Needing some PCB help

AmadeusMozart

Disabled Account
2009-10-08 10:29 pm
New Zealand
Needing some PCB help - resolved

Considering my health and age it is unlikely I will have a need for more than a once off PCB. It must be over 40 years ago since I last made a PCB and things have changed a lot since.

I ordered a PCB from China and what duly arrived is different from the order and has a number of design errors on it. Seller is unhelpful. There are no other PCB's available that come close.

What has arrived can be hacked around but I prefer to have a better version.

If possible I prefer not to fuss around with chemicals etc. and submit a design online instead.

Please, those who have gone through this, what (free?) software would be simple to learn and who are one of the better PCB manufacturers that will make a small quantity of preferably no more 2 or 3 boards (perhaps 5) at a reasonable price? Delay in delivery time is not a big issue, I do not need it yesterday.

Second question: In what format do the PCB manufacturers need the file?

edit: Enough information by all the particpants has been offered for selecting and working with modern PCB design software.

Potentially no longer a new PCB is required due to an alternative solution that results in improved longevity.

Thank you!
 
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Sadface

Member
2012-01-21 10:57 pm
G'day Mate,

EasyEDA - Online PCB design & circuit simulator

EasyEDA is free and has a shallow learning curve.

The software is also provided by JLCPCB who can fab the boards for you for cheap. You can essentially output from their software straight into JLCPCB for fab.

I put 2 orders through JLC late last year and they are fast and high quality.

They can also bill in AUD which saves a lot in currency conversion.

I used DHL for the shipping and had boards arrive from Shenzhen to Wairau Park in 4 working days (ordered 10pm Tuesday 26th Nov, delivered 3pm Monday 2nd of Dec)
 

AmadeusMozart

Disabled Account
2009-10-08 10:29 pm
New Zealand
Thanks, that is just the answer I am looking for.

Hopefully they are not too expensive but I already accumulated, or have on order, all the parts after I did extensive modelling in LtSpice and using the triode load line simulator to check the design (that was also full of errors in resistor values, what's new).
 

rayma

Member
2011-04-29 8:37 pm
Look at KiCad or DipTrace. Both are free and work on Win/Mac.
Always send Gerber files, checked first with a Gerber viewer.
Avoid all software that does not generate standard Gerber files.
PCBWay, JLCPCB, PCBCart, PCBWay in China are all fine.
 
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AmadeusMozart

Disabled Account
2009-10-08 10:29 pm
New Zealand
Look at KiCad or DipTrace. Both are free and work on Win/Mac.
Always send Gerber files, checked first with a viewer.
Avoid all software that does not generate standard Gerber files.
PCBWay, JLCPCB, PCBCart, PCBWay in China are all fine.

Thank you.

I like the idea of using software that installs/works locally rather than something web based. (I'm living rural and more than once have lost connection in the middle of something I was doing requiring to redo all the work).
 
Hi Amadeus,

You may not find it difficult to learn KiCAD. The previous poster's suggestion of EasyEDA is very popular, but KiCAD may have more features and support. KiCAD is now rapidly becoming the de facto PCB design application because it's free, quite stable, and now even chip manufacturers and distributors (like Digikey) are adopting it and supporting it. So you get component footprints in KiCAD format from them. There are excellent YouTube videos to teach you how to use KiCAD -- I suggest the ones Digikey has created as a 5-part or 7-part tutorial series. I myself learned from them and shifted from Eagle to KiCAD.

If you want to explore others, this may help: Top 10 Free PCB Design Software for 2019 - Electronics-Lab

The file formats you need to create to order a PCB from a fab are the Gerber and Excellon formats. All these CAD applications will generate Gerbers. There will typically be a whole bunch of Gerbers generated, one per "layer". For a double sided PCB, you may land up with half a dozen Gerber files, for upper side copper, lower side copper, upper side solder mask, lower side solder mask, and legends/writings on the two sides. For the drill holes, you will need to generate an Excellon drill file. All this may seem daunting, but all the files typically get generated with two clicks, one for all the Gerbers, and one for the Excellon drill file. Zip up all the files and upload them to the fab.

Which fab to use? As others have suggested, JLC PCB is becoming very popular. They work from China and have invested a lot of money in publicising their offerings; you see them in all Google search results. There are other Chinese fabs too which others have named, and some really good ones in the Western hemisphere too. If you see the Digikey tutorial videos on KiCAD, you'll see them guiding you about ordering from one such fab, and they'll also show which parameters you need to set to make your PCB design "compatible" with their manufacturing process.

Which fab would I use? I have got excellent results from PCB Power based in Gujarat, India. Fully online ordering, excellent and flawless manufacture, very affordable for 2s and 4s, shipping worldwide. I'm very happy. With KiCAD and PCBPower, I'm all set to rule the world.:D

All this being said, I think there's a lot of merit to doing quick and dirty PCBs using EasyEDA as the previous poster had suggested. I wouldn't use a SaaS service or get tied to a single fab as a long term solution, and I see you too share some of this hesitation.
 
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AmadeusMozart

Disabled Account
2009-10-08 10:29 pm
New Zealand
@tcpip.

Thanks for the long writeup, especially the references to fabricators are very useful. It is much appreciated and in a nutshell all one ever needs to know to get started.

I only need to make a replacement PCB for a simple SE amplifier while fixing the errrors and making it slightly larger. (heat dispersion and mounting points too close to components).
 

AmadeusMozart

Disabled Account
2009-10-08 10:29 pm
New Zealand
I've started with downloading KiCad , 1.1Gb. I remember using a Windows 3.1 (!) package that fit on a single floppy. (and remember my first HDD - 5 1/4" full height and ........5Mb!) How times have changed....

@tcpip: I had a quick look at PCB Power. Do I understand it correctly but can they do the layout of a PCB based upon a schematic and is that not too crazy in price?
 
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I've started with downloading KiCad , 1.1Gb. I remember using a Windows 3.1 (!) package that fit on a single floppy. (and remember my first HDD - 5 1/4" full height and ........5Mb!) How times have changed....
Yes, in general, this is true. A modern iPad is faster than the uber-glamorous Cray 2 of my college days. A mobile phone has many times more storage than a PC of a decade ago.

I had a quick look at PCB Power. Do I understand it correctly but can they do the layout of a PCB based upon a schematic and is that not too crazy in price?
Yes I've seen their offering but never used it. It's quite likely that they'll do it well, provided you have all the package specs and footprints for all the components.
 
I've started with downloading KiCad , 1.1Gb. I remember using a Windows 3.1 (!) package that fit on a single floppy. (and remember my first HDD - 5 1/4" full height and ........5Mb!) How times have changed....

@tcpip: I had a quick look at PCB Power. Do I understand it correctly but can they do the layout of a PCB based upon a schematic and is that not too crazy in price?
Hi AM,

Sounds like you and I are from the same era. I finally got around to hoofing out 99% of my olde gear 2 years ago. I have only kept 2 sets of floppy disks - DRDOS and one of the earliest OS2 (on stiffly disks.) I too have gone to KiCAD, but more recently bought an inexpensive package from Niger Wright here on DiyAudio. Haven't had a chance to use it yet (foot op) but as soon as I'm up and about again need to get busy.

Best of luck and good listening.

Kevin
 

AmadeusMozart

Disabled Account
2009-10-08 10:29 pm
New Zealand
.....

I have only kept 2 sets of floppy disks - DRDOS and one of the earliest OS2 (on stiffly disks.)
.....

Started out with a Commodore 64 and then started work (after retraining from another profession) on the second largest Sperry computer in Europe (largest was CERN). Now my laptop has more grunt..... I fondly remember OS2, 26 of 3 1/4" floppies at 1.46Mb each (IIRC).

Back to PCB design: I had a quick look but I have a lot of non-standard parts and sofar it is rather overwhelming.

Can I somehow just draw the tracks and specify top or bottom layer and the size of the holes / solder pads without having to go through all this parts business? Or is there some other software that will allow me to do this? I do not fancy to have to enter the whole schematic and all the parts specifications, I want something simple.....
 

Lojzek

Member
2012-02-10 12:12 pm
Croatia
I use ExpressPCB and manufacture boards myself. I have come to know by experimenting on how to perform a perfectly safe way to make ones by toner transfer method. The thing is it takes me about 3 hours of work from printing on the paper to having it being etched and drilled. It is a tiring process to manually clean the board from paper which means constant soaking in the warm water and peeling paper off, leaving only toner traces. I do no silkscreen, just leave it blank. I used to hard wire before, so this is quite a progress in my eyes. Etching is done in 30 minutes in sodium persulfate temperature being about 16 deg C. Rocking the plastic jar helps speed up the process.
 
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AmadeusMozart

Disabled Account
2009-10-08 10:29 pm
New Zealand
I use ExpressPCB and manufacture boards myself. I have come to know by experimenting on how to perform a perfectly safe way to make ones by toner transfer method. The thing is it takes me about 3 hours of work from printing on the paper to having it being etched and drilled. It is a tiring process to manually clean the board from paper which means constant soaking in the warm water and peeling paper off, leaving only toner traces. I do no silkscreen, just leave it blank. I used to hard wire before, so this is quite a progress in my eyes. Etching is done in 30 minutes in sodium persulfate temperature being about 16 deg C. Rocking the plastic jar helps speed up the process.

Did you try the magazine trick and removing with moisterizing nail polish remover (someone also suggested plain acetone)? YouTube
 

rayma

Member
2011-04-29 8:37 pm
Can I somehow just draw the tracks and specify top or bottom layer and the size
of the holes / solder pads without having to go through all this parts business?

Yes, you can do this instead of finding or constructing footprints for nonstandard components.
Carefully check your work, component outlines for clearance, and hole sizes for leads.
When done, print out a 1:1 copy, tape it to cardboard reinforcement, and try fitting the components.
 
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bucks bunny

Member
2020-01-19 12:40 pm
Do not underestimate the parts work. With the first time layout, you may find some suitable parts available - but you have to control at least all pad sizes and drill diameters. And you have to create your specific parts. Besides the work of routing this is a bunch of extra work to expect - no matter which program you will choose. It took me some time to migrate from Eagle to KiCAD - I had to re-create the part libs from scratch.
 

AmadeusMozart

Disabled Account
2009-10-08 10:29 pm
New Zealand
DipTrace is free for use below 300 pins (which my design is) and sofar it appears to be working OK. Am liking it above KiCAD.

My main gripe with the received PCB is that the pins 1,6 & 8 on the EL84/6BQ5, that are labelled "i.c." in the tube manuals, have been used as tie points, i.e. have been used for tracks. Cutting these tracks and then using wires to solder pads will result in an untidy mess.

After the missing part issue and preferably having to enter the schematic I thought about point to point wiring (although a pain in the proverbial place).

Reaserach showed what the advantages / disadvantages of PCB versus point to point were.

The main gripe seems to be that when tubes get changed frequently then PCB's runs the risk of tracks working loose. I have not experienced this with double sided fibreglass PCB's. I came across this very issue on the old one sided phenolic boards.

I like the old Cinch sockets for PCB work - the phenolic body rests against the PCB unlike the Belton that has only the pins in contact. (The Belton has also very stiff pins and this results in extra pressure on the solder joint)

But these problems can be overcome by using chassis mounted sockets and have a short flexible wire to the PCB. This means mounting the PCB further away from the chassis and allows me not connecting pins 1, 6 & 8. The parts will be mounted on the tube side.

Easy maintenance can be accomodated by using long spacers.

Ofcourse I could have just pulled the three connectors out of the socket but this does not help with heat dispersion from the pins.

I'm starting to lean towards using elevated chassis sockets .

The resulting hybrid solution will have the best of both worlds provided the PCB can have components easily replaced.

I'm going to explore this idea further.

Thanks to all participating in the thread, I've got a few options to consider.
 
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