Cheapest & Easiest solution for a custom PCB

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by wdfreemanjr, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. wdfreemanjr

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 6, 2011

    I am just tinkering around, but I need to design a custom PCB. What is the cheapest and or fastest PCB method for creating one. DIY

    Thanks in advance,
  2. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    I do it in pencil and then cut it with a Dremel with a tapered diamond bit/ Surface mount only, no through holes.

    Of course, the "modern" solution is Protel but you need an assistant to hold your nose while using it. I absolutely HATED using Protel.
  3. SgtWookie


    Jul 17, 2007
    This thread is related:

    This is the IC that our OP needs the board for:


    Looks like a non-standard DFN type, and unless the datasheet is available, it will be tough to figure out what the dimensions need to be.

    If your hands are steady enough,and eyesight good enough to manually draw out DFN pads, go for it. I wouldn't want to waste my time, as it would take me forever.

    You could use Cadsoft Eagle; which is available in a freeware mode for non-profit use. You can design 1-page schematics and 2-layer boards that are up to ~3" x ~4".

    You will most likely need to design a library part for your IC.

    If you are going to try Cadsoft Eagle, then I strongly recommend Sparkfun's Eagle tutorial:
    If you are not willing to spend the time going through the tutorial, you may as well not bother even trying to use Eagle, as you will be frustrated and feel lost. Trust me on this. I spent months trying to get by just using the Help files for everything. The SparkFun tutorial route would have been so much easier.

    Eagle is not exactly easy to learn, but it is very powerful.

    ExpressPCB/ExpressSCH is free and unlimited as far as number of layers and board size, except ExpressPCB is the only board house that can use the files exported by the program - and they are not exactly cheap. I don't care too much for the program, but it's better than doing it by hand.
  4. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
    He said the pitch was the same as an SOIC, so an SOIC outline with "stretched" soldering pads should do the trick, since that DFN looks to be about the "square" dimensions of an SOIC with the leads.
  5. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
  6. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
  7. SgtWookie


    Jul 17, 2007
    As I tried to explain in the other thread, RF modules won't work well on a breadboard, as far too many parasitics will be introduced.

    Also, this module has an antenna embedded in it; if that area is not as per the datasheet specifications, not only will performance be very poor, but if it is a transmitter, it may actually be damaged by the impedance mismatch.
  8. jimkeith

    Active Member

    Oct 26, 2011
    I like they provide friendly but powerful layout software-- (3) 2.5" x 3.8" prototypes cost $51--fast service and great quality
  9. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
    While ExpressPCB my lack in some features and may not be adequate for your needs, it is extremely easy to use for a newbie like myself.

    I may someday graduate to Eagle Cad but for now I will stick to ExpressPCB.
  10. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
    You'd think by now somebody would have made a nifty hack-tool that would convert ExpressPCB files into Gerber compliant board and drill files.

    I doubt ExpressPCB has their entire setup running on non-standard equipment, so they probably translate the file somehow, but I guess it is possible that they don't use standard equipment.
  11. SgtWookie


    Jul 17, 2007
    I don't know of a utility to directly convert ExpressPCB to Gerber.

    However, you could print ExpressPCB files to a PDF, and then convert the PDF to Gerber and Excellon drill files using pdf2gerb: