PROTEUS For Electronic Design Automation

By Priya Ravindran

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This generation (Gen Y, born between the 1980’s and the year 2000) constantly gets bored. It is forever looking for something new and exciting, and everyone is willing to try different things as long as they can derive a good experience out of it. Be it in any field, it is difficult to stand out today simply because of the problem of plenty. Looking at the website of Proteus, I must say they are taking this aspect seriously.

Proteus design suite is a package put together by Labcenter Electronics to give you a novel simulation and printed circuit board (PCB) designing experience. What makes this tool special? What new does it have to offer? Read on to know.

Proteus design kit has about 785 microcontroller variants ready for simulation, straight from the schematic. Be it Atmel, Microchip or ARM, once you get a hang of the tool, you need not worry about the impending platform. Let us begin by considering one of the most popular microcontroller kits among students, Arduino.

Proteus Visual Designer for Arduino
Fig. 1: Visual Designer for Arduino

Visual Designer for Arduino

Visual Designer in Proteus takes a cue from Arduino itself, removing the lower-level complexities of software language and hardware design. It uses a combination of its trademark Virtual System Modeling simulation—which we will come to later—flowcharts and virtual hardware, resulting in an integrated and intuitive development environment for Arduino.

Depending on the device you want to connect to Proteus, you can configure the peripheral accordingly and use high-level methods to control it. If you are attaching, say, a robot, you might need different peripherals for the various sensors, one for the wheels and another for the motor. The corresponding microcontroller is automatically updated with connection details.

Visual Designer allows you to set breakpoints at which you need to debug the course of the robot and perform simulations around it. To help you get started, the kit provides ready-to-use Arduino shields, breakout boards and sensors in its peripheral gallery. Transferring the data to Arduino board simply requires plugging in the programming cable, making the required configurations and clicking to transfer the flowchart into the board. PICs can be simulated in real time, letting you test circuit functionality effectively.

Shortened lifecycle from schematic to PCB

It is VSM simulation that brings in Agile development into the embedded workflow, enabling you to quickly put together a prototype with hardware and firmware components. The inbuilt processor model is built to fully simulate input/output ports, interrupts, timers, universal synchronous/asynchronous receiver/transmitters and all other peripherals present on each supported processor.

Shape based auto router before and after routing on a six-layer PCB
Fig. 2: Shape based auto router before and after routing on a six-layer PCB

Giving you the flexibility to interact with your design using onscreen indicators such as LCD and LED displays, and actuators, you can apply your firmware to the microcontroller of your choice and co-simulate the program within a mixed-mode simulation program with integrated circuit emphasis (SPICE) circuit simulation. If coding is your forte, take the design flowchart back to its Arduino C++ code, or convert it to an Arduino sketch and play with the code.

A resourceful kit. Proteus design kit contains thousands of common parts you would need. It allows you to import more using BSDL format. The physical and electrical designs can be viewed as grids, paving the way for easier cross-probing and component or net selection. Hierarchical designs and system level designs are just a few clicks away.

A powerful PCB design suite

Combining the schematic capture and ARES PCB layout programs, this design suite targets PCB designs with a professional touch. The next section discusses a few of the stand-out features of this layout designer.

In addition to these, the tool supports 16 copper layers, 10nm resolution and any angle placement. There is also support for power planes, letting you place polygonal regions within which inner boundaries are automatically created around existing pads and tracks.

Intelligent routing. The wiring process is intuitive. Called Follow-Me Routing, the control is in your hands, giving you the best-fit route within designated constraints. As you move the mouse, so does the wiring, linking together the parts of your schematic. And once a base is done, you can create a design snippet to import into a future project.

The snippet can range from a simple rectifier circuit to the modelling of a USB engine, or can simply be a template containing basic layout information like boundaries and holes. It goes without saying that schematic hierarchies and logic schematic designs are fully supported by the tool.

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