PCB design and layout software


2013-03-10 2:04 pm
Hi all. I am new to electronics and am very interested in power amplifiers. I have bought several books on the subject from the likes of Randy Sloan, Douglas Self, and Bob Cordell. I am at the point now where I would like to start designing and making my own printed circuit boards. Obviously starting with simple stuff like DC speaker protection circuits would be a good idea as designing an amplifier is a bit out of my reach at this point in time.

In one of Randy Sloan's books (Understanding Electricity and Electronics) he recomends the use of Multisim and Utiliboard to turn schematic into PCB artwork, however National Instruments wants about 5 grand for the full version of the software. Eventually I would like to get to the point where I could design, tinker, and test my own amplifiers however I can't justify spending that sort of money for something that at this stage is still just a hobby.

I have downloaded diptrace however I couldnt get it to work. (I found the instructions to be not all the usefull either).

Does anyone have any recomendations for a good program that wont cost me the world to buy, that will turn a schematic into PCB artwork?


Paid Member
2001-02-25 7:10 pm
Northern Iliinois
my personal opinons:

i like diptrace. if you want schematic capture and pcb layout integrated together in a single package, it's worth spending a little time to understand why diptrace isn't working for you. it's easy to use and you get a lot for the money (or use the free version).

if you just want to do layouts, it's hard to do worse than sprint layout. i would use this much more if didn't care about integrated schematic capture.

many people use Eagle. I've tried it but determined after several evaluations that "Eagle's user interface does not align with my intuitional expectations." Is that diplomatic enough?

I've used Altium, P-CAD, Mentor Graphics, PADs in my day jobs. For my home projects, i like to apply KISS. :D



Paid Member
2007-09-15 8:14 am


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I do believe Diptrace allows more than two layers, which if you go on to do further designs such as digital you will need. Played with Diptrace and found it quite intuitive, dont use it myself though I use Cadtsarm but that isn't free, unless you get hold of the Express version, but that is limited.
Some generic PCB related links in the attached text document that may be of use, and download the Saturn PCB toolkit.


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another vote for diptrace here, I found it quite intuitive, easy to use, reasonably powerful and with extensive libraries. I thought the videos/tutorials were pretty good... I love the convert to 3D model function for checking everything is looking right. On the free version you can have 2 signal layers, but you can have as many planes as you like, they can be ground or power planes. so you can for example have a 6 layer board with 2 signal, 2 ground and 2 power


2009-01-02 1:49 pm
I'd agree with Nigel, doing a board without DRC and error checking is asking for trouble.

I'm with Bksabath on DesignSpark, it's free, unlimited for board area, pin count and at least 16 layers. It does have Design rule and error checking, quite a bit of it as long as you set up suitable spacings and other parameters - good enough for a novice like me to get a 550 hole board back from China with no errors whatsoever.
good enough for a novice like me to get a 550 hole board back from China with no errors whatsoever.

I use China for my pcb manufacture too.
They are a quarter of the price in China that they are in the UK.
From me sending files to getting pcb's back is two weeks.
They have no problem doing small quantities either.
The UK want to charge a fortune for tooling before they start charging for pcb's.


2009-01-02 1:49 pm
Hi Nigel, I've only done it the once. I found a firm in Herts that were agents for their family firm in China. I figured if it all went wrong I could at least get some recompense dealing with a UK firm. I think the direct board houses like pcbcart were not that much cheaper at the time
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2009-01-02 1:49 pm
Thanks, I've got that one saved away.

18 mnths back Quick-Teck did me 35 off 12x14cm std 2 sides pth boards for £172.
I just ran their online quote for the same job and it would be £162 now - wow something got cheaper!

To be honest I very rarely need to get boards done properly, mostly I DIY them.