From diagram, to PCB, to plastic case

I'm ready to make my new awesome electronic instrument.
I need to design a PCB, make a 3D model of it and design a plastic case for the PCB.

I tried KiCAD and rejected it because it doesn't move components with wires properly.
I can't rewire everything when I need to insert a new component there.

How do you move from a wire diagram to PCB and to the final plastic case?

What do you use for PCB, which can more components with wires and auto-route the board tracks?
I think I'll use Blender for 3D printing and plastic production.

Oh, and I'm not paying for anything, of course.


I (and most here) never use auto-route.

There is a free version of Google’s 3D ‘Sketch-up’ that you can use to design your enclosure component placement, there is a learning curve.

Place your components on the PCB before you rout the circuit paths, use DRC to check your PCB.

I use WinQcad (not available any more) there may still be a few sites that offer a ‘limited’ free version.

Thaks, guys. Looks like I'd better stick with KiCAD. I'm not paying $200 a year for Eagle to design a couple of boards.

If your board is only two layers, Eagle is free.

I tried KiCad and gave up in frustration. Their handling of component libraries is incomprehensible. Eagle component libraries just make sense. I was even able to create a couple of components from scratch, and I am certainly not an Eagle expert.

Also, the support on the Eagle user forums is (like here) outstanding.

Auto routing is not a good option. I always prefer manual routing, gives better control. I have always worked on Proteus software, it has auto route option as well.

I think I’ll use Blender for 3D printing and plastic production.

Blender is more for 3D sculpting, it can also do what you need but it is difficult to learn. If you want a functional box it will be easier with FreeCAD (since you asked for free software)


If your board is only two layers, Eagle is free.

The problem is that my board is just a little bit bigger (9x15cm) than the free limit (80cm2), commercial or not. Can't really make it smaller.
And I'm going to use it commercially, I hope soon. 8)
UPDATE: Just checked, it's $100 a year and everybody says it's the best by far. I think I'll drop a 100 and save myself some pain and time.

For the auto-routing, I'm just new to this and don't want to make mistakes routing myself, but it looks like I have to. Don't want to end up with a noisy board because of some long tracks in the wrong places.

And what a bunch of nice people here!
Thanks everybody.

“don't want to make mistakes routing myself, ”

These programs have what is called DRC, Design Rules Check.
It is something that tells you if everything is routed ‘as per the schematic’.
It should tell you if traces are to close to pads etc. . . .

My PCB program has the option to run DRC at any time and of course you should run it after you finalize the PCB.

Got it. Thanks.

It’s often easier to source your box , then make the PCB to fit it, that would save a lot of your cost .
In my experience autorouting always needs the human hand to get everything where you want it and get the board size you want .

Good points!

And auto-trace just stinks! Dont bother..

It usually doesnt complete all connections anyways.. and what it DOES do is not great.

It should be easy enough to follow your schematic 'lines' and route on the PCB as you see fit.. and that makes the most sense!

Design what you want your product to look like, that will determine the case and connector positions etc.
Then find or design your case with a mind to the future pcb and mounting points. (angles fitting switches, connectors etc.)
Then design the detail of your PCB to fit. Remember component heights etc.
Build one, then start again! It always takes more than once!

And auto-trace just stinks! Dont bother..

I've only designed and prototyped six boards with Eagle, and Autoroute worked well in every case.

A lot of it comes down to how well components are placed, the snap-to-grid size used, the trace width (defined in Net Class), and whether or not top & bottom ground planes are used.

I'll place parts, try the autorouter, clean up placement, try it again, see where issues, are and keep working it. Sometime some hand tweaking is needed, some traces need to move a little to let Gnds autoconnect, perhaps place some Gnd vias to let top & bottom layers connect.

Really appreciate all of your responses and advises, guys.

I did install Eagle yesterday and started to learn how to use it.
I’ll make a smaller board first, for free, and see how it goes. It’s a Teensy 4.0 based guitar + MIDI keyboard programmable synthesizer.

I want it to be “pocket-size”, so bought a 3D printer so that I can go through a few “board-case-board-case” iterations. I’ll use some online service for the boards.

I’ll make it very easy to use and reliable, so it may take quite a few iterations.
When it all fits, I’ll find a plastic factory for the case and someone to make a complete board.

Hope to get a Lamborghini Huracan in a couple of years.

If you make lots of money, some unknown country will copy your project and sell it for $2.00

You better keep your old vehicle.

some unknown country will copy your project

I know. I'm going to beat them on the software side. The device is only a base for the programs I have.
I'm sure I'll make it somehow.

And yes, I will keep my Honda Civic for awhile, just in case.