PCB Layout Software, what's currently good and free

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by SoftwareGuy, Feb 5, 2015.

  1. SoftwareGuy

    Thread Starter New Member

    Oct 29, 2013
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    Can anyone suggest a good free PCB layout tool for making simple 2 layer (2-sided) PCB's? I used Altium Designer for a couple of boards at work, but it's not available to me anymore and since it's for my hobby my boss won't spring for another license, so I'm in need of something for home. ;)
     
  2. ericgibbs

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    Jan 29, 2010
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  3. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
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    Diptrace...
    No need to look any further :)
    no really..
     
  4. MaxHeadRoom

    Expert

    Jul 18, 2013
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    Check out KiCad, Free and has a large following.
    Also a few tutorials on Utube.
    Max.
     
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  5. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
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    My vote is also for Kicad. When doing some consulting work for a start-up (ie, no budget) I used it professionally to good results. I use it for my hobby work too. The gerber files output are universally accepted.

    It is 100% free, open source, well supported, and a learning curve similar to most other products.
     
  6. Stuntman

    Active Member

    Mar 28, 2011
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    For small one-off style boards, I still like expressPCB. Keep in mind, Express PCB has their own file structure so you have to buy the boards from them (which I have found to be a great deal). If you want gerbers to take to a board house later, you have to purchase them from ExpressPCB for the tune of $60.

    All this is not meant to scare you. For prototype style boards, I use them extensively with excellent results. In terms of ease of use and simplicity, I rate them among the top, especially when using larger outline parts. That's not to say I haven't some of the nastier flavors of SMD's on it.

    I believe they have some rudimentary schematic capture features (paired with the expressSCH software), but I have not used it. The expressSCH is also very handy for quick circuits.
     
  7. ronv

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 12, 2008
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    I also used express pcb for a long time, but then had a need for gerbers. I tried a bunch of them and the learning curve drove me nuts. :eek: I then found copper connection. It is almost the same as express pcb but you can upgrade it for $45 to make gerbers. I had trouble with the others making custom components, like connectors and stuff, but found it easy with the two mentioned.
     
  8. SoftwareGuy

    Thread Starter New Member

    Oct 29, 2013
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    Thanks everyone for the help! It's great to see that there are multiple good choices, wish me luck!
     
  9. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
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    DesignSpark is also a free full functioning (unlimited size) and makes Gerber files, pen plots, pdfs, multi-layer, autorouting, ...
     
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  10. nigelwright7557

    Senior Member

    May 10, 2008
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    Buying free PCBCAD software can turn out to be expensive !
    You really need a full package with full design rule checking.
    Design rule checking is vital to not end up with a batch of pcb's that need butchering to fix them or end up in the bin.
     
  11. raumut

    New Member

    Jan 29, 2013
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    i would recommend you cadsoft eagle. the free version is available at http://www.cadsoftusa.com/

    edit: it think it can do 2-sided pcbs, but not sure anymore
     
  12. mcgyvr

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    Oct 15, 2009
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    Anyone that recommends Eagle has never used anything else.. :p
    Its inferior to many other free/low cost PCB programs..
     
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  13. dl324

    Distinguished Member

    Mar 30, 2015
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    The problem with generalizations is...

    I used a couple free programs (one was PCB Express or Express PCB, which I found lacking). Once I used Eagle, I found it could do everything I needed and haven't found any deficiencies that would warrant investing time in learning another (yet:rolleyes:).
     
  14. nerdegutta

    Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
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    I used KiCAD, and found it OK. I liked the 3D view feature. But the lack of components/libraries led me to Eagle. Eagle have all the stuff I need, and then some.

    I'd recommend Eagle, even thou the learning curve can be pretty steep.
     
  15. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
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    The absolute first thing you should learn in any PCB program before you do anything else is how to create your own components/parts (schematic symbol and land pattern)..
     
  16. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
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    ignorance is bliss :p
     
  17. nerdegutta

    Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
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    When I started with Eagle, all the components I needed was in the libraries, but after a few months using Eagle, I needed some custom parts. I find it easy to make my own parts in Eagle. Both schematic symbols and footprints.

    I didn't use KiCAD long enough, so I do not know how to make custom parts. I've used Eagle for quite some time now, and I do not think I'm going to switch to another. I even bought a license for an earlier version. But when I went from 6-something to 7-something, the license file was not valid anymore. I sent an e-mail to the company I bought the license from, but they could not help me. I might buy another license, but for now I'm all good.
     
  18. dl324

    Distinguished Member

    Mar 30, 2015
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    Contented would be a more descriptive term. When I say I'm not inclined to spend time learning another, that speaks volumes because I'm retired and have a lot of discretionary time...
     
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