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Author Topic: How to get started designing and ordering PCBs?  (Read 2389 times)
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I've been reading about forum members designing their own PCBs and then ordering them from somewhere. Some things I've read mention Eagle Files, which is suppose is from the CAD software.

Is there a tutorial or website I can visit to learn all about it?

Are you ordering from one or two places to have the boards made up, where service and pricing is good?

Thanks in advance for any direction.

Jake
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I just did this for the first time last month, and while I'm no expert I'll try my best to help you out.

There are a lot of pretty amazing tutorials one can find with a bit of googling, but my personal favorite can be found here: http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/108

Eagle is a CAD software that can be used to design the pcb you need, after which you process these files in Eagle to create Gerber files (raw instructions for the machine making the pcb).

You then send these Gerber files to the manufacturer. After searching around the best pricing I could find for a single pcb was at http://myropcb.com/ ; they had decent service, and the board quality was great.
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A life? Where can I download one of those?
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If you are just getting started, I would recommend Fritzing.  It is the easiest way to lay out your design.  It has a Breadboard view, Schematic view, and a PCB view.  Mostly it's beginner friendly.  Fritzing lets you export your files to Gerber Files that most manufacturers use to make the PCB.

As for as PCB manufacturer houses, OSH Park has the best prices but takes around a month to get your PCB back.  Also they only have purple boards.  But by far the cheapest.  Down side is that you have to buy 3 copies of your board.  
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I've been looking into the laser printer toner method. It appears pretty doable and seems like it would be really rewarding.

No ordering and waiting either  smiley-cool
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Peoples Republic of Cantabrigia
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Eagle has a steep learning curve, but it's my package of choice due to cost and the cross-platform (Mac OSX and Windows) capability. The sparkfun tutorial is a good place to start, then start searching for libraries at Sparkfun, Adafruit, Cadsoft, among others and /or make your own.

The process of making the files you send to a fab is not terribly intuitive in Eagle - you need to select a CAM processor, then open your project while in the CAM section - doesn't matter if its open elsewhere already, for example. You can download CAM processors from all the major fabs as well as design rule files (DRUs) so that you can be sure that your design can actually be made.

FWIW, I have had very good luck with the iteadstudio fab in shenzen, takes up to three weeks if you select DHL delivery, longer with postal mail. But the prices are pretty unbeatable - $25 for a 10x10cm board with 100% e-test and 10 boards. Shipping is $28 for DHL, $6.5 for postal mail. I have had only one order out of many screwed up at itead.  I usually combine multiple board orders to save on shipping.

I wasn't quite as happy with Laen because he lost one of my orders - but the other set of boards that came back was great in terms of quality and finish. He's allegedly fixed the submital issues, so it might be worth a try - see the OSH Park site mentioned above.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2012, 11:10:48 am by Constantin » Logged

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I'm a Mac user too, but I can run Windows 7 in a Virtual Machine if necessary.

Thanks gentlemen! I'm off and reading!   smiley-grin
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Lookup the Element 14 Web site -- maybe even download the Eagle package through them if you think you fit the profile and could benefit from their offerings.

They are oriented towards engineers or wannabes (students).
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I can also recommend Eagle and iteadstudio.com.
10 boards up to 50mmx50mm boards $9.90 plus shipping, typically $5 via air mail. 3 weeks to arrive, big delay seems to be clearing customs.
10 boards up to 100mmx100mm (free eagle license goes to 80 x100mm) for $24.90 plus shipping, still around $5.
I have ordered 6-7 times or more, no problems at all.
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As for as PCB manufacturer houses, OSH Park has the best prices but takes around a month to get your PCB back.  Also they only have purple boards.  But by far the cheapest.  Down side is that you have to buy 3 copies of your board.  

More like two weeks. Very nice quality boards. The China fabs are cheaper per board, but if you don't need 10 copies, OSH Park is a great alternative and will be a little faster.

My last order from OSH Park was submitted on 13Jul.  I was out of town and had the mail stopped, but when I returned on 28Jul they were in the mailbox. So 15 days worst case.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2012, 04:40:32 pm by Jack Christensen » Logged

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More like two weeks. Very nice quality boards. The China fabs are cheaper per board, but if you don't need 10 copies, OSH Park is a great alternative and will be a little faster.

My last order from OSH Park was submitted on 13Jul.  I was out of town and had the mail stopped, but when I returned on 28Jul they were in the mailbox. So 15 days worst case.

I've ordered all mine from Seeedstudio and it takes 2-3 weeks to get, so it sounds like OSH Park is a little faster but considerably more expensive when you need more than a couple boards. Might be a good idea if you need it yesterday and don't need more than 3 of them.
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Hmmm... do the math. At $5/in^2 the OSH Park offer is attractive, especially if you only need a couple of boards or if your board design is unusual (i.e. very long and thin, for example) since the Asian price points are usually optimized around rectangular and square board dimensions.

Let me give you an example. A bunch of my boards are about 4x3", i.e. 12 sq. inches. From OSH, for $60 I get 3 boards of beautiful quality, usually with gold connectors, etc. but with wider tolerance requirements than iteadstudio the last time I checked. Turn time, about 2-3 weeks in my experience but perhaps faster now that they are making several 2-sided runs every week. Plus, they allow internal routings, which some fabs do not.

From iteadstudio, the colored (i.e. non-green) PCB option is $35 for 10cmx10cm. Add another $28 for overnight shipping and the cost is about the same as OSH, except that I get either 10 green boards or 8 colored ones. 100% e-Test but no gold plating. For higher quantities, OSH offers as low as $1/in^2 pricing. However, that's usually still more expensive than the asian fabs in quantities of 10.

So nothing against using OSH or the chinese fabs. Both offer competitive boards. As for PCB-Pool which is the fab of choice inside Eagle, I found their prices to not be competitive with either OSH, Seeeed, or iteadstudio. Additionally, one thing I really like and may take advantage of in the future are the assembly services at Seeed for higher-quantity boards.
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I've downloaded Eagle and worked through most of the tutorial on the SparkFun page. There is definitely some ramp up time there, learning where things are at and how to manipulate parts.

What I'd really like to do is have a solder ready PCB with the combined traces of the following two boards. This is the Diavolino from Evil Mad Science. It's an Uno clone with no USB. It is also open source:


And this Permaproto board from Adafruit. It's a solder ready project board with traces like a bread-board:


With a board like that I could move my project right off the breadboard onto a single board and save a lot of wiring with the traces for the ATmegaXX8 and parts like resonator, caps, FTDI and ISCP in place.  With the other end of the PCB like a breadboard to attach whatever else is needed for the project.

Does anyone know if such a development board already exist? Or maybe there is an open source design for one that I could submit for fabrication?

Thanks,
Jake
« Last Edit: August 02, 2012, 07:56:38 pm by BlueJakester » Logged

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Take a look at the freetronics Arduino selection and also at @freaklabs freedboard which is pretty damn useful smiley
Where are you at in CO BTW? http://www.freetronics.com/products/eleven#.UBskOrRtYg4, http://www.freaklabsstore.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=194

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Thanks Sparky, I'll check those out.

I'm in a north Denver suburb.
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Nice to see another fellow north suburban here smiley
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