ECAD Data migration or data conversion

ECAD Data Migration vs. Data Conversion

Essential for tool change in the field of electronics development - but exactly what is the difference?

Electrical and electronic design data represent a valuable investment, which should be used and reused as much as possible. In today’s rapidly changing business environment with mergers and takeovers, changing business relations, and technological progress, you may frequently become confronted with changing tools and formats.

In order to preserve the investment into existing design data throughout the product lifecycle, there will always be a requirement to process the original design data using a more modern and powerful ECAD tool.

Processing is often required for a variety of reasons: product changes, component obsolescence, improvements for production, or legal framework conditions.

The data sets are the core of any electronics (PCB-CAD) or electrical (Electrical-CAD) product development; they must therefore be available throughout the entire lifecycle. We are talking about periods of up to 40 years of product life cycle, which are offset by a much shorter period for PCB-CAD and Electrical-CAD tools.

ECAD Data migration or data conversion?

To ensure a smooth process of EDA data transfer from one ECAD tool to another ECAD tool, we first need to understand the terminology.

  • During ECAD data conversion, the original data is transferred to the target system as precisely as possible. This allows further development of the designs in the target system in the future.
  • During ECAD data migration, the data transfer involves a concurrent automated adaptation of the legacy data to meet new requirements in the target system. With the help of analysis and mapping, changes are made during the data transfer to adapt the dataset. The migrated data then matches the specified requirements and is available for further processing in the future.

Modern and powerful migration software within the EDA environment – such as Zuken MigrationLink – are ideally equipped for both variants.

What is the difference between PCB-CAD and Electrical-CAD data?

The authoring tools used are tailored to the needs of the respective industry/development sector. Due to increased technological requirements, digital transformation in companies, company mergers, or new approaches in design processes, requests for data migration arise again and again.

PCB-CAD tools are used in electronic product design to design circuit diagrams, which in turn are required as a basis for the development of printed circuit boards. The physical design of the PCBs, the so-called routing, is carried out with interactive routing tools in 2D and also in 3D. A comprehensive set of design rules helps to develop a product that meets the requirements of the desired functions and can also be manufactured cost-effectively and safely.

Electrical engineering CAD tools for creating circuit diagrams in general electrical engineering are mainly used in the fields of mechanical and automotive engineering. This involves the creation of data for cable diagrams – wire harnesses and cable assemblies – control cabinets – pneumatic and hydraulic applications.

Integration into data management as a success factor

All electrical and electronics CAD authoring tools offered by Zuken today are complemented by closely integrated data management systems and have interfaces to 3D CAD systems for the mechanical integration of the electronics and electrical assemblies. Adaptations of the source data required for this can and should also be taken into account in a data migration project.

Proper preparation prevents poor performance

Especially for data migration! When migrating PCB CAD data or electrical engineering CAD data, complex requirements must be fulfilled: the most diverse file formats of the source systems are to be read. Furthermore, a thorough analysis of the source data is required. This concerns schematic data and layout data as well as netlists, design rules, and technology rules.

  • PCB-CAD: Libraries for circuit symbols and for components (PCB with footprints, padstacks, part descriptions)
  • Electrical CAD: libraries of components for electrical design with function templates and commercial data for procurement

On top of this, the component libraries have to be analyzed with regard to data redundancy and compared to the master data on the ERP side. Standardizations in the naming of design objects (ANSI, IEC, DIN) also have to be taken into account.

And finally, the source data has to be checked for errors and cleared to rule out any chance of these errors being “smuggled” into further design and manufacturing processes.

About the ECAD migration process

For ECAD migration or conversion, the tools need to be able to:

  • Automated migration steps through batch processing
  • Creation of process and, if necessary, error logs
  • Flexible adaptation of the software to customer requirements
    • mapping of attributes
    • mapping of layers
    • mapping of text
    • voice control
    • programmatic options
  • Automated quality control in PCB-CAD design with a comparison of source and target system of:
    • netlists
    • Printed circuit board data using Gerber comparison
    • placement data
    • variant data
    • sheet information of the circuit diagram
  • Automated quality control for electrical schematics with a comparison of source and target system of:
    • connectivity data
    • cable lists
    • parts lists
    • schematic sheets


It is essential to carefully consider the differences in data models when converting or migrating data from different ECAD tools for schematic, printed circuit board (PCB), and electrical design.

Mapping and configurations drive the migration software, taking into account attributes, layers, and languages. The wide range of programming options enables exact customization and thus ensures continued processing of the original data in the target system.

A comparison of the source and target is used to verify the data migration:

  • this includes netlists, variant data, assembly data, and Gerber data for electronic circuit diagrams and printed circuit board designs.
  • Connectivity data, cable, and part lists when migrating electrical schematics.

A properly executed migration of product data allows organizations to capitalize on great potential for resource savings when considering the product lifecycle and the design process (ROI).

Martin Santen
Martin Santen
Manager eCAD, Technical Competence Center
Martin Santen is managing the eCAD team, responsible for service and project activities to establish Zuken solution for our customers. He is helping customers with high-level technical discovery to improve their design development processes. He likes action sports like mountain biking, alpine skiing and competes in triathlons.