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Old 19th February 2012, 06:13 PM   #1
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Default Looking for reasonable $$ SCAD/PC-layout/SPICE tool

I'm looking for something more up to date and would appreciate any recommendations. For reference, I still have and use a pair of programs called CircuitMaker and Traxmaker. Together these allow me to develop circuit schematics, assign component shapes / footprints for later export from the SCAD to the layout tool, and even do some SPICE simulation and output some pretty graphs too. The PCB layout program had the usual limitations. It's autorouter wasn't great, but it at least let me make sure all my connections were right when I manually routed, output Gerber files drill maps, and make nice printouts. The programs were made by MicroCode Engineering, and despite the usual flaws and limitation complaints, the programs worked well, and together cost just over $100. Unfortunately my last version was 1997. Needless to say I'm always having to build new PCB footprints for more modern SMT parts, and some of the Gerber file outputs have been the source of complaints in the few occasions where I've had to have a run of boards stuffed for me. Equally unfortunate, I just don't have the budget for most professional ORCAD level tools. So I'm hoping to at least come into the 21st century, with a Windows (XP) compatible tool set which won't break the bank. Of course I've waited till I have an actual new product idea on the table to finally get serious about buying something new. I guess that's "just in Time Engineeering". But all suggestions welcome. I'd also entertain the idea of purchasing a used package some of you may recommend, as long as the licence is intact, its library is fairly robust, and (hopfully) its still supported.

Thankis in advance!
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Old 20th February 2012, 01:46 PM   #2
tvrgeek is offline tvrgeek  United States
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I just learned Simetrix for SPICE. Nice schematics. Only a few days learning curve. Everyone seems to push me to join the LTSpice camp as it seems to be the defacto standard. Both free. I actually used QuickCad for a board, but I have never made Gerber files. Just laser printer films. Most of my boards were in the vintage of Sharpie or hand paint for resist. Fine for PS or crossovers.
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Old 20th February 2012, 02:33 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by tvrgeek View Post
I just learned Simetrix for SPICE. Nice schematics. Only a few days learning curve. Everyone seems to push me to join the LTSpice camp as it seems to be the defacto standard. Both free. I actually used QuickCad for a board, but I have never made Gerber files. Just laser printer films. Most of my boards were in the vintage of Sharpie or hand paint for resist. Fine for PS or crossovers.
Hey I hear you. I go back to some ATARI (gasp!) based circuit designers, and to this day print prototypes using a laser printer w that PNP blue product, and eche myself. Especially easier these days now that there's less drilling with SMT parts being the norm.

But right now I'm more interested in integrated packages like Eagle or maybe designspark. Hopfully I'll get some reccomendations.
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Old 21st February 2012, 12:44 PM   #4
marce is offline marce  United Kingdom
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Look around at the layer and component count limits, as this will determine which will fit your percieved design needs. For digital 4 layers is a must.
Both Eagle and Designspark have good reputations, played with them a tiny bit out of interest, and both are pretty simple to use and set up. I no expert in either though as I use Cadstar primerily and Allegro when feeling masochistic.
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Old 21st February 2012, 02:57 PM   #5
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Why not try DesignSpark at DesignSpark | The gateway to online resources and design support for engineers
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Old 21st February 2012, 04:18 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by mickeymoose View Post
Thanks guys. I think I will download Designspark. I was tempted to try the free version of Eagle, but for a paid product heir website is pretty short on explanations as to what various versions do. And apparently Designspark now has some built in SPICE analysis, which it a nice plus for me. The main thing is, I don't want to start down the road with software that will leave me hanging if I have an issue. For example, if some fab house complains about a Gerber file format, how much support can I expect when program is free? That part's a little unnerving.
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Old 21st February 2012, 08:46 PM   #7
tvrgeek is offline tvrgeek  United States
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Get used to it. The new software paradigm is free software and paid support. You can't stop people from ripping off the code, but you can make people pay for help.

FOSS : Free to download. Free to go buy support wherever yo want. Free to use? no way!
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Old 22nd February 2012, 06:23 PM   #8
marce is offline marce  United Kingdom
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And then when you use professional ECAD software it gets expensive, but it is what pays the revenue of the companies that write the software, and its what pays for the development. New sales in Cad software are limited these days, so support and maintenance is their means of generating income. Nearly every year every major Cad company releases a new version.
Gerber should be pretty much standard these days, as long as its RS-274x and if possible Excellon 2 (the extended version of the standard drill info format, drill table is embedded in the file header, unlike traditional excellon that required a drill table).
GCPrevue is a free gerber viewer, once youve generated your gerber files import them into GC, if they import your 99% there. If your going to a fab house include IPC-D-356 netlist file, if the software will generate it, they can use this to confirm there are no errors in the gerber files and the copper pattern has no shorts or open circuits when compared to the netlist.

What's All This About RS274X Anyway?

http://www.solidigm.com/downloads/ipc356a.pdf
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Old 22nd February 2012, 07:19 PM   #9
jcx is offline jcx  United States
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I use Eagle for "hobby" layout but have looked at KiCad - I think KiCad has fairly active on going dev compared to older gEDA open source stuff
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