Multisim and Ultiboard

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Ultiboard details

I wrote and what mean this text  :”You can use its flexible tools to place parts and copper with manual precision to define critical board elements “ .

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From your question, it looks like you may be new to circuit board design and might be looking into starting down the PCB design path with ultiboard.


If this is true and you don't have a specific class or boss insisting on you learning and using Ultiboard, I would recommend using a more common package.   Even if you have a paid NI subscription the support is weak and this software has really fallen behind other mainstream packages including free ones.  The user community for ultiboard is very small and getting footprints for modern components can be a challenge.   For one example of how the software support has floundered, they have never come out with a template for the updated SBRIO 9623/9626 board format which were put into service before 2012 and they still sell to this day.  We stopped looking over a year ago, so maybe we'll be surprised.


While Ultiboard deserves this criticism, Multisim is a very good tool for simulating electronics circuits while learning things and has a good tie in with labview in co-simulation.  After a year of paying for and learning ultiboard we gave up and started using a free package used by several of our contractors called KiCAD


If other forum users think differently, I'm open to other opinions, but I'd like to try and save some people from going down the path thinking ultiboard is well supported and mainstream software, it is not.


One thing that Ultiboard did seem to have that other packages didn't was that subcircuits could be generated and brought in and wired like a VI, where KiCAD requires you to name a net list on one schematic and bring that netlist up on a second schematic by name.  You end up with multiple pages and lots of net list names that need tracking.


This one cool feature was not worth the headache of the poor footprint support and incompatibility with all other packages.  It would be like buying a mechanical CAD package that would not import or export IGES or STEP files.


I would be very interested to hear opposite opinions on what else ultiboard does better that we didn't learn.






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Message 2 of 7

Hi Dave and others,


I disagree, at our company we have several layout programs running simultaneously.

I use Ultiboard. My colleague runs Altium, and another colleague uses Kicad.

This is because our customers ask us to use a certain layout program in order to be consistent with their own systems.

My customers are Utiboard users, and I'm using it since 15 years now.

By the way, still running in 10.1 since some of my customers still use this version.


My nearest colleague works with Altium, so I can easily compare.

-Ultiboard is faster and doesn't need a super-PC (just try zooming in and out on a complex board).

-Ultiboard has no vault where you can download parts, but the wizzards are very good and the flexibility lets you draw any component as you want it. Making a new part from scratch is really easy.

-DRC check on all layers and nets runs very fast, usually in less than  500 mseconds.

-Ultiboard has less screens, tabs, options etc etc, but you can set almost any part/trace/via individually or as a group.

-The ultiboard selecting knobs/features are superb, this way, you only select the parts you really want, a feature difficult to explain to users of other layout programs, since there's nothing comparable elsewhere that I kow of.

-Using only a few keys and the mouse, you can route easily and fast.

-The 3D of Ultiboard is quite basic and it takes some imagination to draw your 3D, but it works.

-Gerber export,BOM, P&P is easy.

-There's no step output in Ultiboard v10.1 only Iges, but my customers don't complain.

-and of course, it has autoplace and autoroute, I sometimes use it when I want to have a good laugh :-)


And yes, I had a course in which I learned to work with Altium, I never thought drawing a schematic and routing a PCB could get so complex. When I routed my first board with Altium, I got so angry about the complexity that my wife ordered me to switch back to Ultiboard! Now I have a doctor's certificate that forbids me to work with Altium. (Not a joke)


I agree that Ultiboard may not have all the whistles and features that designers dream about, but I'm making some 25 designs a year and I never had the feeling that I missed something... In the end, the most important is that the copper layers/parts are built correctly, and that is something that our human brain does much better than any autorouter, autoplacer or other feature will ever do (at least not in my lifetime)...



Stressed user

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Message 3 of 7

Thanks for the input  Stressed User, and it was good to hear your opposing perspectives.


My comments still stand though, because you have invested 15 years to get where you are and started when Ultiboard was a leading edge product and offered something that other software did not.


Our experience is starting from scratch and being disappointed that we had to build a library of components where other packages were compatible with each other and exchanged footprints.  Except in this forum we couldn't find any other users of Ultiboard.  NI appears to be expanding Multisim as a educational tool and simulator, but their active support of Ultiboard to keep up with other mainstream PCB design packages is hard to detect.


In our case we pay for Ultiboard as part of our LabVIEW software package which we find valuable, my warning is to new users that don't have an experienced person with Ultiboard to rely on.  For them I recomend they seriously consider whether they want to do PCB design under the NI software package or use a more capable and modern package.  Until we see some significant effort on NI's part to catch up with Ultiboard, we'll continue to use KiCAD for our PCB design projects while using LabVIEW and Multisim where they truly are the best resource.


We don't have experience with Altium or other commercial systems, KiCAD is free, but well supported with a large user group community so we recommend that new PCB designers take a look at it as they start out.  One key think in our considering KiCAD is that it was used and supported by CERN.  This link has a list of sponsors of KiCAD.


I am still interested in hearing other perspectives that point out things Ultiboard may do better than KiCAD or other programs.  The one thing I did miss, was the VI like funtionality of sub-circuits, but we just started to play with that on more complicated boards as we transitioned to KiCAD.






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Message 4 of 7

Hi again,


Indeed, NI seems to use all their efforts on Multisim, which I personnally only use to draw my schematics.

Simulation is done on small parts of schematics, not on entire circuits, (that doesn't work anyway).

As I'm still on the 10.1 version (without problems), I haven't any experience with the newer versions.

Although when I read about the updates, I get the feeling that Ultiboard only gets some bug-fixings and that no new developments are added.


On the other hand, I am still convinced that a program for schematic drawings, for simulation an for routing should be separate programs. That of course is another discussion. If all programs would use some kind of universal footprints and netlist system, the world of electronics would be so much easier... 



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Message 5 of 7

I think we are in almost perfect agreement.  Educational, simulation and programming are so different that Multisim could continue being upgraded with Labview and Ultiboard could stay the way it is for experienced users like yourself to keep using until you decide its worth the effort to transition.


My warning was for new users..  We invested a lot of time and were not happy that we ended up switching, so for new users doing PCB design I'd recommend starting with a better PCB design package and stick to using Labview/Multisim for what they are really good for programming and fundamental circuit simulation and education.


I think NI doesn't do themselves a favor by pretending that Ultiboard is a serious PCB design package and then getting reviews like this.


If NI feels different they are free to respond to this indicating that they will be getting serious about catching up on PCB design.


Right now its just us two talking about it :-)

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Message 6 of 7

All the others must be on holiday :-)


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