What software to create PCB's?

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by superduper, Jan 19, 2011.

  1. superduper

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Dec 5, 2010
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    I have a project and want to order a run of PCB's. The project I want to make is the sample board provided on page 15 of this amplifier by NXP:

    http://www.nxp.com/documents/data_sheet/TFA9843J.pdf

    I tried to get quotes from several manufacturers and they would not quote because they say they cannot produce the PCB using the info I gave them. They want it in gerber and drill files. So I found some PCB manufacturers online and downloaded their free PCB creator software but found them not very easy to use -- certainly not as easy as they claim. Also, the NXP chip uses a pin layout that is not standard (at least, not in their library). Then I found that the files are proprietary for that company only and can't be exported to a file type that can be used to obtain quotes from other companies. My local PCB manufacturer does not provide a free software. For obvious reasons, I don't want to do this over and over again using each manufacturers own free software just to obtain a quote from a file that isn't portable to obtain quotes from other companies.

    Does anyone know of a software that can create "standard" types of files that is portable enough to be able to obtain quotes from different vendors but doesn't cost an arm and a leg? Also, component manufacturers frequently release sample PCB designs for their components but as I discovered, the pdf file can't be used to quote. So a software that allows me to import a pdf would be a big plus.

    Finally, if anyone is proficient in creating these files and can make this file for me, I may be interested in compensating you fairly for your work.

    Thanks.
     
  2. beenthere

    Retired Moderator

    Apr 20, 2004
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    I use ExpressPCB. I have extensive CAD experience, so it seems pretty easy to use their app. It is also simple to create parts not in the provided libraries.

    Once you have the design, the app will let you make choices about the final PCB's and give you the cost of making the boards.

    No matter how you go about it, making a couple of PCB's is expensive.
     
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  3. John P

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 14, 2008
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    I use FreePCB and it's great.

    http://files.myopera.com/John98wbr/albums/661338/IMG_3282.JPG
    http://files.myopera.com/John98wbr/albums/661338/panel.jpg

    It comes with access to an auto-router. By which I mean, the router isn't on your computer, in fact it's in Germany, but it interacts with your computer as it runs.

    The second picture shows a panel made up to produce several each of 5 different boards. The manufacturer offers a fixed price for a panel of a certain size, so I designed the boards to get the maximum value. Then they actually sent me more than twice as many boards as I ordered:

    http://files.myopera.com/John98wbr/albums/661338/pcb.JPG
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2011
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  4. Wendy

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    Mar 24, 2008
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  5. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
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    Last edited: Jan 19, 2011
  6. superduper

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Dec 5, 2010
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    Hey guys. Thanks for your replies. Yes, the product is no longer current but it can still be purchased. I do have a few dozen that I purchased before it was discontinued and I'd like to put them to use. They will be used to retrofit older portable stereos. However, in order to do that, I will first need to be able to "burn" that board.

    As for the PCB software recommendations, am I right that those software only works to obtain quotes from the vendor that distributed it or can the resulting file also be used to upload to other vendors as well to receive quotes? I don't want to recreate the same file over and over again using different software each time just to receive a quote.
     
  7. beenthere

    Retired Moderator

    Apr 20, 2004
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    You may find that the only way out of that situation is to purchase enough of a CAD package that you can produce Gerber 247X files. Those are pretty universal.
     
  8. John P

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 14, 2008
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    FreePCB generates industry-standard Gerber files. So does Eagle, if you're thinking of trying that. Then there are several programs that produce a proprietary output format.
     
  9. jpanhalt

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 18, 2008
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    I use Eagle. There is such joy in making your first new library part that nothing can match it.

    John
     
  10. superduper

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Dec 5, 2010
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    Thanks for all the help fellas. I just downloaded diptrace today. They have a free version with a 200 pin limit and a non-profit lite version which is offered at no-cost with a 500 pin limit. I then watched their tutorial and it looks like just the ticket I need. Seems like it's also far more powerful and easier to use than the free stuff I've tried before although I'd admit that the video tutorial may've made it seem easier -- the others didn't have that.

    I've just installed it and will be playing with it tomorrow but I suspect I might've finally found one that'll do what I want, until I exceed the pin limit.

    One more question I have though. I've seen this term before but what's an easy explanation for net or netlines?
     
  11. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
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    The netlist tells which pins that are connected with each other. Each net has unique name. Either an automatic label, or a label given by you like GND. The netlist is generated by the schematic tool, and imported by the PCB tool. The netlist is a point to point list
    By the way. Before you produce your card. Post it here for a review
     
  12. tom66

    Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
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    I'm surprised no-one has mentioned gEDA and PCB. These are great free tools, but a bit difficult to use. I design all my electronics with them. But, they only run on Linux. So you need to either use andLinux or Cygwin to run them on Windows, or a virtual machine, or a dual boot system. The libaries are pretty big and it exports gerbers.
     
  13. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    As a Mac user, I cast a vote for DipTrace and Eagle. Both are available for Mac and offer free versions that are more than ample for anything I'll use them for.

    I haven't used either of them enough to recommend one over the other, however the tour and tutorial provided with DipTrace is a BIG boost for a newbie. These programs are complex if you're new to them and the learning curve is steep. Those introductory materials are a huge help.
     
  14. superduper

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Dec 5, 2010
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    I can't stress how true that is. I've spent hours and days making one simple board on a free program only to not be happy with the result and dreading doing it over once more on another program which I needed to learn all over again. Any tool, no matter how powerful, isn't much use if it can't be mastered.



    Thanks for that explaning about the "net". That is a pretty simple explanation. These programs never explain what it is and the manual does not have an index or glossary. When it's done, I will post it for you guys to review. Thanks. :)
     
  15. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
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    These tools are very powerful. One part of the package also helps design silicon masks, the ultimate in "PC Boards".

    Netlists, as stated above, are text files that explain what pins are connected to what other pins, basically. A "schematic capture" program, like Eagle or multisim or (many options here), will allow you to create and simulate a circuit, then it generates the netlist for you, which allows the board autorouter to plop everything onto the PCB and route the connections.

    Autorouting works good in some cases, such as logic with busses, not so good in other areas. As long as it has the Electrical Rule Check(ERC) and Drill Rule Check (DRC) which continually ensures you aren't violating the netlist connections or overlapping holes, manual routing is pretty easy anyway.
     
  16. tiny747

    New Member

    Jul 31, 2010
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    Nets are hypothetical lines that connect to the pins of your circuit. For example, you might have a net labeled +5volts that connects to all of the pins that need a +5 volt. Another might be a GND net. etc. The nets help the auto router. The auto router uses the nets to figure out the best way to wire the board for you. Nets are NOT copper. After you create the nets you will still need to run the copper wires to each pin or have the auto router do it. Hope that helps a little.
     
  17. superduper

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Dec 5, 2010
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    DipTrace is great. Been using it today and works like a charm -- much better and pleasant to use than any of the "free" software distributed by PCB manufacturers that I've tried. HUGE library too. Unfortunately, I still need to work some things out. Firstly, the board routed on both sides. I prefer a 1-sided board with jumpers if necessary. Normally, I would say that a double sided board is fine except that the software routed the vias as shared with the components. Well, I don't care too much if we are talking resistors, transistors, IC's even. But on large 1000uf caps and header strips -- soldering the top side is gonna be an issue since those are mounted flush onto the board. Haven't figured out how to "force" the software to route using single layer only.
     
  18. aq_rules

    Member

    Oct 28, 2009
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    i use pcb wizard its great...
     
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