Pcb Software

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Dr.killjoy, Dec 20, 2015.

  1. Dr.killjoy

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2013
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    I know there alot of threads on which PCB software to use .. I have tried a couple different ones found to be a pain and wind up hand drawing each circuit out on paper . My problems comes as I want to make my own PCB. Is there any software that has like a step by step tutorial on using the software and can it be a free software ??


    Thanks
     
  2. ISB123

    Well-Known Member

    May 21, 2014
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    DesignSpark PCB
     
  3. Dr.killjoy

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2013
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    Are there any good tutorials on using the software ??
     
  4. ISB123

    Well-Known Member

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  5. nerdegutta

    Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
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    Long term Eagle user here.

    Would it be possible to see a picture of one of you boards? Handdrawn and etched?
     
  6. dl324

    Distinguished Member

    Mar 30, 2015
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    Which have you tried and what things did you find painful?

    Eagle was the third freeware PCB program I tried and I stopped there.
     
  7. nigelwright7557

    Distinguished Member

    May 10, 2008
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    Most PCBCAD programs work the same.
    You place components then join the pins with tracks.

    The fun comes when you dont have the component in a library, then you have to make your own.
    However some packages do have component wizards to help ease the pain.
     
  8. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
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    I have always thought that Diptrace was easy. Express PCB / Schematic even easier.
     
  9. Lestraveled

    Well-Known Member

    May 19, 2014
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    Copper connection - 3 levels, Free, $49, $99. Outputs gerber and is printer friendly, pretty easy, with tutorials

    Express PCB, Free schematic capture and PCB program. Easiest schematic and PCB program out there. Express PCB is a board maker so the file format is proprietary. BUT, Copper connection can read edit and output gerber files from a ExpressPCB file.
     
  10. benta

    Member

    Dec 7, 2015
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    I've used FreePCB for the last 7 years. Free/open source with a good library.
    Input is PADS netlist, output is Gerber.
    Very easy to use, good editing capabilities, good step-by-step documentation and good component/footprint editor.
    www.freepcb.com

    Benta.
     
  11. MaxHeadRoom

    Expert

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  12. Dr.killjoy

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2013
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    I am not asking which one was better but one that has a great tutorial and easy to use .. Cuase I tried many times to use these programs and just have a hard time understanding or how to use them cause I am old school with pencil and paper.. The furthest and best results I got is with eagle and designspark .. My problem are that I get lost with all the videos and text for the tutorial on designspark and just a pain to use..Oh what program does most PCB build house use ??
     
  13. elec_mech

    Senior Member

    Nov 12, 2008
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    Dr.killjoy, I had a similar dilemma. I tried several PCB programs, both free and paid, and in a nutshell, here's what you need to know:
    • All PCB build houses use Gerber files which are made using any PCB program, regardless of type. Think of it like using MS Word vs. WordPad vs. Word Perfect to write a resume. They all work slightly differently (controls, shortcuts, etc.), but in the end they all allow you to make the same resume that gets printed to put into an employers hand. Same thing with PCB software - they all work slightly different, but in the end they all generate Gerber files which is what you send to board houses.
    • Unfortunately, all PCB programs have a learning curve. Much like electronics in general, they take some practice to become proficient and rarely will you find an A-Z guide stepping you through their operation. Not to say you can't find some how-to guides on the Web, but I haven't come across a great guide that explains their operation succinctly. Most have user manuals though.
    • As others have stated ExpressPCB is, by and far, the simplest PCB program to use. You simply open it, place pads (they have a good-sized library) and make connections. Making your own pads, if needed, is pretty simple. The only caveat is ExpressPCB does not generate Gerber files. They make their own so you can only use ExpressPCB for your boards. If the prices are okay to you, then great. If prices are okay for prototyping but you want to then take them to a less expensive board house, you can buy the Gerber file (if memory serves this was between $60-80 USD). Alternately, I've had ExpressPCB files made at Futurlec for much less than ExpressPCB charges. They are somehow able to accept the ExpressPCB file, so no paying extra for the Gerber file (no need to use ExpressPCB board house at all). However, they take about month to get and you can get boards cheaper still by using any other PCB software to get Gerber files.
    • I use DipTrace, but you pay for it. While I'm getting decent at using it, I can still make a PCB in ExpressPCB much faster because it is extremely easy to use. KiCAD gotten a lot of high marks on AAC and it's free, but the one time I attempted to use it, I ran into problems. This was all of five minutes and a couple of years ago, so I'm not saying not to try it.
    • I suggest downloading a couple of PCB programs and play with them for ten minutes or so each. If they feel intuitive, look for how-to guides written by other users (perhaps the manufacturer themselves) and go from there. If you simply want to make a PCB as simple as possible and cost isn't a huge issue at this point, start with ExpressPCB. It is the most intuitive without you needing to know how to do a bunch of separate steps to make a simple board.
    Just my two cents . . .
     
  14. Lestraveled

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    elec_mech likes this.
  15. elec_mech

    Senior Member

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  16. MaxHeadRoom

    Expert

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    I thought I had logged into the Cooking site for a minute!:p
    Max.
     
    Lestraveled likes this.
  17. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

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  18. Dr.killjoy

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2013
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    I have been watching the diptrace vids and have learned alot so far .. But have a couple questions .. When your finished the PCB can you download the Gerber files with freeware program ??
    Has anyone had a problem with the 300 pin limit .. Is there any issues or problems with the software ??
     
  19. elec_mech

    Senior Member

    Nov 12, 2008
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    You don't need a separate program - within the Diptrace program you simply go to File -> Export -> Gerber and select the files you need.

    I usually make boards that are 2" x 4" or smaller and haven't run into an issue there. I once tried combining two different 2" x 4" boards to make a 4" x 4" board to save PCB costs but it exceeded the 300 limit. However, Diptrace allows you to panelize the same board without penalty. So while I couldn't combine two different 2" x 4" boards, I had no problem panelizing two of the same boards (which I believe was over 300 pins, but I'd have to double check that).
     
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