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Author Topic: What is the best free PCB designing application..??  (Read 49326 times)
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http://iliyakovac.com/free-but-not-free-or-im-off-to-cancun/

Free but not free or “I’m off to Cancun”

You wake up and the sun is shining. Yep, it’s a great day. “I fancy a bit of that electronic designing that I keep hearing about” you proclaim as you drink your first coffee of the day.

So you power up the laptop, click on Google and wow loads of free PCB design software, “I’ll have a bit of that” you announce to the world, but only the cat is in the room. The cat gives you a funny look.

You download the freebie feeling well pleased with your mastery of the internet and the bundles of cash you have just saved. You make a mental note to “book vacation in Cancun”.

You start up the software and off you go, Edison “eat your heart out”.

Your first Gizmo is a success.

A couple of months pass by. Now “let’s turn Gizmo into Super Gizmo” you say with a big smile. So off you go, the freebie is up and running and you are well into the new design then bang, smash, wallop a dialog pops up saying you have reached the freebie limit and it’s time to pay up. You yelp in pain. The Super Gizmo must be done; you’ve spent another 2 weeks on it. Out comes the plastic, you tap in a few digits ($500) then you are up and running.

The following week Super Gizmo is let loose on the world.

A couple of months later, you wake up with the cat licking your face, you thought it was the girl you meet last night but she dumped you as you both were leaving the bar. A bright idea enters your head “let’s turn Super Gizmo into Mega Gizmo”.  So off you go, the not so free freebie is up and running and you are well into the new design then bang, smash, wallop that darned dialog pops up again saying you have reached another limit and it’s time to pay up. You yelp in pain. The Super Gizmo must be done; you’ve spent another 2 weeks on it. So you look for alternatives, you see DEX; it’s real cheap and no limits. , “I’ll have a bit of that” you yell. Download DEX but what’s this? You can’t move your design from the not so free freebie to DEX, the not so free freebie developers keep their file format secret. Nobody else can read it. You have been well and truly screwed.

Out comes the plastic, you tap in a few digits ($1000) then you are up and running.  You make a mental note “cancel Cancun”. The cat hisses at you, turns round and legs it for the door.

The following week Mega Gizmo is let loose on the world and you wonder what to do during your vacation at home.

You have just been stung.

In the business it’s called the Trojan Horse.

Regards
Iliya Kovac


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Iliya Kovac
Developer of AutoTRAX DEX 2020

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AutoTRAX is correct about his analysis. Also the fact he posts on here is a good sign, truthfully I know very little about the program AutoTrax; so I can't say much about it.


In general finding the right PCB CAD is a bit like choosing an OS. There are benefits and downsides to them all and LOTS of fanboys.


EAGLE is the most commonly encountered CAD for the hobbyist. It's one of the OGs when it comes to PCB CAD for hobbyists.
Benefits:
HUGE userbase - this can't be understated. If you are having problems people often have EAGLE CAD installed and can help you.
Lots of parts libraries - since its the most common, lots of parts libraries for it. No need to re-invent the wheel if someone else has already amde it for you.
Free version

Downsides:
Can be a bit counterintuitive and intimidating to a new person.
Kind of difficult to make your own parts libraries (obviously difficulty is all relative)
Limits on board size make some designs unaffordable (if you want to make large boards with relatively few parts, it doesn't matter you still have to pay up)
Can be pricey if you want to use it for profit and need larger boards




KiCAD - the open source PCB CAD
Benefits:
Full featured
Free
Open-source
No limitations

Downsides:
Can be a bit counterintuitive and complex
As with many open-source projects feature creep can be an issue.
Can be buggy from time to time (usually pretty stable though)


DipTrace (full disclosure this is the one I use and prefer YMMV)
Benefits:
The one I found most intuitve
No board size limitations (just pin and signal layer limitations, no limit on ground planes or power planes)
By far the easiest to add parts and make your own custom libraries
The developers listen to the users
Prices and upgrading is logical (upgrading between levels, you just pay the difference between them)
Free non-profit version allows 2 signal layers,500 pins (this is a LOT actually in my experience)

Downsides:
Much smaller user base
The included libraries are kind of weirdly organized (getting better but still not great)
Not free
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That is true, these software designers let you into their world, make you get used to the luxuries and a week or two later, take your money and keep taking your money by releasing new versions which apparently only upgrade if you pay for it. Most of the time they claim they have fundamentally changed the software and now it designs by reading your brain waves or something like that but it's all the same thing, just new icons maybe. The easiest way to defeat them is find a good enough free software. Anyways, do try Designspark.com it's a really interesting software and it's better than many paid CAD software’s out there.

pcb assembly
« Last Edit: August 26, 2013, 12:23:12 pm by arin » Logged

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@arin,
Please check the dates of posts you respond to - this topic is 8 months old now.
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Designing & building electrical circuits for over 25 years. Check out the ATMega1284P based Bobuino and other '328P & '1284P creations & offerings at  www.crossroadsfencing.com/BobuinoRev17.
Arduino for Teens available at Amazon.com.

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I can highly recommend the time effort to learn kicad. Kicad is truly opensource and license free to use. (It is worth going through the short pdf tutorial that comes with the package located under the help menu.)

Having also extensively used top end paid ECAD tools like Altium, I found kicad can still stand up against these big players. AFAIK, Eagle has restrictions in terms of layers and board size as well as being limited to non commercial use.

Regards,

Dale
www.GorillaBuilderz.com.au
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Buddy

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Hi,
Eagle's is Best, u can try Arduino too and
http://www.expresspcb.com/
http://www.freepcb.com/
http://actpcb.com

i would recommend u that Research on it . usually i used all of the software.
Thanks


* PCB.jpg (17.47 KB, 275x183 - viewed 99 times.)
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Eagle is not opensource and free version is too limited:
- area max
- schematic can have only one sheet.
- PCB : Only two layer.

Schematic :
With Eagle  the schematics can not be more than one sheet.
With Kicak I can put the power supplies on a sheet and the microcontroller to another that is more readable.
Just have a look at the Due diagram : there are sub-parts of power schematics  throughout the single feuile  : is unreadable

PCB :
I made ​​my prototype with proto-board and I use software to prepare the wiring.
The wires can cross without limit, this is equivalent to an unlimited number of layers
With the only two layers of Eagle I can not do anything.
With  the 16 layers of Kicad everything becomes possible.


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I have been using Eagle since Fall 2010, and have done some pretty complex designs with it.
You can fit an amazing amount of stuff on 1 schematic sheet, I have not found that to be an issue.
I have done All my designs as 2 layer PCBs. With 4 layers, the price for a board jumps up. I have not even looked at 16 layer pricing, that's really for commercial designs.
I try to limit board sizes to 100mmx100mm, as prices for boards also increase a lot above that size.
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Designing & building electrical circuits for over 25 years. Check out the ATMega1284P based Bobuino and other '328P & '1284P creations & offerings at  www.crossroadsfencing.com/BobuinoRev17.
Arduino for Teens available at Amazon.com.

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I do not strictly speak about PCB but when you use  cupper wire and a soldering iron  to wire a protoboard.
In this case more than two layers is really useful to design the layout and routing  .

Also to be able to split  "intelligently" the schematic on multiple sheets is really usefull.
This is what most arduino competitors do and schematics are really more readable.
The diagram DUE is an example of what not to do.

We must expose all the advantages and disadvantage so that the applicant can make up their own mind.

PS : For your information Wiring Project has switch to Kicad.
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I agree with Buddy on Kicad,
Kicad is a good choice for a design. I have used it in past and plan on getting back to it. I really like it. Not limited.
Eagle has it's issues but it is very usable. I have used it in the past. It is suitable for production quantity PCBs. Free version is limited.
PCBExpress, aka Sunstone, offers PCB123 with new protoservice. I did not care for PCB123 though.
ExpressPCB is my choice for quick cheap prototype boards. The process is dirt simple like notepad for layout with no frills. They offer PCB fab linked with the schematic and layout tool. Their cheapest offer is 3 identical boards that are 3.8" by 2.5" for $51 with a 4 day turn around time. The designs are _not_transferable_ .This is not a tool that I would use for production quantity PCBs but I think some people do.

If you new to design layout, any of these tools will help you learn how it is done. Try them all. I did, they're free!

I am currently using Altium. It is very expensive and takes a long time to learn. Do not start here unless someone else is paying you to learn it.
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I used expresspcb
http://www.expresspcb.com/
for one board design. Where it is really limited is the lack of rubberbanding - and being able to visualize component interconnects is key to component placement and a board that can ultimately be routable. Also, it does not have any autorouting. Or linked schematic symbols and parts symbols. After that initial design, I have only used it for quick schematics here for discussion and for documenting component placements on wirewrap boards.

After that initial PCB, All my designs have been done using eagle. Here are just a few:
http://www.crossroadsfencing.com/BobuinoRev17/
I've tried to fit things into 3 basic sizes:
50x50mm for one PCB price point with iteadstudio, ($9.90 for 10 boards)
80x100mm for free eagle size limit, and also the size of Velleman ECS 1/2 protoboards,
and 100x100mm for the next PCB price point ($24.90 for 10 boards).
Bigger than that, the price starts to increase a lot, to like $48 for 5 boards for Mega Screw Shield size boards.
 
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Designing & building electrical circuits for over 25 years. Check out the ATMega1284P based Bobuino and other '328P & '1284P creations & offerings at  www.crossroadsfencing.com/BobuinoRev17.
Arduino for Teens available at Amazon.com.

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Eagle is a very good piece of software. Specifically, the non-free versions scale up to much bigger targets. Meanwhile, you have all of those tools available for your 10x8 cm double-sided board as freeware (for non-commercial projects AFAICT).

Other free software you might want to check out:
- expresspcb: http://www.expresspcb.com/ (only works with their board making service)
- gEDA: http://www.gpleda.org/ (open source -- is to Eagle what Gimp is to Photoshop)
- pad2pad: http://www.pad2pad.com/
- Tina: http://www.tina.com/English/tina/ (includes some simulation capability)
- FreePCB: http://www.freepcb.com/ (open source -- it's more like MS Paint than a full system)

Thank you, I think I will try all the software that you take, and then select the best
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There's also DesignSpark PCB to add to that list

http://www.designspark.com/pcb
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I have not used, well? I am also looking for such a software, a lot of hope that the landlord can recommend.
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I have not used, well? I am also looking for such a software, a lot of hope that the landlord can recommend.
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