PDA

View Full Version : PCB layout software



DanoNJ
06-04-2012, 10:44 PM
Looking for a easy to use, simple PCB layout software. Really don't need the ability to convert to a gerber file. All I want is to be able to print out something for some simple, small projects. What I would like to do is print out and lay over a project board.

dirknerkle
06-04-2012, 11:28 PM
Personally, I think one of the best for that is ExpressPCB. Very intuitive, easy to use, but does not produce Gerbers. However, you can order boards from ExpressPCB with the software, even use it to estimate what it would cost to produce. The software is a free download from www.expresspcb.com

ctmal
06-04-2012, 11:30 PM
Well, personally, I think ExpressPCB is by far the easiest I've ever used. You save gerbers with it and if you want to get the boards done you'll have to use their service(which I've heard nothing but good things about).

budude
06-04-2012, 11:40 PM
+100 on ExpressPCB - especially given the requirements you need (or lack thereof such as no Gerbers) - drop-dead easy. PCBArtist is not too bad either for freebies.

n1ist
06-05-2012, 07:45 AM
Someone has just created a program that takes ExpressPCB files and does design-rule checking on it (finds shorted nets, unconnected pins, spacing, and other errors). You can find it in the ExpressPCB Yahoo group.

I started out with ExpressPCB many years ago, but have moved on to KiCAD. It's also a free tool, doesn't have any of the restrictions that Eagle has, and generates Gerbers. If only I could get ExpressPCB to accept Gerbers as inputs, it would be great. As it is, I usually use Itead Studio or Seeed Studio for fab.

/mike

DanoNJ
06-05-2012, 07:56 AM
Thanks for the replies, gents. I'll take a look at Express later this afternoon.

CaptKirk
06-05-2012, 05:39 PM
This should be in the WIKI!!! Wow, great info!!

j1sys
06-05-2012, 07:28 PM
i can't say how simple to use .... it took me a while, but now that i know it ....

i use kicad for all development. it can do very complex jobs, can print/plot on paper for you or can generate gerbers. it includes design rule checking etc. like many of the higher end units.

one GREAT feature is the 3D preview capabilities.

now for it's downside, not a great support for libraries of components etc. but if you are willing to learn to role your own it is very nice.

and did i mention it is free, no limit on layers, no limit on board size, outputs standard gerbers and drill files accepted by most PC board houses ....

-Ed

budude
06-05-2012, 07:34 PM
Yeah - forgot about Kicad - runs on Windows, Linux and Mac (and some other Unix types like Solaris) - I've tried it a couple times but didn't get too far with it - maybe I'll give it another shot...

kingofkya
06-05-2012, 09:27 PM
+1 for kicad Its makes it kinda hard to really mess up a board thanks to the sanity checks it does pre pcb layout. Meaning common stuff like reversed pads or the wrong style pads.
And the auto routers... just make sure to set your wire nets or every thing gets tiny traces.

Edit: Just don't forget to connect vcc to a power source.(made that mistake a few times.)

n1ist
06-06-2012, 07:46 AM
Edit: Just don't forget to connect vcc to a power source.(made that mistake a few times.)
That's not a limitation of KiCAD; even at thousands of dollars for the license at work, I have managed to do the same with Allegro.
/mike

dmcole
06-06-2012, 07:11 PM
I'm having a happy time with Diptrace ... http://www.diptrace.com/ ... runs on Windows and Mac (through X11 Windows, but still runs).

\dmc

CaptKirk
06-06-2012, 07:59 PM
Hey DMC,

Did they name it after anyone we know?? Just wondering... :lol:

ags0000
06-06-2012, 09:41 PM
I can't figure out why DesignSpark PCB is not more popular. Last year I was searching for a free tool, without size/fab limitations, and it was recommended to me by someone (sorry, can't remember who) on this site. I had never done a PCB layout before, but found it very easy to use, it creates Gerber format files, has no PCB size limitations, and is not tied to a specific board manufacturer (I used SeeedStudio and boards worked first time). There is not as large of a component library as for Eagle, but I created all my own anyway. I think there is a path to convert from Eagle to DesignSpark through another standard format, but can's say for sure.

ctmal
06-06-2012, 09:44 PM
I can't figure out why DesignSpark PCB is not more popular. I found myself searching for a free tool, without size/fab limitations. I found it very easy to use, it creates Gerber format files, has no PCB size limitations, and is not tied to a specific board manufacturer (I used SeeedStudio and boards worked first time). There is not as large of a component library as for Eagle, but I did all my own anyway. I think there is a path to convert from Eagle to DesignSpark through another standard format, but can's say for sure.

I gave it a try and I think it has promise but I ended up frustrated and switched to Kicad. I think the most frustrating thing was finding already made parts.

Benno
11-08-2012, 10:54 AM
I am very happy with Cadsoft EAGLE. The software includes a schematic editor (http://www.cadsoftusa.com/eagle-pcb-design-software/schaltplan-editor/), layout editor and an autoruter. Its easy to learn and easy to use, perfect for a smaller project.

ukewarrior
11-08-2012, 11:44 AM
Can/Will you share the parts you've created?

I can't figure out why DesignSpark PCB is not more popular. Last year I was searching for a free tool, without size/fab limitations, and it was recommended to me by someone (sorry, can't remember who) on this site. I had never done a PCB layout before, but found it very easy to use, it creates Gerber format files, has no PCB size limitations, and is not tied to a specific board manufacturer (I used SeeedStudio and boards worked first time). There is not as large of a component library as for Eagle, but I created all my own anyway. I think there is a path to convert from Eagle to DesignSpark through another standard format, but can's say for sure.

levent
08-14-2013, 04:52 PM
I agree design spark is a way better CAD software than diptrace or any other free PCB layout software. I know that eagle has a huge component library and lots of support but who needs that when designing your own component in library is as easy as that. I'll share some libraries that I've created once I get the internet on my lab computer running again. I've tried almost all the free PCB layout software but design spark just amazed me. Although some of my designs are on OrCAD because of client requirements but I mostly try to use Design Spark just for the fun of it.

printed circuit board assembly (http://www.7pcb.co.uk/PCB-Assembly/)

LabRat
08-14-2013, 05:25 PM
+1 :biggrin:


I am very happy with Cadsoft EAGLE. The software includes a schematic editor (http://www.cadsoftusa.com/eagle-pcb-design-software/schaltplan-editor/), layout editor and an autoruter. Its easy to learn and easy to use, perfect for a smaller project.

JHinkle
08-14-2013, 06:38 PM
I hit my size limit with Eagle and have been putting off spending $1000 for the version that will satisfy my requirements.

Based on your comments - I just looked a Design Spark.

May I ask what the catch is? Do you have to purchase the boards from a specific PCB company?

What is the downside with using this product.

Thanks for any comments --- might just have saved some money.

Joe

mndless
08-14-2013, 09:33 PM
Ditto... the size limitation with Eagle is an issue... really like eagle, but am not spending the $ for the paid version. Have been playing with kicad, but still have a ways to go on the learning curve..

LabRat
08-14-2013, 10:23 PM
How big do you guys need? So far none of my boards have been big enough to move off of the free version.
The next step up is the "Hobbyist" for $169 with the following limitations:

limited to six signal layers and 160x100mm routing area

Roterhead
08-14-2013, 11:10 PM
I use the hobbyist version as well and so far a 4" x 6" board has been plenty large for my small projects. Now I'm not a prolific designer by any measure such as many on this board, but you can squeeze a lot into that space. My biggest issue with Eagle is finding libraries that have the parts that I want to use. I find it tedious to define new parts...


How big do you guys need? So far none of my boards have been big enough to move off of the free version.
The next step up is the "Hobbyist" for $169 with the following limitations:

limited to six signal layers and 160x100mm routing area

ronp5683
08-15-2013, 12:00 AM
Hey, I thought about printing and etching my own boards, but once I found OSH park, I just upload an eagle file and I am done. Can't beat the price. :)

JHinkle
08-15-2013, 11:11 AM
How big do you guys need? So far none of my boards have been big enough to move off of the free version.
The next step up is the "Hobbyist" for $169 with the following limitations:

limited to six signal layers and 160x100mm routing area

I'm currently using the Hobby version also and my current design pretty much fills the limited space.

I'm using all surface mount devices. By the time you drop a 144 pin 32 bit micro, a Ethernet MAC, RJ45 connector, USB interface, a debugging port and any I/O --- I'm packed on a double sided board.

My next board needs to be larger yet --- so I'm in a pickle.

I have a small cnc router I use to make small development boards -- that is the reason I purchased Eagle in the first place. Eagle makes available some trace information that makes PCB routing very easy. When I break the 100x160 size limit --- its upgrade Eagle or move to another program.

If I move then I lose my routing capability. I have been working on my own Gerber to PCB routing program but I have other projects of higher priority right now.

Joe

ags0000
08-15-2013, 12:40 PM
Joe: I haven't found a catch with DesignSpark. They do make it easy for you to order from the provider (RS/Allied) by providing a BOM with their part numbers. I chose it because it is free with no (artificial) limitations. I didn't want to a) be held hostage for a for-fee upgrade or b) have to learn a new tool once I hit a limit.

The downside, IMO, is that there are far more component libraries available for Eagle. On the other hand, I learned that I don't trust anyone else's libraries. They seem to be very error prone. When I first stated out I was using some that I found online. During a final check before sending to fab I found errors that would have made the board useless. Now I make all my own. Of course. I don't reuse and software I find online either, for the same reason.

DesignSpark PCB has schematic, layout, and checkers. The auto-router is not good, but I don't think anyone's auto-router is ever used for final product.

Oh, DesignSpark PCB is Windows only; no MacOS or *nix support (although many are asking for it).

BTW, from your BOM it sounds like you need a RaspPI instead of a PCB tool... :-)

JHinkle
08-15-2013, 01:06 PM
Thanks for the info.

The design rule checkers (schematic and PCB) are the big things important to me.

I have never used an auto-router. It might take a little longer to do by hand -- but every choice is mine -- so I have no one to blame if it is wrong.

I have found with the components I want to use that I have to create all of my footprints by hand also -- either can't find them or they have errors.

I'm always amazed that those that create error prone stuff are the same ones most eager to share.

Again - I do it myself so I have no one to blame --- yes it takes a couple of hours longer - but it's done right.

How are the schematic and layout tools connected. I often go back and pick a different component in the schematic that provides a better layout. Eagle goes a good job in that area.

I am little concerned (unfounded at this time) that the DRC is done on-line --- I'm trying to understand why.

I also looked at their FAQ --- LOTS of info on their "Activation". I wonder why activation is so important if the software is really free with no hidden hooks. Read the FAQ on activation and see if you don't wonder WHY also.

Thanks again.

Joe

Roterhead
08-15-2013, 04:46 PM
Perhaps a daughter card solution for the larger project? That would help perhaps. For me personally, I would probably upgrade if my design was getting as complex as yours...


I'm currently using the Hobby version also and my current design pretty much fills the limited space.

I'm using all surface mount devices. By the time you drop a 144 pin 32 bit micro, a Ethernet MAC, RJ45 connector, USB interface, a debugging port and any I/O --- I'm packed on a double sided board.

My next board needs to be larger yet --- so I'm in a pickle.

[snip]

Joe

budude
08-15-2013, 05:21 PM
I've heard folks have created smaller board files and then converged the resulting Gerbers into a singe file with another Gerber program to create a single larger board. I can't say that I've actually seen it done or if it works but seen posts here and there about it...

ags0000
08-16-2013, 02:34 PM
How are the schematic and layout tools connected. I often go back and pick a different component in the schematic that provides a better layout. Eagle goes a good job in that area.

I am little concerned (unfounded at this time) that the DRC is done on-line --- I'm trying to understand why.

I also looked at their FAQ --- LOTS of info on their "Activation". I wonder why activation is so important if the software is really free with no hidden hooks. Read the FAQ on activation and see if you don't wonder WHY also.

The schematic is used to populate part and connectivity data into the layout. I am able to select any of the components associated with the schematic part as I optimize the layout. I can also make incremental changes to the schematic and it updates the layout. [I may be misusing the part/component terms]

I am using an older version - I was (am) unaware that the DRC is online.

I recall when this was first released. There was a lot of concern about the "activation". I don't recall there being any real answer from the DS folks, but I can say that if I am offline I can still use the tool. It does check for a newer version at startup (and notifies if there is one - it does not push). My opinion is that this does allow them to push one "commercial" to you in the startup window. I'm OK with that, for free. To me, it's not to different from the iTunes. I understand others are more concerned.

ErnieHorning
08-17-2013, 12:08 AM
When I’ve hit the Eagle size limit, I just add a connector and stack another board. They easily extend vertically or horizontally.

levent
08-26-2013, 01:11 PM
I agree design spark is a way better CAD software than diptrace or any other free PCB layout software. I know that eagle has a huge component library and lots of support but who needs that when designing your own component in library is as easy as that. I'll share some libraries that I've created once I get the internet on my lab computer running again. I've tried almost all the free PCB layout software but design spark just amazed me. Although some of my designs are on OrCAD because of client requirements but I mostly try to use Design Spark just for the fun of it.