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PCB Software

Discussion in 'Circuit Simulation & PCB Design' started by ronv, Jun 8, 2014.

  1. ronv

    ronv Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    I've looked thru the forum for free, and most important, easy PCB software that outputs Gerber files. The 2 that seem to crop up are XICAD and Design Spark.
    Any one have experience with both and if so could you point me in the right direction?
     
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  2. eTech

    eTech Active Member

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    Hi

    I've been using Design Spark for about two years and it is excellent software. I highly recommend it.
    It will output all the GERBER files you need and there is no limitation on board size.

    The only complaint I've heard is a difficulty with obtaining a key to run the software. Its free software,
    but it requires a (free) key code from the developers. I didn't have any problem getting the key, but
    others have.

    I haven't used XICAD, so can't comment on it..

    eT
     
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  3. ronsimpson

    ronsimpson Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    There is no easy. You will not be an expert in an hour. or a day or a week.
    On forums there is a general feeling that 'what I use is easy and what you use is hard'. It is only easy because you use it.

    I use Eagle.
     
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  4. dave

    Dave New Member

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  5. atferrari

    atferrari Well-Known Member

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    Hopefully soon I am trying Eagle for the Gerber part.

    Something I expected to see for a long time: ronv and ronsimpson in the same thread. :p
     
  6. absf

    absf Active Member

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    I totally agree. Practise makes perfect. There is no perfect PCB software even the paid version.

    If you don't use the software frequently you'll tend to forget the small details and have to refer back to the help menu.

    Allen
     
  7. ronv

    ronv Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    I have used Express PCB. I found it very easy to learn. Then I tried Eagle and quit after about 3 hours. Maybe the better they are the harder they are to learn. :banghead:
    The thing I'm after is the Gerber files as Express PCB only works with them which is kind of ok if all you ever build is one or 3.
    Think I'll give Design Spark a go. I guess it's just disk space. :woot:
     
  8. ronsimpson

    ronsimpson Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    I find switching from one CAD to another very difficult. Getting worse with age.

    Each CAD has different commands and function keys. Some you role the mouse wheel forward to zoom in/ some the reverse. ouch.

    I can't remember how to switch from one layer to another. L1, L2, L3,.....No it is + and -......maybe it is F3, F4......I got it SHIFT+CTRL+Right click......now I remember....Right foot off the floor+ ALT+Left click. I can't remember. Time for bed.
     
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  9. eTech

    eTech Active Member

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    Wow...this sounds exactly like my experience with Express PCB and Eagle. I looked at them too before deciding on Design Spark.

    Anyway...good luck. :)
    eT
     
  10. Wilksey

    Wilksey Member

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    As people have mentioned, it really is what you are used to as to how easy it is to use and understand.
    For totally free, there is KiCAD, which if you grab one of the later CERN binaries can be quite feature full (for a free package), especially with their new push and shove router.
    For the "branded" free, there is DesignSpark, it is effectively a cut down variant of Easy PC, used it a couple of times for experimenting but never really got on with it that well, the registration email took an hour or two to come through, as did they key email, but once you sign in you can get your key from the web site.
    Element14's Eagle is a good package, and they offer a free variant along with upgrade paths, this is of course limited in board size, libraries are very easy to find, and I haven't really found a library part that was incorrect, maybe one or two that needed the solder mask tweaking, but for the most part it worked well.
    Diptrace is also a popular one which offers a free and not for profit version with pin count limits, 300 for the free one and 1000 for the non profit free one I believe. I have used this package and it is quite easy to navigate, but I found that the parts library is not all there.

    Most will import Eagle libraries and all will generate Gerbers with the free version, you obviously get what you pay for and there is a reason why people are still paying ££££'s for the likes of OrCAD / Allegro and Altium Designer, but I personally go back to Eagle every time as I have the most experience with it.
    We use Altium for work and Proteus, which are two very good packages and easy to use, but not cheap.

    For a beginner who just wants to make some PCB's I would look at either KiCAD, Eagle or DipTrace, the latter two can be upgraded to "professional" licenses if you choose to stay with the package, Design Spark doesn't have this upgrade feature, so I don't know how well you would get support for it if you wanted to get bug fixes and help, but if you wanted just a hobby and never want to use it for commercial purposes then by all means try DS.

    Just my thoughts.

    Wilksey
     
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  11. ronv

    ronv Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Well, I circled around to Eagle. Maybe I was tired the last time.:arghh:
     
  12. ronsimpson

    ronsimpson Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    There are a couple of board houses that take Eagle files with out Gerbers.
     
  13. Wilksey

    Wilksey Member

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    Eagle is by no means the "easiest" or "fullest featured" package to use, but for the cost, and the sheer amount of tutorials around the web (sparkfun for example), you should only need spend a few days reading and tinkering to get you in good stead for starting your own project, once you get past the initial GUI hatred hurdle, and learn how the library manager etc works you will soon see the power that it has, a lot of people that try it have used far superior packages, myself included, but the price is high, and I actually don't mind Eagle at all for what you can achieve from it.

    There is a general consensus on the web forums that unless you are designing PC motherboards (and designs of similar complexity) Eagle will do the job, if you get to that advanced stage you need a package like Altium, and Altium can conveniently import Eagle files, win win from my personal perspective.
     
  14. eTech

    eTech Active Member

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    I never got past this...didn't think I should pay for something I hated...o_O

    eT
     
  15. Wilksey

    Wilksey Member

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    Hi eTech,
    Some people don't / can't get past the GUI "quirks", and you are quite right, you shouldn't pay for something you don't like as you will end up not using it, which is why it is good that they offer a free / trial version of these various software packages, I think Altium is the only one that doesn't.

    Out of interest, which package did you settle on in the end?
     
  16. ronv

    ronv Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Funny, that was my problem with design spark. I tried to make a FET. Watched a couple of videos and read a help file along the way. Maybe 3 hours. Finally got both the schematic symbol and the board symbol together, but when I called them back to place them in the schematic it didn't like it. Tried the same with eagle and made it in about 30 minutes. Now when your my age this is very important. :rolleyes: To be honest I would still be using express PCB except this is for someone else and Gerber files are needed. It's my understanding Eagle outputs Gerber? I don't know why Express was easy for me. It has a very small library so you have to make a lot of stuff, but it was just easy for me.
     
  17. Wilksey

    Wilksey Member

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    Yes, Eagle can output Gerber files through it's CADCAM output system.
    Jeremy Blum (Check out on YT) has some really good info on Eagle, even a video on taking your board files to Gerbers for manufacturing.
    www.youtube.com/user/sciguy14

    I found Eagle easy to make parts with etc, KiCAD can also import Eagle libraries etc, so if you want completely free that might be another option?
    I must admit I have never used Express PCB (or any variant of such package) as I don't like to be tied into the PCB manufacturer.
     
  18. eTech

    eTech Active Member

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    Hi

    I settled on Design Spark, it was easiest for me to get up and running and actually doing something useful within a couple of hours. It also has some other nice things planned for it, like interfacing with Design Spark Mechanical. And , if I want to, I can import Eagle libraries and designs. I've actually used this feature, and it works.

    I tried Eagle, with its crappy interface, and after messing with it for a few hours, gave up. I still don't understand its popularity. I expect more from a commercial program.

    Regarding part creation, I think the key here is understanding the database organization, keeping multiple databases "in sync" with each other has always been a pain., but that's true with any software program, not just CAD.

    eT
     
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  19. eTech

    eTech Active Member

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    Hi

    I used Express PCB before Design Spark and I liked it! But board limitation, restriction to one board house, and a need for FW/BW annotation made me look to another program.

    Regarding parts, I thought that part wizard in Design Spark was fairly easy, but thats just me.. :)

    eT
     
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  20. MrDEB

    MrDEB Active Member

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    I used to use EXPRESS PCB but it will not output gerber (they can convert for you $$) Tried Eagle, Egads the learning curve.
    Found DIPTRACE to be everything I need. Upgraded to the 500 pin count (free version)
    As for making componets, its a snap since they corrected the minor bugs. Have had several boards manufactured with no issues. Waiting now for my ICSP expander boards I ordered on Monday from Dirt Cheap Dirty Boards
    They have already been sent. Only one I found that has free shipping. $14 for 10- 5cm x 5cm boards
     
  21. JonSea

    JonSea Well-Known Member

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    Dirt Cheap Boards on Hack-A-Day

    From the comments to the above article on Hack-A-Day:

     

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