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Old 17th December 2006, 08:59 AM   #1
stottie is offline stottie  United Kingdom
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Default PCB programs

Hi

Found EXpressPCB so easy to use and very good, but tried to print to printer drivers etc to overcome its lack of printing cooper layers.

Ive now found a program KiCad http://kicad.sourceforge.net/en/download.shtml
does anyone use this on windows at least.

It looks very professional but at the moment i cant even stick a pad down. Guess its the help file i need to read. I assume you can make PCB's without having to create the Scheme and then do an auto generation.

Regards

John

P.S Getting back into DIY electronics/Audio after 15 years and finding I could have designed the PCB by hand like the old days! by the time I find an easy and free(ish) computer program.
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Old 17th December 2006, 09:51 AM   #2
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Depending on you needs, you might be able to use the free version of eagle from www.cadsoftusa.com.

I have the Pro version, as I got tired of the limits set in the different low cost versions.

Maybe a group order for eagle or other layout program licences is an option to get the price down?

\Jens
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Old 17th December 2006, 09:51 AM   #3
AndrewT is offline AndrewT  Scotland
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Hi,
I agree, Express PCB is easy to use. fairly intuitive.

I was directed to Eagle but I find it counter-intuitive and extremely time consuming to produce very little. I gave up, probably too early.
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Old 17th December 2006, 10:05 AM   #4
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Eagle is based on a workflow from schematics -> PCB -> Gerber + drill files.

You can however make your PCB directly in the PCB editor, you just need to create a netlist first. This is done by adding connections from pad to pad on the parts you have placed.

I find it better to first create a schematic and the the PCB, it also makes it easier to not make connection mistakes.

\Jens
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Old 17th December 2006, 01:56 PM   #5
stottie is offline stottie  United Kingdom
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Hi

I can't use eagle because its the free version only that i have tried but it only allows for really small PCB sizes but does seem very good.

Will have to see what price an upgrade is, in English pounds. Main problem is I am getting back into PCB/Audio making etc becuase i am on long term sick at the moment (and hence the time but not the money - bloody typical isnt it)!.

Regards

John
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Old 17th December 2006, 02:22 PM   #6
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John,

I hope you get better soon,

For prices go here: http://www.cadsoftusa.com./prices.htm

\Jens
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Old 17th December 2006, 02:39 PM   #7
zilog is offline zilog  Sweden
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I have looked through the Kicad documents now, and I feel this is the program for me. One problem remains - I have spent tens of hours designing all the componentes I need in Eagle, and I want to convert these to Kicad. Is there any known way of doing this besides redrawing every single library component?
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Old 17th December 2006, 04:08 PM   #8
nickds1 is offline nickds1  England
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Quote:
Originally posted by JensRasmussen
For prices go here: http://www.cadsoftusa.com./prices.htm
Don't forget the "Not for profit version" (same as Standard version but a fraction of the price as it's for non-profit/personal use only):

http://www.cadsoftusa.com./nonprofit.htm

(not widely advertised...)
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Old 17th December 2006, 08:20 PM   #9
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Howdy stottie & zilog,
Kicad does have a learning curve. In my experience, it functions much like any other vector drawing program. But not so much like the popular "free" versions designed to get your board making biz.
I'm using the 7-JAN-2006 release and there is probably a newer version.
You can run any of the individual programs stand alone, and on a network. Never had it freeze on my PC, but that's maybe 'cause it runs on a dual 1 Gig Xeon processor with 4 gig of memory.

pcbnew.exe is the drawing program and you can treat it kinda like you were just hand drawing the traces. Being an old guy who hand drew boards before the computer revolution, it's not a problem. Personally got no use for those auto-router functions and many folks find it is not as good a method for parts placement as your brain. But the auto-router function is included if you're so inclined. No need to create any netlists etc. to use this program. Create gerber files or just print out your results to any drawing program, Photoshop, Corel Photo Paint, etc.

One small disclaimer on printing. The program has or had an accuracy problem about printing exactly what you want to the correct size. Work around: get the free version of PDFCreator and set it up for the resolution you want for .jpg, .tif, .bmp, .pdf and so on. To use the print icon, click on it, select all the check boxes you want, choose "Accurate Scale 1", single page, click on print, choose the PDFCreator as the printer and go. This will generate an image suitable for a laser printer type iron down board. Don't forget to convert the image to black and white. Your file size will drastically reduce in size.

The component library has a good sized list of pre-drawn parts. But you can and may wish to modify them for your own purpose. Yes, you can create your own custom parts and save them in the library.
You can create your own parts specifically for the project at hand in its own library with names of your choice without fubaring the main one.
No, you can't import other parts libraries to my knowledge.

As with all programs, there are some quirks one must learn. This is "open source" freeware after all. There is a Kicad users forum, but mostly talk about implementing on Linux and not much help with actually using it.

Here's a low res small piece of a much larger board.

HTH
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Old 17th December 2006, 11:06 PM   #10
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OK, Kicad sounded interesting, so I downloaded it. However, it seems to be as strange and awkward as other pcb programs, just in a different way. One has to speak french english, for instance.

One thing that has got me stuck immediately is how to connect two component pins? That should be about the most basic thing one can do, but I cannot figure out how to do it. That is, I have figured out a way, but that is so awkward that I refuse to believe that is how to do it. If I start a track at a pin and try to end at another pin (of the same or another component), I am not allowed to end the track. The only way I can find of doing this is to first start a track from the first pin and create a via somewhere to end the track. Then I start a new track from the other pin and let this track overlap or intersect the first track and then create a new via to end this track. Then I can erase the two vias and any unwanted track segments, and if I am lucky, it doesn't erase any other track segments. I have tried to explicitly create vias at the pins, but that doesn't work either. I am sure you others must have found out how to do this, or you wouldn't even have suggested the program, so what's the secret?
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