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Editor’s Pick: Electrical CAD Runs on Visio

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Today’s Pick of the Week write-up is a neat one for all you automation, control and electrical engineers out there, as well as all of you forcing a mechanical CAD program to do electrical design and documentation.

Radica Software recently released the E7 version of its Electra electrical CAD platform. It has a bunch of sweet-sounding attributes to it, and chief among them is that it runs on top of Microsoft’s Visio technical diagramming and layout tool. Visio is one of those ubiquitous applications that receives little in the way of press coverage. Kind of like MS Word. But it’s a powerful, easy to use and inexpensive tool (the premium version is about 300 bucks or so on Amazon).

What this means is that Radica can focus on Electra’s ECAD functionality because Visio has the smarts to handle the basic operations that go into creating and documenting circuit diagrams and layouts. It also means that the Electra and Visio combination enables you to create technical drawings, designs and layouts without a more expensive mechanical CAD system that’s not intended for electrical design.

I should add that Electra itself is way less expensive than a major CAD package and, like Visio, takes about a day to get the hang of. This cost-effectivity and capability combination should allow more people to get into the game and provide a means to make your electrical engineers more productive.

What’s Electra got? Well, standard features include things like 700 user-editable symbols, wires with intelligent numbering and wire links, pre-made title blocks and the ability to create real-time cross-references. Electra has this PLC (power line communication) module generator that you can use to create all kinds of symbols. It has one-click report generation for documents like bill of materials, terminal listing, panel layout and cross-references. Suffice to say, Electra seems like it has all the tools you’d expect of an ECAD system, so here are a few highlights beyond the basics.

Electra E7 uses a lot of automation to simplify creating and documenting circuit drawings. This includes features like automatically tagging symbols and wires, assigning the right component, generating terminals and building a table of contents. Electra can find all connection points and float them to a group level, which lets you create a custom symbol without having to worry about when to add connection points.

Current Electra users will be interested to know that boosting performance was one of the key development areas in E7. Radica says that Electra E7 offers a startup speed more than 100% faster compared to the E6 version. A video demo on the Radica website will show you the speed-up from Electra E6 and E7 loading a 270-page document.

Electra E7 offers more and improved symbols in its Layout 3D, Prefab and Title Block Stencils functionalities, including square and rectangle buttons on the Layout 3D stencil and new portrait title blocks. New Prefab circuits include automatic transformer starter with control circuits. Among the other notable enhancements introduced in the E7 edition are automatic panel layout placement on rails in the Professional edition and pneumatic and hydraulic editing capabilities in the Enterprise edition.

You can learn more about Electra E7 from today’s Pick of the Week write-up. Take a peek at the version comparison chart to see what each flavor of Electra offers. The video demo is well worth your time, but be advised that it is about 50 minutes. You’ll find a lot of short videos on the Electra E7 landing page linked at the end of the main write-up. Also make sure to hit the link to the Radica blog. This will tell you a lot about the software, of course, but it will also show you that Radica is a company that works with you.

Still, there is one better way to learn about Electra. Give it a 30-day test drive. Go to the link to download a trial copy at the end of the write-up and pick your version. It’s a no fuss, no registration download. Good stuff.

Thanks, Pal. — Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood

Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering

Read today’s pick of the week write-up.

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About Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Digital Engineering's Editor-at-Large. Contact him via de-editors@digitaleng.news.