schematic / PCB prog's

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by PackratKing, Apr 14, 2011.

  1. PackratKing

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2008
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    Who on here has heard of "Express" SCH / PCB for a drawing program.........I downloaded it and in the process of playing with it.
    Other threads w/ similar stuff are right when they say the onboard component libraries just plain .......er........stink?

    Not much invested in it thus far, just need to find out if it's worth keeping. I have to find something, or polish my drawing skills and put up pix of the result :D
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2011
  2. SgtWookie

    Expert

    Jul 17, 2007
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    You can do a lot with ExpressPCB/ExpressSCH. You can add to the library. It's not terribly sophisticated, but does just fine for lots of folks.

    I use Cadsoft Eagle. It has quite a few more features. It also takes a lot longer to learn.
     
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  3. tracecom

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 16, 2010
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    I spent a week or so learning and using ExpressSchematic and ExpressPCB. I even ordered some PCB's from them. Overall a positive experience until I wanted more PCB's for a lower price. Found out that the industry expects Gerber files which ExpressPCB doesn't provide the user.

    So, I spent lots of time (like weeks) trying to learn Eagle. It was not for me; nothing worked the way I expected it to. I really tried.

    Then, I tried DipTrace, which was a little harder to learn than Express but not terribly difficult. There is a free version, but I liked it well enough that I bought the entry level package. I designed some boards, had one that I exported Gerber files for and ordered from China. Took a month, but I wound up with 13 2.5x3.8 inch double sided, silk screened, solder masked boards for $44. The downside to DipTrace is that it was developed in Russia, so the manual is clumsily written, and the program is continually under development. They have just made available a new Beta version, with a finalized release in a month or two. There are lots of library files for components, but they lack consistency in standards and I end up redesigning many of them when I want to use them.

    My recommendation is to skip ExpressPCB and spend your time learning something that will output Gerber files.
     
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  4. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    I currently use Express, then modify the pads (don't like the stock drawings) and then make my own PCB. I do not buy premade PCBs, and I don't think I ever will.

    Why do you think Express doesn't make Gerber files? I don't know either way, but I thought they were. Remember, PCB Express outputs are meant to feed a PCB manufacturer.

    The first thing I did in Express is re-lay out the 555 to a format I (and most of the world) are more comfortable with. When drawing a schematic for general consumption I'll still use M/S Paint.
     
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  5. John P

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 14, 2008
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    I have an old version of OrCAD that I'm perfectly happy with, and I use FreePCB (which really is free off the Internet) for PCB layout. Interaction between the two is via a PADS-format netlist. Eagle is popular, but it's only free if you use very small boards and a limited number of components.

    You might look into KiCad, but being satisfied with the setup I have, I don't know enough about alternatives to have an opinion on what's good.
     
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  6. tracecom

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 16, 2010
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    Bill,

    I guess this question was a response to my post, so I will answer.

    I believe that ExpressSCH and ExpressPCB are freeware distributed by http://www.expresspcb.com/, but to get printed circuit boards commercially made from the ExpressPCB files, one has to order them from the web site previously mentioned. This is because there is no way for the end user to generate Gerber files from the ExpressPCB files. At least that's the way it worked the one and only time I have ordered from them. They provided a quality product with a quick turnaround, but by the time I added on a silk screen and shipping, their 3 PCB's for $51 became 3 PCB's for $84 (IIRC.)

    I have read (on the web) that they will sell you the Gerber files that they create from the ExpressPCB files that you create, but I don't know if that's true or not.
     
  7. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    Good enough. Since I make my own PCBs I can live without Gerber files. I've serviced Gerber machines before for a photographic services shop that was a part of Alcatel. This was also where I got to do hands on with their FeCl etching machine.

    First step in any project is to draw a schematic. Normally for me this means PaintCAD, but the graphic files (though pretty) are useless for the PCB process. This means you have to redraw the schematic using their program (Express Sch). It has a library of parts, but it may not be like what you want, so it has the ability to draw new parts from scratch. At this point you are defining what pins connect to what components, nothing more. This is used to create something called a netlist, a look up file that give the program how the schematic is wired.

    This schematic must be precise, including all the pinouts and inputs, including power wires. Just for laughs I'm including a project I'm working on. I've modified the express schematic somewhat, but you can see how I'm making the translation. Both these prints are obsolete, the finished PCB was going to be too large, but one is a translation of the other.

    At this point the Express.sch file is only a graphic with point to point encoded. It can not simulate, and to the program it is only a reference file. You have to link this file to the Express.pcb file. The PCB program uses the netlist to show you what point have to connect to which points. This is a major help, but you have to do the routing yourself. Again, it includes a different library of components, and you can draw new ones from scratch. You'll probably have to, since it isn't as complete as the sch program.

    All of these programs go through a very similar process, including (or is that especially) the netlist. It can be frustrating to make a finished PCB (especially if you paid a lot of money for it) and find out you left some wires/traces out.

    That project I showed you, I've been working on it for over two weeks. It is time to take a break when all you can see is the screen background of the PCB program when you close your eyes. It is a lot of work. However, it makes the assembly of the project a dream. It is moving the bulk of the work designing the project up front, and the back half becomes a piece of cake, provided you didn't have any brain farts (I made a PCB inverted while learning this software, ARRGHH!). I threw it away, used Gimp to invert it again, then made a new one.

    What you are looking at I suspect is the schematic graphics program.

    My suggestion, start small. One chip, say a blinky light. You don't have to build it, but laying it and the PCB is good practice, and if it is small to begin with you don't loose a lot of work through a brain fart. And there will be brain farts.

    If you want I can help somewhat if you provide the schematic.

    The only reason I don't use Eagle (which is better by far) is it is too darn picky about components, its library is huge. If I'm trying to find a ¼W resistor I don't need to go through a catalog of parts. This program could use a serious makeover in the generic components section. It would allow a user to start small, and build on practice.

    Eagle Lite also limits board sizes, which is not a problem with Express. Express would like you to make huge boards, as it is much more money for them.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2011
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  8. nerdegutta

    Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
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    I'm a Linux guy, and I've used KiCad. Mostly because of the in-built 3D function. The library was not too big, but then againg, it was easy to import components and footprints.

    I've tried ExpressSCH/ExpressSPCB, but I didn't like it much. (Tried it mostly beacuse I needed to see a schematic.)

    Now I'm using Eagle. I find it easy to use, and the library is searchable. When I've drawn my schematic and designed my board, I use PovRay to make a 3D image of the board. That way I'll get a feeling of how it looks.

    I guess Altium and Diptrace also have a built in 3D modelling function, but this is Windows-ware...
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2011
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  9. PackratKing

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2008
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    To BLAZES with this P.O.S....:mad:....C.A.D., this "express" monstrosity, is a crock !!

    I can draw schematics freehand faster than this !! :D they'll suit me just fine, and look better too !!
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2011
  10. beenthere

    Retired Moderator

    Apr 20, 2004
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    Now you have found out why I make my schematics using the PCB part of Tango. I have made all my symbols, as the finished product looks much better than any other schematic made by some schematic capture app.

    However, we will lay this to rest as you have requested.
     
  11. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    Unfortunately all the PCB makers require a schematic for the netlist. I generally draw my schematic with PaintCAD first, it helps translate for Express PCB.
     
  12. beenthere

    Retired Moderator

    Apr 20, 2004
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    No netlist is understood. But I don't use autorouting. The board attached took about as long to do by hand as by autorouting (this in the day of 486 computers).
     
  13. PackratKing

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2008
    850
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    Even tho' I decided that the cad programs weren't what I was hoping, People here put up some good information.
    I appreciate your efforts, it was not in vain.

    I don't do enough in electronics, that would call for factory-made pc boards, much less any amount requiring cad design, anything I build, is usually only one short jump behind concept and drawing anyway. :D
    For my lean toward overkill, traces on mass-product boards just don't have enough beef

    Thank you again.:)
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2011
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