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OT: Recreating a PCB?

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  • OT: Recreating a PCB?

    I want to replace a corroded early 80's circuit board. It's pretty well packed, single sided, about 4"x6". I have scanned and digitally manipulated it to where I now have decent but somewhat ragged black and white artwork. I would really like to have the board made but I need to make a gerber file. I would also like to modernize the board a bit by making it double sided to get rid of some jumper wires, etc. and add some headers for wires that were once soldered on.

    I would really like to have the 'artwork' appear as a background image in a PCB design program over which I can draw new traces and pads then make my modifications. I have downloaded CircuitMaker, Eagle, and Fritzing software packages but don't see a way to make my raster image appear as a background that I can use as a guide to redraw on top of. I would appreciate some suggestions. I am no longer interested in etching my own boards, I want to pay to have it produced by one of the PCB houses I've seen discussed on this forum.

    Thank you.

  • #2
    Check out ExpressPCB.com You can download free software for your board layout. Won't be able to overlay your scan but the software is easy to use and shouldn't take too long to do what you need. You will probably change it up a little anyway if you go two sided. They have a special for prototypes that costs about $65.00 for 3 boards. I use them almost exclusively for everything I do.

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    • #3
      Kicad is another option. Most CAD programs can import scans or images. Output the dxf from the PCB software and overlay it in the CAD program with the scan.

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      • #4
        Eagle can import bmp files into any layer. I think it was importbmp.ulp

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        • #5
          Yes, there are free PCB layout programs on the web and many of the PCB houses offer their versions of one of them. But all of these programs will assume you are starting from a schematic, not an existing board that you want to copy. I am not aware of any of them that have an overlay option.

          You might want to show a photo of your board on one side of your screen while working with the PCB program on the other.

          Actually, the best way to produce a good PCB layout is to first draw a schematic in the PCB program. The program will use that schematic to produce a list of the needed connections and will check to insure that all of them are present, with no cross wiring between. Better yet, many of the programs will be capable of doing the layout by themselves, using a feature called auto-router.

          I have made many PCBs and I find that these programs are the easiest, most accurate way of producing Gerber files for their manufacture. I have actually taken the trouble of doing the schematic a second time using the PCB program after I had already did it in a CAD program. And NO, you can't just import it from a CAD file. They depend on using the "components" as defined in the PCB software. These "component" files tie a schematic image with a physical package drawing. There are also ties between these two representations that link the actual connections; their functions on the schematic image to there physical location on the physical package drawing. All of them that I have used allow your creation of any new components that you need.
          Paul A.
          SE Texas

          And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
          You will find that it has discrete steps.

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          • #6
            In the past I have used Atlas Circuits to make prototype PCBs directly from artwork, which can be hand-drawn, PDF, or graphics format.

            https://www.manta.com/c/mmlv6z0/atlas-circuit

            I made a spreadsheet for calculating the cost according to his formula:

            http://enginuitysystems.com/files/At...Calculator.xls

            The boards can be single or double sided but are not plated through, and no silkscreen or solder mask.

            I have also used Electronic Interconnect AKA zoompcb.com). They have a good special for PCBs up to 5" x 5" and other special pricing, for professionally made boards with plated thru holes, silkscreen, solder mask, etc:

            https://www.eiconnect.com/
            http://pauleschoen.com/pix/PM08_P76_P54.png
            Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
            USA Maryland 21030

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            • #7
              Single sided? Be thankful for that! I've used Eagle in the past. Steep learning curve, no easy way out of this, other than having some one do it for you.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by ikdor View Post
                Eagle can import bmp files into any layer. I think it was importbmp.ulp
                Okay, thanks. I was able to get it imported into Eagle as a bazillion little rectangles but that's just fine as a layer for me to use as a template to redraw from. It's far too complicated a board for me to want to redraw it without a visual guide. Thanks again!

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                • #9
                  Is it your copyright?

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                  • #10
                    I have used OshPark and liked them.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by wombat2go View Post
                      Is it your copyright?
                      It's more than 35 years old and (I'm assuming) he's making it for his own use. You don't even know if the board is in the public domain or not.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by elf View Post
                        It's more than 35 years old and (I'm assuming) he's making it for his own use. You don't even know if the board is in the public domain or not.
                        Yes, I do not, hence my query!
                        And I am assuming nothing!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by wombat2go View Post
                          Yes, I do not, hence my query!
                          And I am assuming nothing!
                          Why do you ask, are you intending to sue him?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by wombat2go View Post
                            Is it your copyright?
                            I don't know but I feel I should have the right to repair my stuff and I wish I didn't have to explain myself. Is it very different from fabricating a replacement part for any commercial product? You take the broken part, trace, measure, whatever, and create a replacement. Sometimes you improve on it too. Anyway, my question was regarding functions of third party software.

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                            • #15
                              Sorry to have offended!
                              I asked Les about copyright because of the following war story that I was involved with in mid 1990's.
                              And I don't imply the following story applies here.

                              In another country a smart industrial service technician ( I think freelance) not related to the company I worked for
                              copied a double sided board on a photocopier, because he knew the original boards were costly.
                              He quickly got it working.
                              I saw the boards in some customer plants and even put 'scope on one.

                              The analog/digital board encapsulated much of the know how that the company had developed, I suppose a $million +
                              to develop the product.

                              Then the artwork got into hands of a person who started making knock-off industrial products with a few employees,
                              and selling them at about half price.
                              One happy customer said to me "Why would I buy yours when I can get this one for half?"

                              So the local division of company I worked for lost a lot of sales and nearly went belly up.
                              Of course the employees suffered financially too during that time.

                              That company regards circuit boards all the way back in time as its copyright.
                              The board is customer property but the copyright is not.
                              When the boards can not be produced any more, "mod kits" are provided as replacements.

                              Yesterday I was talking to a company about embedded factory floor software.
                              There are 2 problems - copying to make knock-offs ,
                              and malicious damage because the software is feeding stuff to a machine control PLC
                              One possibility is to remove all ethernet.
                              What ever the fix will be it will add cost and take away useability from the customers.

                              That is why I asked Les on the HSM thread he started about copying pcbs.

                              Again I am sorry to have offended. It is very topical to me.

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