# The scoop on PCB layout software

#### oemcar

##### Member
I tried registering for DesignSpark but they never sent me the verification email for my account. I tried two or three times, each time with a different email address, and they never sent it to me. I checked spam folders to make sure it wasn't filtered out, but there was not a single email anywhere from them. After the second or third try I gave up on them.
this ^^^^^
originally chose designspark due to its purported ability to import .dxf files from my solidworks cad software...
however there seems to be some glitches in activating downloaded software with newly registered accounts from my experience.
their customer support responded quickly to my initial difficulties,, we shall see if this goes well
jim

#### throbscottle

##### Well-Known Member
I've registered a few copies of DesignSpark when I've upgraded it. I'm pretty sure you get the code on the website and don't need the email. Of course I could be completely mis-remembering this.
it's simple to use but I'm finding its limitations now.
The major caveat with the program is that you need to have an internet connection for it to work properly

#### oemcar

##### Member
design spark customer service was a 'one and done' for my issues. perhaps im stupid... but even in the 'one' attempt at service email response, a condescending note was prevalent. downloaded pcb123 software and had questions that were 'chat' pop up responded to quickly and courteously...
considering the consulting time alotted for this section of the program, i jut dont have the time necessary to come up to speed on pcb123... even tho i will invest for future reference, since it seems worthy from an LSI circuit aspect
as back up for quick turnaround i decided on fritzing...
stuff is 'fall off a log' easy to learn-lol. while not the most sophisticated stuff, it isnt nearly as astringent as others investigated
jim

#### throbscottle

##### Well-Known Member
Fritzing also shows you breadboard layouts Can't remember if it does stripboard too.

#### oemcar

##### Member
Fritzing also shows you breadboard layouts Can't remember if it does stripboard too.

#### oemcar

##### Member
if stripboard is a british term for PC board, then yes.
i found fritzing V9.3 to have some .dll file glitches when loaded... tried loading V9.2 thinking this may have prereq .dll files to satisfy..
went back to 8.7, which loaded cleanly- and has all features i need for now
jim

#### DerStrom8

##### Super Moderator
Fritzing is a toy. It's okay for hobby-level work, but I would never recommend using it for anything that the public would see.

#### throbscottle

##### Well-Known Member
if stripboard is a british term for PC board, then yes.
i found fritzing V9.3 to have some .dll file glitches when loaded... tried loading V9.2 thinking this may have prereq .dll files to satisfy..
went back to 8.7, which loaded cleanly- and has all features i need for now
jim
I'm not familiar with the term "PC board" except as another term for PCB. I mean what is usually referred to as Veroboard.
I tried Fritzing a long time ago, briefly. Can't say I liked it but I can see the appeal.

#### oemcar

##### Member
it doesnt help that they put cardboard dinosaurs in the instruction kit- lol
seriously, i didnt get it precisely because it did look like a mcdonalds happy meal.
downloading V9.3 proved unsuccessful for me, as an error message kept coming up about a missing .dll file. checked the fritzing forums- apparently im not the only one with this prob. so i reverted to V8.7, which executed fine.
jumping right into it, i was able to get my first project daughter board designed (pic attached) in a few hours with the 'learn as i go' philosophy.
its roughly 2.2"x 1" tall. price was 10 euros each-not sure how competitive this price is with other board houses. supposedly fritzing can export standard format for other board suppliers to produce, if desired.
i did get a used copy of simon monk's book 'fritzing for inventors'. it saved me some time not having to poke around on the desktop.

all in all, fritzing is good software for small projects. not sure if ill use it for my larger upcoming project, or come up to speed on PCB123, which i downloaded also. it may save time in the long run.
jim

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#### JonSea

##### Well-Known Member
If you could squeeze your board slightly to 50mm x 50mm, Chinese fab houses like Elecrow or Smart Prototyping could Supply your board for slightly less (about US$10)....for 10 copies! Yes, about a buck a board for 2 layers, soldermask (possibly your choice of color for no additional charge) on both sides, silkscreen on both sides. If you can't squeeze it down to a maximum size of 50mm x 50mm, you can get 2 layer boards of up to 100mm x 100mm for about$15/10.

If your board is something you'll want to have more than one of, these Chinese vendors are the way to go.

I

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#### oemcar

##### Member
If you could squeeze your board slightly to 50mm x 50mm, Chinese fab houses like Elecrow or Smart Prototyping could Supply your board for slightly less (about US$10)....for 10 copies! Yes, about a buck a bosrd for 2 layers, soldermask (possibly your choice bbq of color for no additional charge) on both sides, silkscreen on both sides. If you can't squeeze it down to a maximum size of 50mm x 50mm, you can get 2 layer boards of up to 100mm x poll for about$15/10.

If your board is something you'll want to have more than one of, these Chinese vendors are the way to go.

I
i checked Elecrow,
they take gerber files which fritzing can export. you just saved me $50 thx, jim #### JonSea ##### Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member I have had dozens of boards fabricated there with only one error ever made and they took care of it no questions. I do recommend paying a little more for DHL Shipping. It doesn't add that much cost, especially if you're having several boards made. I have been getting consistent 1 week service to the US. I typically send files Sunday night, and I have my boards the following week Monday. I recommend checking your Gerber files with 4pcb.com before sending them to Elecrow or another fab house. Upload your files to 4pcb and a short time later, you'll receive an email saying the files make sense or there are problems. A typical error might be that a layer is flipped, which causes all kinds of grief! The layers should all be viewed as if looking from the top, through the stack. Of course, this service is only looking for problems in the Gerber files...it doesn't mean your board will work as you've laid it out. Feel free to ask if I can help clarify anything. #### oemcar ##### Member Upload your files to 4pcb and a short time later, you'll receive an email saying the files make sense or there are problems. A typical error might be that a layer is flipped, which causes all kinds of grief! Feel free to ask if I can help clarify anything. more good info- did just that and found out fritzing develops redundant drill files... jim Last edited by a moderator: #### JonSea ##### Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member One thing I do on Eagle is to include the board outline in every Gerber layer, which may help to prevent confusion. I don't know how much control you have using Fritzing.... #### EvilGenius ##### Member This is actually not a feedback on PCB software but rather under tip and tricks of PCB making and did not deserve an entire new post. Simple way to connect top and bottom layer of a via without using a thru wire: Solder one side copper of the via to cover the hole. Then flip the PCB to the other side, hold the PCB firmly with one hand. Put a bead of solder on the second side and immediately tap the PCB on your work station. This forces the liquid solder between two layers within the hole. #### picbits ##### Well-Known Member The vias generally have a connection between layers anyway. If you knock a solder joint when the solder is molten you risk a dry joint. I've always found a little bit of liquid flux works wonders for getting solder to flow where you want it too #### EvilGenius ##### Member The vias generally have a connection between layers anyway. If you knock a solder joint when the solder is molten you risk a dry joint. I've always found a little bit of liquid flux works wonders for getting solder to flow where you want it too The method was referring to at-home production where there is no inner connection. For any soldering use of of a good flux is a given. So the joint is not dry and fused nicely to both sides. This is exceptionally good when the hole is tiny and at times hidden under SMD parts. IE: prevents bump under SMD to cause a tomb stoning Last edited: #### oemcar ##### Member received daughter board from elecrow- havent had chance to ohm out, but looks visually good. if checks.. then we'll put this full monte on them-.. lol #### Attachments • 652.5 KB Views: 92 #### EvilGenius ##### Member I recently used Kicad to design and had the PCb manufactures by PCBWay in China. The finished product was excellent and very professional. ($10/10 boards plus shipping). Excellent for prototyping and large piece manufacturing. I highly recommend them.

Regarding Kicad, it was hard getting used to Kicad for couple of reasons. 1- The software requires separate schematic layout and footprint layout for each part. If you are starting from scratch and don't have a large library of devices, then it would take you a while creating both and associating each item to its counter part for a complete part. Once that is done, you can move parts around and quickly connect them.
2- The software forces you to create a schematic layout before jumping into creating a PCB layout. It does not allow you to just create a PCB on the go!
The positive feedback is that once you have the schematic parts and footprints in your library, you can link the two thru a netlist, create the pcb, and modify the footprint of each pin and device in the PCB editor part of the software. Another plus is that it generates Gerber files that is recognized by majority of PCB manufacturers.
I prefer a software that can create the schematic and footprint in one shot, save it to the global library, and use the part over and over in different projects without going thru multiple steps of creating a part. Ultimately one that you can jump in and create a PCB without going thru the schematics, yet be able to generate Gerbers. Any suggestions?

#### throbscottle

##### Well-Known Member
Kicad is really a 1 stop interface for several different programs, the main ones being eeschema and pcbnew. You can use pcbnew on it's own to create a standalone board.
As to a single program that behaves how you want, DesignSpark works well, though it does want to "phone home" every time you fire it up so it can check that it's registered and show you an advert (which you can close straight away). It runs with wine, and is the single biggest reason I haven't explored the native Linux tools to any extent.