeps its assignments in each individual design file, within each schematic and documentation symbol and PCB library also the default files used for new design files.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Who said what?

Hey folks - if your going to post comments could you please leave a name?
Otherwise all posts come from  "Anonymous"  and it gets confusing who is asking what. :)

Monday 11 October 2010

Layers in CADSTAR.

As requested - some information on setting up your layers in CADSTAR.
(Pull up a chair and make a coffee - its a long one).

What is all this layer stuff about then?...

So you are designing a printed circuit board - this is generally a fibreglass inner core with copper tracks on the outside. Although the inner core can be made of many different laminate materials depending upon the boards use, FR4 (Fibreglass) is the most common.

On the outside copper layers, which are completely covered in copper before the board is made - the tracks that you design will be what is left on the board when it is manufactured.

How to manage board Mounting holes in your PCB designs.

Recently I have seen comments on the web recently from people asking "how do I do mounting holes in CADSTAR?".

There are a few methods that you can use to implement mounting holes in CADSTAR.
Which one you choose is dependant upon the type of hole you want and how you want to use it.

Wednesday 30 June 2010

CADSTAR Spacing Classes and what they do.

What are Spacing Classes and why use them?

A spacing class is a way of identifying that a net should be treated different to other nets with regard to spacings. A spacing class will overrule your design rules.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Life is much better with multiple monitors.

Something that really puzzles me is why so many designers are still using a single monitor to design with.

A 2nd monitor will cost about £100 with another £30-40 on a video card and you open a whole new world of visualisation of your designs.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

I wonder?

.... If ayone is actually looking at this blog?

Does anyone know it exists?

Suggestions on how to get more reading it would be most welcome.

EDIT: If I knew that someone was reading I might post more.

Friday 11 June 2010

A simple report listing testpoints and attached nets

Here is a simple report that can be run from the report generator that will list your test points as added in the design editor using "Add Testpoint"(not the ones added in PREditor) and the names of the nets that they are attached to.

Sunday 30 May 2010

Comments and Questions?

Hey folks, if anyone is reading this blog and has any comments or questions - or anything that you want to know about in particular that may give me a subject to blog about then by all means, please ask or comment.

That way I can help you after you have helped me by giving me something to blog about.

Saturday 29 May 2010

So what is CADSTAR then?

CADSTAR is part of a printed circuit board design suite that provides a solution
to the needs of anyone that needs a printed circuit board for their electronic products.

Friday 28 May 2010

What am I proposing to blog about?

OK, enough of the waffle, what the heck am I going to say about CADSTAR?

How about starting with what CADSTAR is, who makes it, who sells it & why it is one of the top PCB design packages used in Europe.

Then perhaps I'll muse about the things I find out daily, little hints & tips on how to use certain features, how to make CADSTAR easier to work with & how to make your installation more productive.

Yep, as soon as I have figured out some of that lot I'll be back to let you know. :)

Wednesday 26 May 2010

OK who am I and what did I do?

Although it's not hard to guess, I think I will remain anonymous for now, but in my past employment I was tasked to specialise in taking fag packet circuits and drawings and create decent and informative schematics then PCB packages that were easy to manufacture, test and repair (as well as working well).

Monday 24 May 2010

My very first blog!

You know....

It's actually been over 18 months since I actually completed a PCB design, and I'm pretty sure that I do not miss it one iota!

Not because I don't like connecting up hundreds of components and thousands of connections over many layers to make an electronic circuit work (and work well), but because I don't miss the dark place that I was in when I was doing it.