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8 Essential tools for a Hardware Design Engineer

Hi all Hardware Design Engineers,

what tools do you use every day to do your job? What tools are essential for you and which you found very useful?. Feel free to share and leave your comments.

– Robert


Here is my list of the things what I found useful or what I use when I work on a hardware design.

Tools & Accessories

  • Soldering station Weller WES51. Minimum one, two are very useful when de-soldering (Essential)
  • Microscope IND-2Z. Enables me to work directly on the table and soldering under microscope (Very useful)
  • Power Supply HY3005-3 (Very useful, but if I could, I would choose power supply where power rails can be individually switched off)
  • Magnifier, Eye glass x7 (Essential)
  • Digital Calipper, measure in inch and mm (Very useful)
  • Tweezer (Essential)
  • 0.5mm Tin (Essential)
  • Braid (Essential)
  • FLUX (Essential)
  • FLUX remover (Very useful)
  • Scalpel handle and Blades (Very useful)
  • Colour ribbon cable (Useful)
  • A white tape. White because it’s easy to write on it (Useful)


  • PC or Laptop. I use Dell Latitude E6400 (Screen resolution 1440×900) and I am extremely satisfied (Essential)
  • Second monitor (Must have), Currently I use ASUS VE247H
  • Printer (Must have), currently I use HP LaserJet 1022, but an A3 printer would be much better :(


  • Altium Designer, my favorite tool  (Essential)
  • Orcad used together with Cadence Allegro
  • Cadence Allegro for advanced PCB layout
  • Blueprint-PCB for assembly drawings
  • MS Excel for calculations (e.g memory length matching, …)
  • Free ViewMate gerber viewer (Very useful)
  • Free PDF Creator to print into pdf (Very useful)
  • Free VMware Player. I run most of my work under virtual machines. It’s then very easy to backup complete work/system. In case of something happened to my laptop, I can always start image of my virtual machine on a different computer and continue at work. (Very useful)

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  • Vik1228

    What does Cadence Allegro know what Altium not?
    Can you make Power Integrity, Signal Integrity with Altium?

    • http://www.fedevel.com Robert Feranec

      Hi Vik,
      Cadence Allegro has an excellent Constrains Manager which allows to set rules for many things e.g. – include a track length in package; – set rules to make branches of a signal the same length; – set rules with relative length (used when some signals depends on other signals, often used with clock length)Also, this is my feeling, Allegro behaves better way during layout – for example, length tuning in Allegro is much more comfortable than in Altium – a kind of more intelligent. Same when you are drawing tracks – moving, shifting, …I don’t use Altium for Power Integrity or Signal integrity – so I don’t know.

      • Vik1228


        Your blog is the best high speed design page what I have ever seen.
        I saw your videos where you did DDR2 or DDR3 memory connection layout with Altium Designer. You don’t use Power and Signal Integrity on that board. Not necessary?  Why? Did you send that design to manufacturing? Everything work on it? Calculate signals width, gap and setup the stack up to correct differencial impadence and thats all…   Where and How did you get your high speed design knowledge? Can you offer me a good book or books whereby I can learn ?
        Thanks a lot.

      • http://www.fedevel.com Robert Feranec

        Hi Viki, thank you.
        All the boards are working, no problems. I do simulate, when it’s necessary (e.g. when I have to break too many rules from design guide), but I don’t simulate every time and everything – that would take a lot of time. I follow design guides – that’s how I work and how I learn – no special books. Have a nice day, – Robert

  • Philip McCorkle

    I agree with Vik. Robert, your tutorials, videos and various work have become a large portion in my bookmarks. Thank you for doing all that you do.

    • http://www.fedevel.com Robert Feranec

      Thank you very much Philip. I am very happy to know, that this blog is interesting for you :) Have a very nice day, – Robert

  • alex

    Hi guys. At Upverter (upverter.com) we developed awesome cloud-based engineering tools that allow hardware designers to create, share, simulate and review their designs online for free.

    We give anyone the opportunity to fork other members’ open source designs as well.

    You can even import your Eagle files in our software and work on them anywhere at any time!

    What do you think?

    Have a great day!

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