Looking for PCB design software suitable for club use.

Robin Mitchell

Joined Oct 25, 2009
819
@Gibson486 What you said about 1 hour to familiarise, bang on point! KiCad is a FANTASTIC software package that does schematic capture, PCB production, gerber export, DSN import / export, can be used with free router, supports up to 16 layers, damn responsive, good DRC, and as Gibson mentioned, its free.
 

eetech00

Joined Jun 8, 2013
2,762
I am looking for some PCB design software that would be suitable for the members of my club to use. Abilities range from absolute beginners, to ex-pro engineers.
As it has been a long time since I have designed my own pcb's, I had been thinking of Design Spark, but the site is down for maintenance.
So something that is preferably free and with the ability to draw schematics with an extensive parts catalogue, and able to convert to PCB.
I'm hoping to find one that it is intuitive and suitable for beginners as well as the more advanced users. If this is a contradiction in requirements, then maybe two different ones that cover both ends of the spectrum.
I recently built them a large U.V exposure box and although there are preferred alternatives, we have about 6 lbs of Ferric Chloride for etching. We are also lucky to have been donated a lot of single and double sided pre-sensitized PCB's, and another local company is willing to give us all their off-cuts.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated :)

P.S We have been offered for a nominal charge, a second user version of "Circuit Wizard" Does anyone have experience with this, Pro's and con's?
I think Design Spark PCB would be an excellent choice.
It’s free, has schematic editor, has No board size or layer restrictions, outputs gerber files, has a built in 3D viewer, and integrates with LTspice simulator. It’s also supported by Design Spark Mechanical. The Parts library editor is excellent.

I’ve been using this for a few years and no complaints..

eT
 

Picbuster

Joined Dec 2, 2013
1,027
@Gibson486 What you said about 1 hour to familiarise, bang on point! KiCad is a FANTASTIC software package that does schematic capture, PCB production, gerber export, DSN import / export, can be used with free router, supports up to 16 layers, damn responsive, good DRC, and as Gibson mentioned, its free.
I use it a lot great stuff however: the bom generator is not a handy thing.
I build a new one using the .net files and .pos files to make a component list separated in top and bottom layer.
( handy to build your proto's)
Also included a filter allowing to discard unwanted things like position in component lib plus a DNM(do not mount) component list.
It's a quick one and not really a representable one.( can't bring it to world yet)

Picbuster
 

ronsoy2

Joined Sep 25, 2013
71
You seem to be going for DIY etching. Make sure the software you pick will output a 1:1 size photo image to a printer you have! You will need an INKJET printer, NOT a laser printer! Inkjet printers have substantially darker blacks than laser printers for exposure. Note that some PCB software will NOT output a 1:1 printer image! You may have to use a gerber to image converter software in that case. (more complications) If you are sending your files to a board house all you need is the gerber and drill file. No image is necessary.
 
if everyone works on their own PCB, any of the options they give you are valid, although I would add PADS Maker, which allows you to search for components in Digikey and incorporate them into the project via Partquest. But if you ever need to work collaboratively I have not been able to find a free alternative better than Circuit Maker that also allows you to search for components in Octopart and incorporate them immediately into the project; It has everything that EasyEDA is missing.
 

Thread Starter

recklessrog

Joined May 23, 2013
985
You seem to be going for DIY etching. Make sure the software you pick will output a 1:1 size photo image to a printer you have! You will need an INKJET printer, NOT a laser printer! Inkjet printers have substantially darker blacks than laser printers for exposure. Note that some PCB software will NOT output a 1:1 printer image! You may have to use a gerber to image converter software in that case. (more complications) If you are sending your files to a board house all you need is the gerber and drill file. No image is necessary.
I have not had any problems using a laser printer and transparencies, the Lexmark 310d produces very dense prints although a Brother laser printer did not. Two overlaid transparencies work well.
I spent a lot of time last year experimenting with building a U.V exposure box. I found that if I used a weak source, I got more edge seepage and less defined traces.
I built two boxes, one with four 13 W U.V insect killer tubes, and a smaller one with 90 U.V L.E.D's. Both will fully expose the pre-coated boards in around 2 minutes with very sharp edges with no visible under edge exposing.
Most important is to make very close contact between the transparency and the pcb. to do this I place a large weight to press down the board onto the transparency and glass plate of the U.V box.
 
There are multile low cost PCB design software available, Eagle, KiCad, PCB Wizard, DipTrace, just to name a few. Each of them have its pros and cons. Most of previous replies shared comments on Eagle, KiCad & DipTrace. I'll give some general comment on PCB Wizard:
  • Pros - With a highly user friendly interface and a limited component set, it is perfect for hobbyists and those are that just starting out in the field of PCB design. Offered as freeware, it further lends itself to non-professional users.
  • Cons - limited to single sided and dual sided PCB board production. And it lacks a 3D viewing component seen in several other software packages.
If you have budget for commercial PCB design software, here's a survey on commonly used PCB design software.
 
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