It was called the great design tool giveaway, which is not strictly true, at the Electronica exhibition in Munich last week.
Many of the design tools are integrated into the distributors’ own websites with the aim of combining the specification and purchasing of components in one step.
“The aim is that the engineer does not have to leave the design tool to find the parts they need, it is all one environment,” Dave Doherty vice-president operations Digi-Key told Electronics Weekly.
Farnell element1 4 will be selling its software and tools, including CadSoft Eagle, via a new web portal in 2015.
“It is an extension of what we have offered in the past. It will help designers match the OS and firmware with specific MCUs and vice-versa,” said Mike Powell Technical Development Manager at Farnell element14.
“There is a lot more for us than being just a one-stop-shop for components,” said Graham Maggs, European marketing director at Mouser.
Building a software business is not a simple task for the distributors. Today they are selling PCB design tools, the OS and assorted firmware. The ultimate goal is the application software, which will allow them to see complete reference designs ‘off-the-shelf’.
“We see it as supporting the engineer in different ways, but it won’t come overnight,” said Maggs. “Software download is a challenge for distributors, but it is a necessary capability.”
The distributors demonstrated their latest software and downloadable tools at the exhibition last week.
Mouser Electronics has launched a community website for design engineers with the MultiSIM BLUE free PCB design tool, developed by National Instruments, at its heart.
The NI MultiSim Component Evaluator Mouser edition uses the Berkeley SPICE simulation engine and includes a preloaded component library from the distributor’s linecard.
Farnell element14 plans to start selling next year on is software design centre Altium’s PCB design tool called CircuitStudio, which includes management and a 3D design capability.
Distributors are also offering basic grade free tools as a download, as well as selling professional level tool.
Mouser has a free PCB design tool as does RS which was first into the free tool market with DesignSpark PCB.
Digi-Key, which has free tools created by Aspen Labs, called Scheme-It, PartSim and PCBWeb, also sells tools created by Mentor Graphics.
The Designer Schematic and Designer Layout tools are new tools, based on its PADS enterprise-level PCB design tool, but with price tags to attract hobbyists and small-budget design teams.
Designer Schematic and Designer Layout come with free access to Mentor Graphics’ PartQuest, a fully integrated website that merges Digi-Key part numbers into symbols and footprints.