Hi Gordon,

I am using SPECCTRA together with Protel for some years now. I support most
of Mike Reagans arguments and observations. I tried to route complex
designs with Protels router, and it did not even start, but produced
nothing but error messages. Even single nets were not touched by the
router. The last board I tried the router on was a 6U cPCI board with some
1100 components on both sides, 14 layers (4 power, 10 signal). I did a
significant number of preroutes for critical signals. A try with Protels
router resulted in a complete failure already during router setup. So, in
order to have a complex board autorouted, you will need SPECCTRA or
something similar for the time being. I still route high-speed signals
manually. For me, a high speed signal starts well above 100MHz and
significant trace length, but that is just a question of definition.
SPECCTRA has very good results when it comes to routing completion, but
seems quite allergic to restrictions of any kind (like lots of fixed
preroutes or plenty of different net width and spacing definitions). The
version I use includes all available options apart from high speed option.
This does not sound as funny any more when you realise that the FST option
(FaST, high speed option, meaning mainly that you can define absolute net
length, pairing and length matching) costs about the same as the router
with all other options together. Buy FST option, and the price doubles.
Nice to have, anyhow.

When using SPECCTRA, use it under NT or Win2K. I don't know which version
Mike is using. I have been working for years with V7, which worked well
under Win9x and 128MB plus. Now, after having updated to V10, it does not
work under Win9x any more (actually it does work, but any other program
invoked later crashes due to lack of resources). SPECCTRA V10 claims your
complete workstation under Win9x. If you got 1GB of RAM, it claims it.
Completely. It does not under Win2K.

Ivan, the biggest design we successfully routed with the Protel router was
a 3U Euro-size board with a couple of QFPs, about 200 components, and 6
layers (2 power, 4 signal). Jobs like that one work fine, but take a long
time to complete.


Gisbert Auge
N.A.T. GmbH

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