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Old 10th January 2010, 08:55 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Ivey View Post

Express PCB, is GREAT!

I would prefer to pay a bit more and get the error checking.
A good PCB package pays for itself when it skips the PCB errors made by cheaper packages and you have to throw away a batch of PCB's.

Single ended net check.
Pins not used check.
Clearance checking.
Continuity checking.
Via size min size checking.
Track layers out of range.
etc etc.
Murton-Pike Systems PCBCAD51 pcb design software.
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Old 11th January 2010, 05:36 AM   #12
Ivey is offline Ivey  United States
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Default Sir Nigel

I agree with everything that you stated. But my position is that this is a hobby, and not a business. I do not want to see my hobby go the way of model RC airplanes hobby, where it cost thousands and thousands of dollars to really enjoy it.

I want to be able to have a simple, yet capable software package available to anyone who wants it. To help keep their dreams and hopes alive.

When I started making PCB's on lighted glass tables. very few people could afford it. The cost was out of the price range of hobby goers. They could not enter into the world of solid state, due to the complexity of home layout.

To me, the thrill of watching someone make their first pcb, is exciting. Whether it is successful or a total flop. As long as they have opportunity to do so. And they are enjoying what they do.

There are always setbacks.You and I know, that nothing is perfect. Not even you and I.

Eagle Lite is not all that great, Altium is way too expensive, and that goes for PADS, CADSTAR, etc.

With Express PCB, the new comers can get help, guidance, and comradship. It is free; and they can use the $50-80.00 dollars they save to components and hardware, to get their projects off the ground. Rather than paying for a cut-rate PCB packages like Eagle Lite, Sprint, and others.

To me, that is worth more than just bells and whistles that comes in a PCB package.

I have Protel 99SE, Protel DXP, CircuitMaker 2000, Eagle Professional 4.16, and PADS 4.0. All given to me, from my days in engineering.

But most guys have families, the cost (no matter how little) could be too much.

I am sorry that we do not see eye to eye. But as well, I am not unbending.

I have discovered that in jolly old England, there is a company selling PCBCAD 30/40 for 14.99 pounds on eBay UK. If you like, I could steer the new comers in that direction. Hell..., I am a easy fellow to get along with.

Cheero and Take Care

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Old 16th April 2010, 08:46 AM   #13
ragaman is offline ragaman  Colombia
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Hello, sorry for my bad english, I have been using Express PCB for several months, Im happy with this software, for me, strong point is the basics of their environment, because when you design a pcb, you can put a line where do you want and the way you want and not be limited.
You can try it, if you want to doy your owns pcb at home .
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Old 24th April 2010, 03:17 AM   #14
benb is offline benb  United States
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I've used it off and on for about seven years, I think the software and service has a lot of plusses that have already been discussed, generally for people who aren't hugely experienced in PCB design and just want to make a few for a project. Software is free, easy to learn and use, and I've got the Mini-boards (only service I've used, $59 plus about $6 US shipping for three fixed-size boards) fast and with no problems.

One big negative thing not yet mentioned is you're locked into their service: the ExpressPCB software and files are completely incompatible with industry-standard PCB software (some of it inexpensive or freeware) and services. This "makes sense" in that they give away their software and want you locked into using their service, but if you ever want to have your boards made somewhere else you have to use other software to enter/lay out your board again from the beginning. I've been lazy, I've wanted to get and learn some "standard" software so I can use other services, as there are services that take standard PCB files and make one-off and low quantity boards for substantially less than ExpressPCB, though they have a lot longer turnaround (one service I've heard of, boards are palletized, sent to a Chinese PCB maker as a large board to be made, then cut apart and sent back to customers). I have no experience with any other company, but there are a LOT of other PCB prototype services, some that I've read or heard good things about.

But that's not so much a criticism of ExpressPCB's service, that's just saying what it is and what it's not. nigelwright7557 is correct in that the software doesn't have much for design rule checking, but for making small, simple and one-off boards most people won't need them.

The minimum size via check thing shouldn't be needed anyway. The software gives you a limited number of size selections for vias, and since it's THEIR software, all sizes should be manufacturable by them. The vias-not-connected issue someone posted is the first I've heard of a problem from ExpressPCB. If you bring it up to them, they SHOULD give you your money back or remake the board correctly for you. I've used the smallest vias (maybe this was over a year ago before a smaller via size was added as someone else said), it warns you it the hole could be totally filled in, but the connections have worked for me.
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Old 4th September 2010, 06:12 AM   #15
richiem is offline richiem  United States
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I've just used ExpressPCB SW to layout Bob Cordell's Sine Generator (part of the THD Analyzer). I found it very easy to use -- much moreso than any other free or low-cost package I looked at for either Windows or Mac. Some things it does are limiting but can easily be worked around, like not having an option to change the pad spacing for components. But the switching between layers is so easy and helpful, and adding parts to the favorite components list is really good for quickly doing simple layouts. I would love to have serious error checking, and a rats-nest capability would be awesome. But for most everything I found it excellent. Now if only I could get an export of the finished piece...

I've got 4 boards of the Standard Service (prototype quality) on order now. We'll see how they work out.
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Old 29th October 2010, 05:11 PM   #16
beun is offline beun  United States
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A little late perhaps but this is my experience. I have used ExpressPCB for production boards for about 5 years now and I am very satisfied. Yes, the error checking is minimal but it is not going to be used for multi-layer motherboards anyway. Before sending it off spend some serious time checking yourself, its a little time consuming but not too difficult. The software is very easy to use even for a layman, I don't need an hour pouring over the manual to figure out how to make a board outline.

After more than a thousand boards the error rate is relatively low. I have had a few boards with etching problems and received free replacements and maybe 1 or 2 open vias. After you have ordered the boards you can actually get the Gerbers for $60 if you want to sent it to another shop, although I never bothered with that.
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Old 29th October 2010, 06:50 PM   #17
tomchr is offline tomchr  Canada
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I've used ExpressPCB off and on for 7-8 years now. Mostly for quick turnaround prototypes at work. The software is real basic but gets the job done. At $62 shipped (within the US) it's the least costly service out there -- at least in terms of cost per job.

My biggest beef with ExpressPCB is, ironically, the cost. At $62 you get three boards. Not a bad deal considering the total area, but I rarely need three identical boards. And $62 for the one 2.5x3.8" board that I need is rather steep. Sure, you can expand the board but that gets you away from the low-cost MiniBoard service and things get expensive in a hurry.

Olimex out of Hungary does good work. They are geared towards the hobby and prototype community. They support down to 8/8 mil trace/space. I've dealt with them twice. Aside from one board that suffered a rounded edge from kick-back of the saw used to separate the boards the results have been good. With ($40) express shipping I've had 3-week turnaround times. With less expensive shipping it took five weeks. Shipping time and their attitude when I confronted them with their screw-up on the board that got stuck in the saw keeps me from going back to them.

Gold Phoenix says they'll deliver with a 1-week turnaround within the US(!). $99 for 1000 square centimeters! I haven't used them personally, but the outfit was recommended to me by a friend who has used it.

Then, there's also the possibility of making your own boards. It's actually not that hard. I've been doing that for some 20+ years now. These days I use toner transfer using a lamitator. It works very well. There's some tips&tricks here. For etching, I use hydrogen peroxide and hydrochloric acid (muriatic acid, "pool acid" -- garden department at Lowes). Two parts H2O2 to one part HCl.

I think you could draw the PCB in ExpressPCB and use toner transfer. As long as Express PCB can print one layer at a time at scale 1:1. It will also need to be able to mirror one layer during print-out. If it's unable to do that, there are other options. Protel AutoTRAX comes to mind. The ol' DOS program used to be free... There's also a Windows version of AutoTRAX for $99...

I guess my point is: ExpressPCB is great and deliver what they promise. But if you want to build bigger boards or want to submit gerber files to the board house, you'll be looking elsewhere.

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Old 29th October 2010, 08:10 PM   #18
ragaman is offline ragaman  Colombia
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Talking PCBs Examples

I really like using the Express PCB (just look at my photos attached), its quick and easy to use, you can create your own components if they are not included in the library of the program, but nothing is perfect and error checking is his weakness (I do not use the EC), but to make simples circuits its really powerful.
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Old 29th October 2010, 09:27 PM   #19
BudP is offline BudP  United States
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One big negative thing not yet mentioned is you're locked into their service:
I needed to have a fairly large quantity of boards made, after using Express PCB as a quick and easy design and layout/prototype tool. I called the company and they sold me the Gerber files for $30. This was back in the day of $1k per sample boards from the volume houses. You can also get a quote from the local PCB mfg. that actually etched your boards. To find them just look at the ticket on the box they shipped to you in.
"You and I and every other thing are a dependent arising, empty of any inherent reality" Tsong Ko Pa
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Old 30th October 2010, 10:29 AM   #20
Ivey is offline Ivey  United States
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Default Exprss PCB is

a great software product. It is not good, it is great!

It is free!

With that being said, lets get back to the real life.

Express PCB, is mainly targeted at hobby goers. Those that want to toy around with EDA software, or to get an intro into the world of EDA.

To make a great pcb, you do not need a $6300.00 piece of software like Altium. Express PCB can do it. It may take longer, but it can be done.

Persons around the world is proof that one can do a lot, with a little.

Yes $62.00 for mini boards is a lot for one person. But if you and your friends get together and design a pcb for yourselves, then share the cost between all of you.

There all kinds of ways to climb a hill or a mountain. You just have to find it.

There are many opportunities out there. You just to have jump in and get wet.


I find Eagle Lite at $50.00 dollars; to be a rip off. If you want a larger board, you can not do it with Eagel Lite.

Diptrace is $75.00 dollars and only gives you 300 pins. Not bad, but I want better. Plus, I want more bang for my disappearing dollars.

Sprint and Splan is good, but there again, is like Eagle Lite and Diptrace. Just schematic and layout.

Now here is the bargain, that is just sitting there waving it arms, trying to get attention.

Target 3001.

For Americans, Canucks, South Americans, and others. It is a god send. For those in Europe, it is a medium reach.

1. It comes free if you want it. With 250 pins. It makes gerber files, it has 3D, you can design your front panels and more. And..., it has simulation, with 30 signals.

And it is all...., free. But can not be used commercially.

But it gets better and better.

You want to go commercial. It is only 59.00 euros..., if you live in Europe or belong to the EU. But you get 400 pins. Not 300 pin as in Diptrace, but 400 pins.

And here is the best part. It cost less than Diptrace, if you live outside of the EU.

Because for those who live outside the EU, it is 59.00 euros, less 19% which is 47.70 euros. Plus, you get a discount of 20 to 30%.

All you have to do is ask for it.

So with a 30% discount, the cost is 33.46 euros. For a small dollar figure of $44.93.

That is almost half the price of Diptrace. Plus 100 more extra pins. With a commercial license. Man..., you can not top that with a spoon!

And unlike Eagle Lite, you have unlimited board size, 3D, simulation, and Cad design all in one package. Costing less than Eagle Lite's commercial license.

Yes Eagle Lite may give you unlimited pin count, but what good is it, if you do not have the space to put it.

When or if you upgrade to Target 3001's next level, you can get the same deal, but only at the upgrade price, which is now only 119.00 euros. For 700 pins. And they will upgrade you for free to their new version V15, due out November 15, 2010.

Any thing higher than that, is uneconomical. From a hobby point of view. But you have a commercial license! I did it!!!!!!!

Check it out. Sell ends November 15,2010, Germany time.

Take Care

"Have anyone seen my Smart Phone"?

Last edited by Ivey; 30th October 2010 at 10:57 AM.
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