SnapEDA launches on desktop as users seek bridge with existing CAD tools - Embedded.com

SnapEDA launches on desktop as users seek bridge with existing CAD tools

Many designers wanted a better integration with their existing desktop CAD tools, so SnapEDA, an online design library for CAD models of electronic parts, launched a desktop app.

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SnapEDA, an online design library and search engine for verified, ready to use CAD models of electronics components, has launched SnapEDA Desktop, as a bridge from its online platform to many desktop PCB design tools.

CEO and founder of SnapEDA Natasha Baker told embedded.com, “When we talked to designers, one thing kept coming up time after time: they wanted tighter integration with their existing desktop CAD tools. Until cloud tools become more common, people will still want to use the desktop. So, we created a bridge between the internet and the traditional desktop to provide a seamless experience.”

Natasha Baker SnapEDA
Natasha Baker

She likens the company’s platform to a ‘Google Analytics’ tool for the electronics design industry (see Electronics Design Search Engine Introduces Analytics and Insights). It has over a million engineers using its search engine to download component footprints for their EDA tools every year, and it also provides valuable insights to suppliers who have listed their components on its database. The search engine for electronics design provides key information such as digital models and schematic symbols. It provides a level of ‘stickiness’, since once an engineer downloads the digital model, he or she is more likely to use the component. Hence it also provides component manufacturers with insights to help suppliers track and report design-in’s, provide insights into design cycles, identify market trends, and what engineers are downloading.

Baker said that over the years, feedback calls and annual surveys with SnapEDA’s users, highlighted that no matter how easy they made it to get CAD models into the PCB design tools, engineers wanted it to be even easier. Specifically, they didn’t want to leave their desktop tools to find CAD models, if at all possible.

Most PCB design tools are still based on the desktop. Baker said there’s good reason for this: many professional engineers need to ensure their designs are secure, and these tools have had decades of investment to build. Porting that over to a web tool isn’t exactly easy. She explained that although many believe the cloud is in the cards for the PCB design tools, it will still likely be a while.

The new SnapEDA Desktop app hence serves as a bridge between the web which designers use for all their engineering research, and the desktop tool they use for designing PCBs.

Baker answered the inevitable question: why would you create desktop tools if there are already SnapEDA plugins? With the aid of the company’s plugins and native integrations, SnapEDA can be searched directly in Altium, KiCad, Eagle & Fusion360, Proteus, TARGET3001!, DipTrace, PCB123, ExpressPCB, and others. The company will continue supporting these integrations, but she added, “There are pros and cons of plugins: you’re sometimes limited, and there are sometimes firewall concerns. So the desktop tool eliminates that concern, and it gives a modern, fast experience – something you can’t necessarily achieve with plugins.”

What does SnapEDA enable?

Creating CAD models for each electronic component in a circuit board can take days or even weeks of time. In some cases, they can be found online (for example, GitHub), but they might often not be in the needed file format and might even be of dubious quality.

SnapEDA said it solved this challenge by creating a search engine specifically focused on finding verified CAD models. By complementing existing CAD tools engineers were already using, it was able to help engineers instantly. The SnapEDA platform isn’t affiliated or owned by a CAD tool, so it is neutral and able support every EDA tool that it can. The company has also launched other products since its inception, such as its InstaBuild computer-vision symbol generator, InstaPart for symbol and footprint requests which many large OEMs are using today. It also received its first patent on its CAD verification technology, which gives engineers unprecedented insight into the quality of CAD models they download from the web.

SnapEDA part example Microchip
An example model in SnapEDA’s library. (Source: SnapEDA)

Pros and cons of cloud-based CAD

Pros: some of the advantages of cloud-based CAD software include:

  • Accessibility: users can easily design electronics from anywhere with the only requirement of having a good connection. The cloud makes everything accessible easily
  • Interaction: the cloud stimulates a collaborative work environment. Users can interact and connect globally which at the same time increase productivity.
  • Storage capacity: there is an unlimited storage capacity within the cloud. If you run out of storage, you can simply buy more which is cheaper than spending a lot of money in buying new storage hardware and software.

Cons: some of the disadvantages of cloud-based CAD software include:

  • Security: the most common data leakage threats happen online. Information on the cloud is susceptible to leakages or loss of data because of the exposure they have. There is also a higher risk of cyber-attacks or hacking. Choosing the cloud provider carefully is key to keeping your data safe. As per a study made by the Business Advantage market research group and Jon Peddie Research, users are concerned about having their CAD data trapped or lost in the cloud.
  • Internet connection dependency: to reliably work on cloud-based apps, internet connection is a must. If there’s a weak connection, there will be downtimes that would generate productivity issues and project delays
  • No control over DoS attacks: a denial-of-service attack is one of the largest threats to web-users. This cyber-attack pretends to make an online network unavailable. DDoS attacks can bring down websites and web-based systems by sending high volumes of traffic with the sole objective of consuming memory, CPU processing space or network bandwidth to block entirely the system. (Darwish, M., Ouda, A.,Capretz, L,2013)
  • Cloud service latency: CAD vendors have expressed their concerns in the latency for cloud-based systems since it can affect a seamless design process and cause distraction for active design collaboration. A local desktop CAD system will be more responsive than one based on the cloud that depends of internet speed and bandwidth.

Since moving CAD software to the cloud can involve a lot of time and effort, plus the considerations about the different data security implications, companies are thinking twice before implementing cloud-based solutions. As an example, there are just a few companies in the market that offer cloud-based solutions like Fusion360, Onshape among others. But it will still take a lot of time to move all CAD softwares to the web. Because of this, SnapEDA said it created the desktop application to connect the web with traditional CAD tools to allow engineers place parts seamlessly.

Before, engineers needed to spend a lot of time searching all the different design resources they needed across different websites. Now, the desktop application integrates the SnapEDA search engine directly from the desktop. It also shortens the steps of importing design files from the web by just opening the parts automatically on their CAD softwares without the need of following tedious import steps.


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