I currently use a software package called PADs at ebm-papst, which in my view is a great package if you can find someone else to afford and purchase it. However, no matter what package you use, you can still achieve the same results. So where do we start? Assuming that I have all the footprints I need and I’m happy with the circuit drawings and components, I will print out the circuit schematics. It is important to have these at hand; you’re going to convert these line drawings into real copper. Next, I import or load up all the component footprints into my layout package. There are two possible approaches. You can either be an auto-route person or, like me, route the entire board by hand. For designs that do not have large numbers of buses and are primarily embedded micros, hand routing is just as quick as auto-routing. I say this because I would have to check track width rules like, “Is the net set to the correct width to carry the current?” I would also go back and check that signal lines are not next to power rails or noise sources. Therefore, in my head I can do this as I route and get the best layout I want, using my brain as the auto-router and design-rule checker. I start by grouping the components into areas around the outside of the board. For instance, let’s say I have a switch mode power supply— all these routes end up in a jumble over on one side. So do not overlap; just place them sideby-side in a grid to get an idea of the board area required. I do this for each block of the circuit, and this is why having the schematic in front of you is useful—you can see if the 100nF cap is for the power supply or needs to go next to an IC for decoupling. I move these blocks around until I can see where I want the flow or interfacing edges of each block to go until I’m ready to move on.
Figure 1: Analog
Figure 2: Digital