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Author Topic: EAGLE alternative - larger boards  (Read 5169 times)
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Mobile, AL
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Some (shudder) like ExpressPCB
 ;D  that's funny - it took me a while to develop a like for ExpressPCB myself - it's so simple it sorta "grows" on you.  I have used AutoCAD for more years than I like to count... v2.62 was where I started.  I played around with ExpressPCB and ExpressSCH some, decided "that's no good" and moved on to Eagle and KiCAD.  A buddy wanted me to use ExpressSCH so we could work on a schematic together.

As I've used Express more - I find it does most of what I need/want in a PCB layout package for toner transfer.  Each time I find something I want that ExpressPCB doesn't do, I pop over to the yahoo users group and ask.  It usually gets an answer on where I missed and it does do what I want.  If it doesn't do it, there is a "work around".

ExpressPCB is NOT for CNC milling, gerber files, or autorouting.  For just a basic Schematic/PCB layout tool for toner transfer etching - it actually works pretty good.  The printer does require the ability to mirror a print since ExpressPCB does not give that option.

Ken H>
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If your experience with electronics progresses at a normal rate

I don't have any professional experience; my electronics experience basically amounts to what I learned in a local tech school close to 20 years ago after high school (of which I have never used for employment), along with on-and-off again small projects here in there since then. This includes various small robotics experiments, along with various sundry homebrew VR hacking. Now I am working again on a robotics project; actually the largest electronics project I've ever undertaken - both in complexity and physical size.

I can read as well as design a schematic ok (something I need to brush up on is calculation of component values and such for proper sizing for the job/characteristics needed - right now, I pretty much make "educated guesses", and if a part gets too hot, or doesn't seem to be working the way I want it, I go back to the design and cipher on it a bit); I can transfer such a circuit to a breadboard as needed. So in my case, I wouldn't be laying out a schematic from a physical breadboard design, but going the opposite direction (with a graphical symbol set that is clear and mostly easy to understand for screenshots), in order to show someone how to lay out a circuit on a breadboard - could be very useful. But you are right; it would only be useful for certain sized circuits - once you got past a certain pin-count level or part level, it becomes less trivial to represent.


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Some people do very well with gEDA. Other swear by Kicad...if you plan to design real PCBs in the future, your time would be better spent learning some other tool.

Thank you for the suggestion; I plan on taking it seriously - I will do some more research, into both gEDA and Kicad - I want to learn this end of the process better, and my simple h-bridge design would be a good circuit to learn how to design with a tool. I plan to keep following Fritzing's progress, I might even still try making a TO-3 transistor set for it - but I want to do more serious work, too.

 smiley
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Some people do very well with gEDA. Other swear by Kicad...if you plan to design real PCBs in the future, your time would be better spent learning some other tool.
Ah.  The latter comment is WRT "Fritzing"; I spent a while trying to figure out why someone was bad-mouthing gEDA and KiCAD.

There are certain concepts in common with a lot of CAD packages.  EAGLE, gEDA, and KiCAD will all teach you some of those concepts.  Fritzing... probably not.  It'd be like learning APL as your first computer language!
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To clarify, I don't currently run any Windows environments, so Linux or Mac suggestions are perfect. smiley

And wow, thanks for all the discussion so far. I was kind of expecting this thread would be one of those classic Bar Sport flops that gets two half-hearted replies, but here it is ~24 hours later and we're on page two already. I have a lot of research to do!

Has there ever been a poll or other attempt at gathering info on what software hobbyists use? I've used EAGLE to date purely because I perceived it as the most popular, and since I'm interested in working/sharing with others, it's important to me to work in a format that's as universal as possible. But here in this thread I see more non-EAGLE users than I'd expected. . .
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I think PCB cad packages are to PCB folks like anchors to sailors - many different types, with some working better than others - depending on use.  Yep, I have my opinions on anchors as well  smiley-wink

ExpressPCB works pretty good for the hobbist who etches own boards, sorta limits to double sided max, but I have known a couple of folks who did a 4 layer board at home. There are more folks than you might think using that package.

For the person working toward a "serious" board work, I'd think KiCAD or Eagle would (might?) be the package of choice, but diptrace is pretty good also.

Have fun - play with several of them.  Things you learn in one package sorta carry over to other packages....

Ken H>
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I wonder if there is a way to post-process the output of eagle into gerber's with a scaling-up of all dimensions?

You would have to define you own libraries of scaled-down devices though... smiley-sad
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After I did some more research on everything, it seems that I should continue with either geda or kicad for my future designing goals, rather than Fritzing. I do plan to keep an eye on Fritzing and how it grows; it does seem like an easy way for beginners to get into things, and since it outputs Gerber, it won't lock you into their stuff (they have plans to allow you to upload your board design and have it built/stuffed and mailed back to you).

But - I've already played around with gschem, which is part of geda; I did a preliminary design of my h-bridge with it, just to play around, several months back (long before I found Fritzing). So I am thinking of going with the entire toolbase there - or Kicad, or a combo, or something. I don't want to be locked into anything, and I don't want to be limited (like it seems I might be with Fritzing).

Something I did find, though - which I don't quite understand: In the geda toolchain, there are several symbol sets for various transistors, but none of them were a 2n3055 NPN - however, I did find footprints (for the PCB layout, I think) for a TO-3 case (actually, they were marked for the 2n3055) transistor. Do I need to still create a symbol for the transistor, or do I just use a regular NPN transistor, change some attributes (so that on the schematic layout it is defined as a 2n3055), and then in the PCB editor bring in the 2n3055 footprint - and it will "magically" (or maybe with some massaging) work out trace-wise?

Then again, maybe I just need to redesign my h-bridge away from the 2n3055 (go with a power mosfet design or something)...

 smiley
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I have known a couple of folks who did a 4 layer board at home
How did they do that? 4 single-sided PCB's layered on top of each other? I usually try to squeeze out a single-sided PCB when I'm designing one, double-sided works too. Not that Ive designed a lot of PSB's though.


cr0sh:

Ive never used geda, maybe I should try that too sometime but Im kinda sold on kicad. One of the things I like about it is that you are not locked to a particular footprint for any component. Kicad have 4 main parts, EEshcema for schematics, CVpcb to assign schematics to footprints (or "modules" as kicad insists on calling it), PCBnew PCB editor and a a gerber viewer.
Of course you must have the pin names corresponding to each other (schematics to modules/footprints) for a correct PCB layout. If the parts dont have that, its not that difficult to make your own parts. (But Im kinda skeptic about making my own library with lots of parts in it, as I seem to be good at overwriting those with a new one, with the lates part only... or something like that. Its a little while since I used it now, but although Ive used it a little while theres still things I havent got used to yet. Library administration is one of them).

But anyway its a really nice electronics cad imho, but certainly also quirky. Id be pretty lost without some guides, like this one: http://www.curiousinventor.com/guides/kicad

Another thing I like is that it is cross-platform, linux and windows. I dont think its for mac though. And no size limitation (apart from an A4? but you can link several together). There is also a lot of libraries (many converted from Eagle too) for it.

Oh, and a nice addition is the 3D viewer, to visualize the board while you make it. You can even make your own 3D models if you want, with the wings3D package.
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