ECAD-MCAD Design Collaboration

ECAD-MCAD Design Collaboration

ECAD and MCAD systems have existed in separate domains for many years and have evolved to optimize their own domain’s productivity and functionality using their own data constructs and formats. The ProSTEP iViP standard now enables true collaboration between electrical and mechanical CAD systems.


Communication between the respective tool sets has previously been through bulk data interfaces with little capability to identify and update incremental changes.


A data interface between ECAD and MCAD has existed for a number of years. This industry standard format, IDF, was typically used to import the board outline, mounting holes, and other mechanical parameters into the PCB database at the beginning of the board-level design process. At the end of the PCB design process, it was used to interface the PCB database (component placements, etc.) back to the mechanical tool. Whenever parties communicate and exchange data based on reaching a common goal, some form of collaboration takes place even if it is not a particularly efficient one. In the case of IDF, the format was designed and effectively used as a data dump. But it had no way of identifying the incremental changes that had occurred in either the PCB or the enclosure design. So, at a more ‘useful’ level, collaboration still consisted of notes scribbled on pieces of paper and verbal communication between the disciplines. It was not only time-consuming but also very error-prone.



The efforts of Mentor Graphics and PTC have produced collaboration tools in both domains that enable mechanical and electrical engineers to propose incremental design changes, have those changes viewable in an easy-to-use tool, enable analysis/review/comment/approval of the proposed changes, and finally, upon acceptance, update the incremental changes into the respective databases.


A typical collaboration process
  • The ECAD designer needs to change the location of a component. The proposed change is made in a “sandbox” mode using the collaboration tools and the data is sent to the MCAD designer.
  • The MCAD designer receives the proposed change through the collaboration tool and, in the MCAD sandbox, begins to test the effects of the proposal.
  • The MCAD designer determines that the proposed change will not fit properly into the enclosure in its current form and rejects the proposal. The MCAD designer, via the collaboration tool, then proposes an alternate change that will meet mechanical constraints.
  • This counterproposal is received by the ECAD designer who tests it in the PCB layout sandbox and accepts the counter proposal.
  • Now accepted by both domains, the counterproposal is then inserted into the mutual master databases of both the electrical and mechanical systems.
  • The change is versioned and time stamped.


The ECAD-MCAD Collaborator replaces paper and verbal interchanges, provides a graphical platform for collaborative “discussions” and supports “What-if” scenarios in a graphical “sandbox”.


On-demand web seminar: