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 Forum index » DIY Hardware and Software » The layout factory
Free PCB layout program?
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Argitoth



Joined: Jun 24, 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:36 pm    Post subject: Free PCB layout program?
Subject description: What's good?
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Hey, what free PCB program is good to use? I want to create panels out of PCB. If you have any advice on what company to use for manufacturing one-off PCBs that is also much appreciated.

Thank you!
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diablojoy



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I would recomend ExpressPCB for cct boards which is reasonably good.
for front panels i use Front Panel designer both are free programs
I would also install cute pdf printer as it allows any cct designs done in
ExpressPCB to be uploaded here as a PDF should you wish to do so,
makes life easier when sharing your designs.
cheers

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Dougster



Joined: Sep 20, 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I can think of a few things. (You didn't say what operating system you're on...)

ExpressPCB is a great tool, free download, etc, but AFAIK you're locked into using them for board manufacture. If you want a more flexible system, there are some other tools to check out:

KiCad is a nice set of open source tools.

gEDA is another nice set of open source tools.

Free PCB is a free and open source Windows program. It sort of goes along with TinyCAD, the schematic capture program...

If you think you'll be doing a lot of pcb work in the future, I think you should consider EAGLE too. They have an inexpensive version to get started with. There are lots of schematics and board files on the Internet that are already in EAGLE format, so it's nice to be able to leverage that. (And if you need some help with EAGLE, come down to Tucson and buy me lunch and I'll give you a lesson... Wink)

Also, for grins, check out http://www.freerouting.net/. I don't usually use an autorouter, but it's free, so it's worth a try...

As for board manufacturers, check out Gold Phoenix. They'll do 100 square inches of pcb for $100. If you can save up several designs and panelize them into that size board, it's a great deal.

Just for grins, you might check out Prototron which is right here in Tucson. They're more expensive than the Chinese board manufacturers, but they're right here...

Regards,
Doug

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Argitoth



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hey thank you for the valuable information and nice linkages!

Just want to be clear at this point I don't plan on making actual circuits. Like Flavio of BlueLanternModular: http://www.bluelanternmodules.com/ I want to use the PCB as the actual panel for a circuit board.

Basically the only reason I'm being specific about this is because... I'm wondering... is it cost effective for one-offs? You think I could do a black PCB silkscreened euroformat-sized for under $40?
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Uncle Krunkus
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

If you're only doing one, I doubt you'll get it for les than $40.
If you do 3-8, you might get 'em under $40. Might not.
10+,..... Easy as.

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diablojoy



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 6:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
ExpressPCB is a great tool, free download, etc, but AFAIK you're locked into using them for board manufacture


not quite . futurlec will also do boards from ExpressPCB files
and they are cheaper at least for australia anyway.
I have used them for more than a few boards
however they wont do 4 layer boards unfortunately. Sad
[ i have one with ExpressPCB at the moment]

havent tried Kicad, i really should look at it

I tried the free version of eagle also but found it far more awkward
and far too limited maybe i should lash out for the full version as fonik did
but that is something for the future for the moment

Quote:
You think I could do a black PCB silkscreened euroformat-sized for under $40?

for a one off you may be really struggling for a batch of 20 or so, pretty easy i would think . the setup charges are mostly too high for a one off.

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Dougster



Joined: Sep 20, 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Argitoth wrote:
Just want to be clear at this point I don't plan on making actual circuits. Like Flavio of BlueLanternModular: http://www.bluelanternmodules.com/ I want to use the PCB as the actual panel for a circuit board.

Ah, OK, I think I understand. (I haven't seen those particular panels of his.) You could etch your own panels and then paint them to look like a "real" pcb. That would be a lot cheaper than having them made. I'd suggest buying the Thomas Henry DVD from MagSmoke. There's a good section about etching your own boards on it...

Funny/sad, I tried contacting Flavio to see if I could meet him since he's now in the same city as I am, but I had mentioned him once in another post here and he was angry with me and refused to get together. Oh well...

Regards,
Doug

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Dougster



Joined: Sep 20, 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

diablojoy wrote:
futurlec will also do boards from ExpressPCB files and they are cheaper at least for australia anyway.

Ah, that's good to know...

Quote:
I tried the free version of eagle also but found it far more awkward
and far too limited maybe i should lash out for the full version as fonik did
but that is something for the future for the moment

I have really gotten used to the EAGLE interface! It's funny, but I'm annoyed at other programs that don't have similar functions. I've remapped the function keys and I know a lot of the command line stuff. That really speeds things up. Maybe I can finish writing my EAGLE book this year and get it published.

I also like the EAGLE 3D program that uses POVRAY to create 3D models of your boards.

Check out the EAGLE Hobbyist version. That might be a good starting point...

Regards,
Doug

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Once you start down the modular path, forever will it dominate your destiny!

Every DIY person should own a copy of Electronotes: http://electronotes.netfirms.com

Blue LEDs are evil.
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diablojoy



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
You could etch your own panels and then paint them to look like a "real" pcb. That would be a lot cheaper than having them made. I'd suggest buying the Thomas Henry DVD from MagSmoke. There's a good section about etching your own boards on it...


yes thats probably your best bet for one offs
would be very easy to get the correct look
and the panel labeling could be incorporated into the design.
instead of paint though, perhaps the japanese black stain
you can get at hardware stores would be a closer finish
followed by a satin clear coat

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curetronic.com



Joined: Jun 29, 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

http://www.diptrace.com/
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diablojoy



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Diptrace =imperial only no metric ?
eagle hobyist =160 x 100 max size too limited
freepcb Smile looks the best to me so far
I think i will swap over to that for a while

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ungleichklang



Joined: Dec 03, 2011
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'm not a PCB-Designer, but I found
http://fritzing.org/
you don't need to start with a schem but you can start with placing parts directly on a PCB.
Looks great for quick'n'dirty pcb designs

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emdot_ambient



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

ungleichklang wrote:
I'm not a PCB-Designer, but I found
http://fritzing.org/

Their pricing looks a lot more expensive than futurlec except if you're doing really small runs (futurlec charges more for their set up costs, but way less for the size of the board).

I priced out a 5cm X 2.5cm board with a production run of 100 (I'm thinking of doing a run that size of small "chicklets" for 16mm Alpha pots with push/pull switches). Fritzing is charging $0.66 per cubic cm per board for a production run that size, and a $5.20 set up charge. That's a total cost of $830.20, or $8.30 per board. A run of the same number and size at futurlec, double sided with mask and screen comes to a total of $161, $1.61 per board. But they're charging a flat $12 the siklscreening, $12 for the solder mask and $25 for the setup and artwork.

It's a completely different story if you're ordering only 1. Fritzing's would cost only $8.30, whereas futurlec's would cost a whopping $62.25 because of the fixed setup costs.

So it really depends on how many you want/need as to whether a place like fritzing.org makes sense.

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emdot_ambient



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Incidentally, does anyone know if futurlec's fixed prices are charged per order, or per project? I mean, if I got a run of 50, and later ordered another 50, would they charge extra for all the silk screening, solder mask, setup and artwork?
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ungleichklang



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

emdot_ambient wrote:

So it really depends on how many you want/need as to whether a place like fritzing.org makes sense.


I meant the PCB designing tool you get. the new version 0.7 runs pretty stable on Linux and one can export the files to Gerber.
It really is easy designing PCBs after schematics :°

For PCB order I heard seeedstudio.com (fusion pcb service) have good prices and good service for smaller productions

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