Electrical Enclosure CAD software on a budget?
June 25, 2013 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Looking for electrical enclosure CAD software on a budget. I would appreciate your recommendations.

In the past, I've always just "winged" it with my enclosure designs. Just knocking out the requirements 1-by-1 and never really documenting anything. Now my company has added some tech support for this kind of build up. I need to be able to basically do all the build up in CAD software and hand over design plans to another group to assemble everything.

I'm trying to find some CAD software that will make this easy for me. I've looked in EAGLE CAD (which I've used for PCB Layout) and its size limitations make it impossible to use for this application.

Here is a visual of the type of enclosure layout I'm talking about (I just found this online): Link

What I'm ultimately after is something that facilitates the creation of two types of drawings: a 2D Schematic and a 2D Layout. I would like the two to be intertwined in such a way that I don't have to keep 2 drawings up to date. That was one reason I was favoring EAGLE CAD because it already kinda does this, but the limitations of not having any pads or pins outside of a designated area make it impossible to use for this application.

I've attempted using InkScape for 2D schematics and SketchUP for my 2D layout. My schematics look really great (although took some effort) but I found that the disconnect with my 2D layout was too much of a hassle.

I've looked into SolidWorks Electrical, but they want $10,000 for a module to the $35,000 SolidWorks package to make it work. Looks really nice, but it is just unaffordable. My company has a floating seat SolidWorks license that is constantly being used and us spending $10k on a module so I can also occupy a SolidWorks license seat is just too cost prohibitive.

Zuken makes a software packages called "E3.Series" that looks expensive. Idk... I've asked for a quote.

There is also AutoDesk AutoCAD Electrical. It has name recognition but I think it is pretty expensive. I love how none of these companies will list their software price on their website.

If I can find something in the $2,000 range I'd be happy. I might be able to spring for something in the $5,000 range.... any more than that is just too expensive.

Thanks for your input on this.
posted by nickerbocker to Science & Nature (10 answers total)
Can you give me some kind of idea of what you'd like the results to look like?

Does the input method have to be graphical? It kind of seems like you have sort of a linear bus that you're slotting stuff into, could you have something like a textual description of how you want things laid out and some kind of custom program that produces a schematic?
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:41 PM on June 25, 2013

There is also AutoDesk AutoCAD Electrical. It has name recognition but I think it is pretty expensive. I love how none of these companies will list their software price on their website.

At least for AutoDesk, possibly for others, they don't really sell the program themselves and you have to get it from a reseller. So, you'd have to find your local reseller through AutoDesk, and then get a price from them. I think Revit is going for something in the $5000 range, so AutoCAD Electrical shouldn't be more than that. Also, I don't know if the Electrical package is the same, but AutoCAD Architecture was a nightmare to use without much real utility, so you may just want to go with plain old AutoCAD. If you're working with any other entities that use AutoCAD but don't have Electrical, they may not be able to see the Electrical objects in your drawings anyway.

Another option is if you're currently enrolled in classes somewhere you can download a student version of AutoDesk programs, which I think is good for a year.
posted by LionIndex at 2:43 PM on June 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the input guys.

@RustyBrooks - A 2D layout representation of enclosures such as the layout I posted a picture for. I would like to have a 2D Layout with some "wire" and "cable" elements (to show cable routing, connections, labels). For 2D Schematic, something along the lines of what Eagle CAD does in its 2D schematic would suffice. The 2D schematic shows the critical parts of the "circuit" the 2d layout is for fabrication plans in a standard NEMA4 enclosure w/ evenly spaced DIN Rail. (again, look at the photo I linked to).

@LionIndex - If all that I am to use is vanilla AutoCAD, then I might as well use InkScape (or MS Paint for that matter) because all I will be using it for is a line drawer. Perhaps I'm missing something. Maybe I'm not being fair to AutoCAD but when I played around with it it just seemed like a 2d line art program with a terrible interface.

Also, I need commercial licensing.

posted by nickerbocker at 3:04 PM on June 25, 2013

Response by poster: Also, I don't care if my input method is graphical or not. I'm comfortable enough working in text files and then processing them into images but I think I would prefer a GUI.
posted by nickerbocker at 3:08 PM on June 25, 2013

If you're trying to do actual electrical components, then I don't think ACAD Electrical is for you. While ACAD can be 3D, it's kind of a pain in the butt. You're right that it's basically a 2D line program, but once you get into the editing tools it's way faster than other things. But, Electrical seems to be mostly oriented towards the construction industry and MEP engineers who are laying out panels and wiring diagrams for buildings.
posted by LionIndex at 3:23 PM on June 25, 2013

Response by poster: @LionIndex - Actually, layout and wiring diagrams for buildings and large enclosures is what I'm looking for. For circuits that go on PCBs I've been using EAGLE CAD and I don't think I'll move from that. I'm trying to find a trial version of AutoCAD Electrical so I can evaluate it.
posted by nickerbocker at 3:26 PM on June 25, 2013

AutoCAD Electrical is great for integrating tables and databases of wire numbers and terminal numbers into your drawing; nothing better than altering the base number and having dozens of wire labels changed automatically. There are nice libraries of major-vendor electrical and automation products, too. You're drawing 'wires', which are more sophisticated than ordinary sketched lines because they carry data about their number and their endpoints.

Before I had an AutoCAD license, I used DraftSight, a free AutoCAD clone from the makers of SolidWorks. The command-line is similar enough to AutoCAD that I had no trouble picking it up, and the basic DXF and DWG formats are almost universally usable by my AutoCAD-using clients.

I use Inkscape and Paint.net for art, but AutoCAD is far more object-oriented than either of those. Take time to learn how to manage layers and blocks, and you'll be doing what 90% of the other panel shops in the world do to lay out their drawings.

I do my schematics and layouts totally separately; I suppose there might be a way to integrate them but I don't.
posted by Kakkerlak at 4:03 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback, Kakkerlak! I know it is region based, but do you happen to know what a single user license of AutoCAD Electrical is?

When you do your layout drawings, do you just show the physical placement of all the components, or do you recreate your wiring in the layout drawing?

The use of a spreadsheet to do numbering and such sounds wonderful. I've made some pretty nice looking (if I do say so myself) wiring schematics in InkScape but it is especially tedious to add something somewhere and have to go through and renumber everything with that tedious text tool.
posted by nickerbocker at 4:36 PM on June 25, 2013

Response by poster: Also, I have DraftSight...is there anything useful there other than a line drawer? I tried to give DraftSight a chance, but I had a hard time seeing its usefulness over something like InkScape. When it came to designing my electrical symbols and also just the superior "snapping" feature, InkScape seemed infinitely better than DraftSight...but maybe I'm missing something.
posted by nickerbocker at 4:40 PM on June 25, 2013

try Alibre
posted by raildr at 5:33 PM on June 25, 2013

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