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  • Pcb 101

    I need to get some small PCB's made up for some hobby work. I've tried various methods over the decades; photo resist and batches of ferric chloride, laser printer transfer (miserable failure), even scoring with a knife for simple straight line isolation of copper pads. I was then looking at getting / building a small CNC router to machine the isolation tracks. A hobby in itself, and you still don't get a solder mask or silkscreening.

    But I'm now going down the "design it in Eagle and get it made" route. Cost of getting professional quality PCB's has plummeted. For anyone else looking at this, here are 3 tutorials that, in about 90 minutes, take you from installing the software to sending the Gerber files off for manufacture. They're very watchable. Hope these are of help:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AXwjZoyNno
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCTs0mNXY24
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oId-h6AeXXE

    and once it comes to picking someone to make them, these look good: http://www.allpcb.com/

    Ian
    All of the gear, no idea...

  • #2
    ExpressPCB has free software and very cheap prototype cards available also. www.expresspcb.com The software is easy to learn and the circuit boards seem to be very high quality. I have used them several times. You can get 3 boards for as low as $41. I have not used their new version of the software.

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    • #3
      I found Eagle very non intuitive and very frustrating to use. Tried the free version of DipTrace and it suddenly got easy. You are restricted to 500 holes and I think double sided but no limit on board size. You can export and import in lots of formats. There are lots of libraries but it is easy to make your own components as well.


      Just my opinion. No question eagle dominates the hobby mind set but I don't know why.

      Brian

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      • #4
        Originally posted by bhowden View Post

        Just my opinion. No question eagle dominates the hobby mind set but I don't know why.

        Brian
        Because Eagle is super easy compared to any of the "pro" layout software
        Have used Mentor Graphics products couple of times. Would have probably take 2 weeks just to fiqure out how to configure and install the damn thing.
        Normally this is not a problem for hobbyist since the licensing starts at something like 100k per user...

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        • #5
          Fritzing and Kicad are two open source PCB software programs. Fritzing is rather limited compared to Kicad. Kicad, for me, was much easier to learn than Eagle and it has no limitations on size.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by MattiJ View Post
            Because Eagle is super easy compared to any of the "pro" layout software
            Have used Mentor Graphics products couple of times. Would have probably take 2 weeks just to fiqure out how to configure and install the damn thing.
            Normally this is not a problem for hobbyist since the licensing starts at something like 100k per user...
            It can start at a lot less than that, but yes, the entire process of installing it, getting the licensing working, and then learning the actual program , is actually a job in itself. I have used several MG products over the years. No, the offerings have NOT improved, IMO.

            Small business and hobby folks just do not want to afford that sort of money and time investment.
            1601

            Keep eye on ball.
            Hashim Khan

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            • #7
              Started using Eagle this year for a stepper servo driver I'm still working on. Those tutorials helped me a lot to get into the program. Once you know the basics is easy to use, but what I hate most is finding the components in the libraries.

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              • #8
                I use Kicad now and I have used both Seeed, qty 10 - 100mm x 100mm double sided with plated through hole for $5.00. and also DirtyPCB were about the same quality.
                Max.
                ,

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                • #9
                  I also use ExpressPCB mostly because it's easy to learn and use. Custom components are easy to create and library components have Digikey numbers so you are sure you are using the right part. The schematic drawing software is just as easy to use as the board software. Have to buy boards in 3's and limited in size but for double sided plated through boards it's quick. A little costly compared to other sources about ~$50.00 for three boards shipped 2nd day air but for me the ease and convenience is worth it.

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                  • #10
                    There is an active recent thread on sci.electronics.design about PCB software and board fabrication. Digikey sells a free version of PADS but it does not have autorouting. They also said that they found a very cheap and pretty good board source that also does assembly.

                    https://www.digikey.com/en/product-h...ics/pads-maker

                    I've recently come up to speed on the new KiCad and am very impressed. Anybody who hasn't tried it in the last two years (since CERN got involved and rewrote a bunch of it) might want to take a look.

                    PCBway.com does dirt cheap boards. For example: 10 boards, 10cmx10cm, 2 layer, for $5. Ships from China, and not the best quality, but for prototypes and one-offs, worth looking into.
                    https://groups.google.com/forum/#!fo...tronics.design

                    You can't beat https://www.pcbway.com/. I got an instant quote for 5 pieces of a 2.5" x 5" board I am working on, and the TOTAL cost is just $5, plus they send some "universal" prototype boards as a free gift, AND also a $5 coupon!
                    Last edited by PStechPaul; 11-27-2017, 05:00 PM. Reason: PCBway
                    http://pauleschoen.com/pix/PM08_P76_P54.png
                    Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
                    USA Maryland 21030

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                    • #11
                      This thread is timely for me as I am presently working thru the same problem space. That is, how to design and get a PCB made to my own design.

                      The keywords when it comes to sending off your design for manufacture/prototyping seems to be "Gerbers and Drill Files". Certainly the boards do not cost much once you have these files.

                      After some searching I found this site with links and descriptions of many freeby design packages.

                      The descriptions have an honest feel about them, are comprehensive and aimed at getting the right result thru use of each design package.

                      The short story seems to be that they are nudging users to KiCad or Eagle.

                      For me I chose KiCad for my first serious "play". There is as expected a learning curve. The download and installation was easy. Working thru the tutorial is essential. If you don't work thru the tutorial you will not get to see all the steps to get from design to the footprint.

                      It is not too late for me to change; so I did run the 3 x Eagle videos this morning. Eagle seems to have an earlier and tighter bind of the components to be used; plus seems a bit more visual for the first timer in that regard.

                      Eagle does bind the freeby user to a max 2 layers and has a limit on the vias. The freeby KiCad is totally open for size of board and number of layers etc.

                      I will be following this thread with interest.

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                      • #12
                        I have been using Design Spark for about 3 years. Its currently at version 8. Huge libraries are available, plus you can create your own components either from scratch or by modifying an existing component. I've had 6 sets of boards produced by DirtyPCBs: 10 - 4" x 4" boards for $17.
                        Kevin

                        More tools than sense.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by bhowden View Post
                          I found Eagle very non intuitive and very frustrating to use. Tried the free version of DipTrace and it suddenly got easy. You are restricted to 500 holes and I think double sided but no limit on board size. You can export and import in lots of formats. There are lots of libraries but it is easy to make your own components as well.


                          Just my opinion. No question eagle dominates the hobby mind set but I don't know why.

                          Brian
                          Yes! Eagle is terrible. I've used Altium, OrCad, KiCad, PADS, ExpressPCB, Eagle and my favorite is still DipTrace. Altium has some great features for complicated boards, especially if it's a board that has multiple people collaborating on it but for simple projects, DipTrace is so easy. I paid for the full version, though.

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                          • #14
                            I've been using Kicad lately with decent results. There is certainly a learning curve (especially if you need to make your own components) and some limitations (particularly I found with heat-sinking vias in pads) but it does what I need.

                            OSHpark is nice to deal with and is reasonably priced for small boards but their turn around is slow.

                            I recently got some boards made by Easy-EDA. . . dirt cheap and made in China but the quality seems fine and they made it to my door faster than most U.S. fabs would have.

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