Electrical Design using CircuitWorks vs SOLIDWORKS Electrical

By Sawyer Gara on

The goal with any electro-mechanical design team is to be streamlined and connected to ensure changes are communicated properly and designs encompass all aspects of our design. However, in the real world electro-mechanical design teams are often disjointed and there is no real link between electrical data and mechanical data. For electrical schematic creation we have SOLIDWORKS Electrical Schematic and SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D to bridge the gap between the schematics and 3D assemblies. With SOLIDWORKS Electrical we have tools to help utilize typical “purchased” printed circuit boards as well as importing in printed circuit boards to use in our line diagrams or schematics. However, if you are typically creating custom printed circuit boards and want that fully represented in your SOLIDWORKS assembly then a tool like CircuitWorks might better suit your workflow.

Using CircuitWorks

CircuitWorks is an application designed to give a seamless workflow to transition between PCB designers and mechanical designers that is included with SOLIDWORKS Premium. The CircuitWorks add-in allows SOLIDWORKS users to read in typical ECAD file types such as IDF to generate associative SOLIDWORKS Parts and Assemblies to use in current and future designs. Inside of CircuitWorks, an electrical designer is able to take an existing PCB and associate at the components to library components to help SOLIDWORKS generate the parts and assemblies. ECAD users can modify component properties such as reference numbers, layer, and board side. All of this information helps maintain consistency between electrical and mechanical design. Generating the model inside of CircuitWorks will create an associative SOLIDWORKS document to use in current and future projects. These parts and assemblies will have the correct size and shape as well as the properties defined in CircuitWorks.


A tool like this bridges the gap between electrical and mechanical when working with PCBs. To learn more about CircuitWorks check out our previous blog post When Do I Need CircuitWorks.

Using SOLIDWORKS Electrical

SOLIDWORKS Electrical Schematic can represent printed circuit boards in a few different ways. The first way is to pull directly from our parts and symbols library. Printed circuit boards stored in our library will have the specific manufacturer part number and attributes as well as any relevant 2D Footprint or 3D Model for the board. This will come in handy down the line if we go into Electrical 3D as the 3D Model will be stored with the printed circuit board and we won’t need to create placeholder geometry or “space claim” models. Additionally we can import a printed circuit board directly from a compatible IDF 2.0 or 3.0 file from an outside PCB tool. Going this route gives the option to input all the relevant manufacturer information as well as any other data you would want to associate to this board.

Manufacturer part properties CircuitWorks
Manufacturer part properties CircuitWorks

Printed Circuit Boards created in this manner can be shown on our schematic a couple of different ways. The first way would be a simple line diagram and use generic symbols from our library that can be added to in order to show connection points and other components relevant to our electrical schematic. We can also insert a schematic symbol in a similar manner to the line diagram and add connection points to our symbol to show what goes in and out of the PCB.

line diagram

However, we have another and more detailed way to show our printed circuit board in our schematic. Other manufacturer parts (such as connectors) can be added and associated to an existing printed circuit board in the project to make it a more detailed definition. As a result, our component tree gives us a better understanding of what is connected to the PCB and our schematic can be more detailed. In the example below, our PCB1 has 4 connectors associated with it and as a result we can show a schematic for each connector, the pins, and the wires connected but still in the context of the PCB.


No matter which CAD system you primarily use, it is always a good idea to link your design teams on one connected platform. This can’t be understated for combining your electrical and mechanical design teams. For systems that work so integrally like electrical and mechanical, it is a great idea to make sure that the information in each system is up to date with each other. SOLIDWORKS Electrical and CircuitWorks both make great strides in connecting your PCB designs to other aspects of the design. SOLIDWORKS Electrical can read in external IDF formats to generate components in your electrical schematic and ensure the exact connectors, wires, and cables are represented and accounted for. CircuitWorks allows for a similar import of IDF formats but helps to automate the 3D representation creation for the printed circuit board to be used in your mechanical designs. We can generate a 3D Model with the correct size and heights of the PCB components while maintaining the associativity between MCAD and ECAD.