PCB software / PCB Fabricators?

VK2GOM
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PCB software / PCB Fabricators?

Post by VK2GOM » Sat Dec 25, 2010 9:34 pm

Just wondering what software others use to come up with PCB designs?

Ideally I want to drag/drop components by pad shape arbitrarily onto a page, tell it or draw in point to point what needs to be connected to what, then hit a 'compute' button and have it work out a layout that works. I want to be able to then print it, to use on Press'n'peel film or other methods to transfer to a copper clad board and etch it.

I'm sure such a piece of (freeware) software must exist... any suggestions?

73 - Rob VK2GOM / G0MOH

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK1DJA » Sun Dec 26, 2010 5:38 am

You might like to check out Eagle and DesignSpark.

The Eagle freeware version does not do autorouting, however. You have to stump up $100 (from memory) to upgrade to this. Eagle is straightforward after a few boards. Just Google "Eagle PCB".

DesignSpark has also popped up and it seems the free version does autorouting. Haven't tried it.

KiCAD also seems quite popular.

73

Dave VK1DJA
Dave

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK2GOM » Sun Dec 26, 2010 6:49 am

Hi Dave,

Thanks for the info. Design Spark is one I'm looking at. It's basically sponsored by RS. It seems OK, but can struggle to plot a board that will definitely go single sided. It needs a little manual intervention to move things around to help it work out routing.

As yet, I haven't found a way to output the board design as a .jpg or .pdf etc. to print it. It seems more to be a gerber file or similar to send to industry to get it manufactured.

Good fun to experiment with anyway.

73 - Rob VK2GOM / G0MOH

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK3MQ » Sun Dec 26, 2010 9:23 am

Hi Rob,

I have been using the Linux version of Eagle for many years and it certainly has auto-routing and in two forms. Once the schematic is complete a "netlist" will assign connections to the components and these will be seen as thin lines in the PCB view. The auto router can be found under the "Tools" pull down menu as "auto" and you can set at least some preferences for the process in the free version.

Alternatively you could auto-route, just one net at a time, using the "Route" function from the tool bar at the side of the PCB window. There is a "rip-up tool" too if it's not quite right.

On the matter of Press 'n Peel I never had much luck with that. I suspect that iron temperature needed to be a lot hotter than suggested in the instructions, but then the plastic media might start breaking down. Instead I have been using the glossy paper from Silicon Chip magazine with the iron set to "Linen" and developing in cold water. The pages are quite thin and will become saturated with water quickly. The resultant boards are not as sharp as those professionally made, but will still work well. My latest project was the G4DDK-001 oscillator and multiplier and it tuned up just fine.

No matter what process you use the board material must be free of all oils for the pattern to adhere properly. A simple test for this is to apply some water to the surface. If it beads then there is still some contaminate. On a perfectly clean board the water remains a film.

Do not you use any cleaners containing soap. Look for domestic products that are mainly used for bathroom cleaning as their purpose is to remove soap stains. If all else fails a very dilute solution of ferric chloride (your etchant ?) will do the job.

Have fun with your home made PCB's. Once the technique is perfected the task becomes trivial and as a side benefit, Eagle forces you to thoroughly document a project making later repair work so much easier.

Cheers,
Rob
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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK5ALX » Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:16 am

Also check out "DipTrace". There is a free version available for download.
For simple boards I use "Sprint Layout". It doesn't have a full featured autorouter but is very easy to use.
I use both of these programs and print onto transparency film on my old HP photo printer for use with Kinsten pre-sensitized board.

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK2XAX » Mon Dec 27, 2010 6:22 am

Hi Rob,

I used Diptrace. Here is a quote from their web page...

* PCB Layout — PCB design with an easy-to-use manual routing tools, shape-based autorouter and auto-placer.
* Schematic — Schematic Capture with multi-level hierarchy and export to PCB Layout, Spice or Netlist.
* Component and Pattern Editors — allow you to make new parts and footprints.
* Standard Libraries - include 100,000+ parts.
* Import/Export Features - allow you to exchange designs and libraries with other EDA tools.
* Step-by-Step Tutorial - learn the software and start real work in a few hours.
* Full featured 30-day trial and 300-pin Freeware versions are available for evaluation.
* Special Discounts for non-profit users and education.

Its the program I used for my IC-910 locking project.

The tutorials are great, libraries extensive, and its easy and intuitive to use.

I have no relation to them except being a very happy user. :D

regards

Tim
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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK4GHZ » Tue Dec 28, 2010 8:50 pm

What's everybody using for generating schematics these days?

I think I have a copy of Protel Schematic on an older PC lying around, but that's from circa 1990's.
Same with Protel AutoTrax here. :oops:

I'm a bit out of the loop, and figured you guys who are up with PCB layout apps will be up with schematic apps as well.
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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK1DJA » Tue Dec 28, 2010 9:08 pm

Schematic design is one of the components of Eagle, DipTrace, KiCAD and perhaps most of the current systems. It's a painless process from putting down the schematic through to generating the artwork, i.e. the systems integrate schematic layout, board layout, and artwork generation (including copper pour and so on).

DipTrace looks very good, the interface seems a little more intuitive than Eagle.

Yes, sorry, autorouting is available in even the free version of Eagle.

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK2XAX » Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:04 am

VK4CP wrote:What's everybody using for generating schematics these days?

I think I have a copy of Protel Schematic on an older PC lying around, but that's from circa 1990's.
Same with Protel AutoTrax here. :oops:

I'm a bit out of the loop, and figured you guys who are up with PCB layout apps will be up with schematic apps as well.
Diptrace does that too. You can draw your schematic, create the net list of parts, send the schematic to the PCB program which will then auto route the board for you. You can specify dimensions of the board and layers to stick to, do copper pours in complete fill or hatched or.... you get the idea - take a look, its very nice :)

regards

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK2GOM » Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:11 am

I am trying to concentrate on Design Spark at the moment. I can build the schematic, then generate the board. However, even stuff that I KNOW will work on a single layer baord, it fails. I can't find a way to allow it to use wire links, if needed, to make it work. It seems it will only compute 2 layer boards (minimum) successfully.

If DIPTrace computes single layer boards successfully, I'll give it a go!

73 - Rob VK2GOM / G0MOH

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK2XAX » Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:21 am

If you've already done the schematic you might be able to import it directly into the PCB part of Diptrace, it supports 7 types of exterior programs for both layout and netlist so you probably wont have to redraw your schematic to try it out.

The schematic program also imports P-CAD if your's exports it.

regards

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK2GOM » Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:33 am

Hi Tim,

DIPTrace Freeware just downloaded... I see from the examples it will insert wire links for single layer (home technology!) boards. OK - off to run the installer and have a play.

73 - Rob VK2GOM / G0MOH

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK4GHZ » Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:24 pm

On the suggestion by Dave, VK3HZ, I downloaded ExpressPCB to try out.
It's very good!

Haven't tinkered with the PCB side of it, but the Schematic capture side of it is user friendly.
It took about two hours or so to produce this design.
That included using the Component manager to make up my own PICAXE-08M part and stereo audio socket part.
(Only started this last night, so it's a work in progress!) :wink:
First attempt with ExpressPCB
First attempt with ExpressPCB
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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK4GHZ » Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:36 pm

The above attachment was an exported BMP file, which was converted to a PNG with Photoshop.
For some reason I couldn't upload a JPG version. ??
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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK2GOM » Wed Dec 29, 2010 7:03 pm

Looking good Adam. Very professional. I find I spend most of the time looking for the library item when drawing up these schematics :lol:

I successfully auto-routed a single layer board today for a QRP Tx, but I'm now struggling to output it in a form that I can print onto acetate (photo etch) or onto Press'n'Peel. It all seems to be Gerber etc. for commercial manufacturers. This is in DIPTrace, which I have at least come to the conclusion that it's more user-friendly than Design Spark.

73 - Rob VK2GOM / G0MOH

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK5ALX » Wed Dec 29, 2010 7:46 pm

VK2GOM wrote:Looking good Adam. Very professional. I find I spend most of the time looking for the library item when drawing up these schematics :lol:

I successfully auto-routed a single layer board today for a QRP Tx, but I'm now struggling to output it in a form that I can print onto acetate (photo etch) or onto Press'n'Peel. It all seems to be Gerber etc. for commercial manufacturers. This is in DIPTrace, which I have at least come to the conclusion that it's more user-friendly than Design Spark.

73 - Rob VK2GOM / G0MOH
All you need to do is select "print preview" which lets you select what layers, scale etc to print and then hit "print". It will come up with the usual Windows printer selector.
Sounds like you might be looking at the "Export" option

73
Alex

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK2XAX » Thu Dec 30, 2010 10:43 am

VK2GOM wrote: but I'm now struggling to output it in a form that I can print onto acetate (photo etch) or onto Press'n'Peel.
73 - Rob VK2GOM / G0MOH
ok... have you tried selecting print ? :)

It will print via normal printers and even has a calibrate function so if your printer doesn't actually put out 1:1 you can input offsets for both x and y to get whatever printer you have to print 1:1

cheers

Tim
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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK5ALX » Thu Dec 30, 2010 11:13 am

VK2XTT wrote:
ok... have you tried selecting print ? :)

It will print via normal printers and even has a calibrate function so if your printer doesn't actually put out 1:1 you can input offsets for both x and y to get whatever printer you have to print 1:1

cheers

Tim
which is pretty much what i said yesterday. sorry for butting in

Alex

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK2GOM » Thu Dec 30, 2010 11:15 am

Thanks guys - yes, confounded by the simplest solution! :oops: Have managed to print it now. It looks good. By default the pads were too small and the tracks too thin, so I went back and edited everything then re-printed it. All ready to make a board now.

73 - Rob VK2GOM / G0MOH

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Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK4GHZ » Sat Jan 01, 2011 10:43 am

Hi all

Has anyone actually used ExpressPCB to have some PCBs made?

At first, it doesn't appear cheap, but if you are willing to have a splurge, it would be very nice to have a professionally made PCB with silk screen.
USD$75 for three PCBs plus post.

But when you consider the amount of mucking around in making your own PCBs; stocking up on limited-life chemicals, blank board stock, driving around town, and all the time involved, I suspect it really isn't cheaper to do it yourself.

Unless there a PCB manufacturer in Australia that will do very small run (less than 10) double-sided PCBs?
(That you have used, and can recommend - I can Google places myself, but have no experience in dealing with them)
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