Free electrical design software targets smaller users
RS Components has launched a free electrical design software package which, it says, will bring the benefits of design software to those not already using electrical CAD (computer-aided design) tools. The global launch of DesignSpark Electrical follows RS’ earlier free packages, DesignSpark PCB (which has had 230,000 activations since its launch in 2010) and DesignSpark Mechanical (which has had 175,000 activations since its launch in 2013).
RS has spent two years working on the new package, which has been developed by French-based Trace Software International and has similarities to Trace’s Elecworks electrical CAD software. Schneider Electric has contributed to the cost of developing the software, and 80,000 Schneider products are included in the 250,000 components that make up DesignSpark Electrical’s launch library. Schneider products are presented as the default when using the software, but users have the option of choosing items from other suppliers. The library will update itself automatically.
Peter Smith, who joined RS 2½ years ago to help develop the electrical CAD package, says that many potential users of such software – especially in SMEs – are put off by the high costs and complexity of existing packages, which are “cost-prohibitive” for many smaller users, and take too long to learn.
As a result, users often end up using non-specialist software such as Microsoft Visio or AutoCad. According to RS’ research, around two-thirds of electrical designers are not using “genuine” electrical CAD packages at the moment.
“Users are having to make do with unsatisfactory products,” Smith says, adding that this can slow down the design process and allow errors to creep in. “DesignSpark Electrical will bring truly functional electrical CAD to them, at no cost.”
Smith adds that RS is not competing with established providers such as Eplan. “DesignSpark Electrical is aimed at people who would not otherwise invest in electrical CAD,” he explains. RS is aiming for around 10,000 activations within 12 month of releasing the software.
According to RS, DesignSpark Electrical is a fully specified electrical CAD package that will save time and avoid errors when designing control panels, machinery and electrical systems. It offers schematic design, wiring line diagrams and 2D panel and cabinet layouts, and manages terminals and reports with data stored in an SQLite database, which is updated in real time.
Key functions of the new software include:
• Real-time cross-referencing and design validity checking to assure the quality of designs before the build stage. The software checks designs as it proceeds.
• Automation of tasks such as device and wire numbering, which can be re-sequenced to achieve logical ordering. (This alone could save “hours” per day, says Smith.)
• The ability to create accurate scaled 2D panel layouts to optimise panel sizes.