PCB software / PCB Fabricators?

VK2XAX
Forum Diehard
Posts: 259
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2007 11:05 am
Location: Penrith, NSW
Contact:

Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK2XAX » Sat Jan 01, 2011 11:56 am

VK4CP wrote:Hi all

Has anyone actually used ExpressPCB to have some PCBs made?

At first, it doesn't appear cheap, but if you are willing to have a splurge, it would be very nice to have a professionally made PCB with silk screen.
USD$75 for three PCBs plus post.
Hi Adam,

That's expensive ! - My gerber ouputs from Diptrace were made by this mob...

http://www.pcbcart.com/

Way cheaper than ExpressPCB and with more options.

regards

Tim
--

VK2XAX :: QF56if23 :: BMARC :: WIA :: AMSAT-VK

ZL2WHO
Forum Diehard
Posts: 205
Joined: Mon Dec 28, 2009 6:10 am
Location: Palmerston North En Zed
Contact:

PCB drawing software.

Post by ZL2WHO » Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:40 pm

Many moons ago I used for a very long time one of the first B&W Macs.
In Mac paint I could draw a line and as I drew it a little magic box would tell me how long it was. It was so simple and FB for laying out tracks for RF projects where you needed plenty of copper in the earth plain. All PCBs for RF used two sided laminate, one for the tracks, and the other was untouched, this made it easy to fit grounding pins for having a good groung when low inductance was required.

Now that the mac has gone I really struggle to find something to take its place. Today I spent most of the afternoon downloading programs only to end up emailing the creators and tell them what a big pile of crap they have made. Something simple like a 100mm long track with a 5mm width would not print correctly, 100mm on paper printed as 130mm, only lord knows how thick it was.
I want to start with a real simple board. I have a need to draw lines on a board that have tracks a certain length for a wilkinson combiner. I already have one on my big PA for 6m so I know the size, I just cant find for the life of me an accurate way of drawing lines.

I know of a few, Express PCB, easy tracks and the like, iv even tried the microsoft Paint, what a waste of time that is !.
There are plenty of hams making PCBs out there so lets hear what works for you.

Cheers,

Mark.

VK4TI
Forum Diehard
Posts: 717
Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:25 am

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by VK4TI » Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:54 pm

I've been drawing them to scale in cs5 then printing with the laser on clear sheets inntended for the purpose , or dip trace or even Eagle cadsoft when warranted

ZL4DK
Forum Novice
Posts: 43
Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2007 6:36 am

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by ZL4DK » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:40 pm

I use Eagle which may not be ideal for what you want to do, but I have successfully used the manual track drawing tools to lay down specific width tracks for 50 ohm striplines etc. I have also used microsoft paint (mainly for touching up scanned images). I found using paint that you must save the files as monochrome bit map files. Jpeg files are smaller but the compression used by jpegs causes the edges of the tracks to go blurry.

Regards
David ZL4DK

VK2DDS
Frequent Poster
Posts: 114
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2011 7:04 pm

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by VK2DDS » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:00 pm

If you use Linux then 'pcb' looks like a good tool: http://pcb.gpleda.org/

Otherwise I've only used Altium (available at uni), but it is probably horrifically expensive (think Auto-CAD, Photoshop etc).

VK1DJA
Forum Novice
Posts: 31
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2006 8:59 am
Location: 2614

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by VK1DJA » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:05 pm

I use Eagle too. I use a low-cost laser printer to print the artwork to paper or polyester sheets and a homebrew exposure box. Works well.

There is a learning curve to become familiar with Eagle and achieving reliability in the developing and etching needs some patience. Becoming able to design and produce your own PCBs is one of those corners of amateur radio that needs an investment in time and equipment but can be very rewarding.

I use Eagle Lite, which was free but I think now has a lowish cost. The Lite version has a size limitation on boards (100 mm by 80 mm) that might be a factor foryou.

Dave VK1DJA
Dave

VK4APN
Frequent Poster
Posts: 166
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2007 4:20 pm
Location: Cairns

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by VK4APN » Sat Feb 25, 2012 12:55 pm

I have been using "Sprint Layout" for over 8 years and find it an excellent product.
It is easy to use, is updated on a fairly regular basis, is reasonably cheap about Euro 33.
The support has been excellent when I have needed i.e. couldn't work how to do something.
It is a maximum of double sided - not multilayer. It has ground plane, solder mask and component screen etc etc.
I use kinsten boards, UV box and get excellent results this way. It is very easy to add in your own component footprints if needed too.
Sprint can produce Gerber files for external manufacture or many PCB manufacturers now accept Sprint files directly.
I have tried out Pcbexpress, autotrax dos, Winboard - good but no longer available - and others but always come back to Sprint.
No I dont work for them or receive commission! Its an excellent product.

http://www.abacom-online.de/uk/html/sprint-layout.html

Paul vk4apn

VK3ANZ
Forum Novice
Posts: 23
Joined: Thu May 20, 2010 12:30 pm

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by VK3ANZ » Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:40 pm

I use Kicad which is available on a variety of platforms. (While it is available on OSX there are some performance issues due to the implementation of the WX library on that platform - but running on a Windows VM with OSX as a host if perfect).

I use the print-outs ("Accurate 1:1" mode) to check that everything is OK and then either use my laser printer to make simple (one- and two-sided) PCBs (using the toner transfer method and a laminator that has been hacked to get to the higher temperature needed) or to create Gerber files that I send off to have made up.

Everything lines up well in my experience.

Susan

VK5ALX
Forum Novice
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2007 2:32 pm

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by VK5ALX » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:35 pm

VK4APN wrote:...
It is a maximum of double sided - not multilayer.

http://www.abacom-online.de/uk/html/sprint-layout.html

Paul vk4apn
I also use this one because it is so easy. Actually if needed it does allow 4 layers - top, bottom, inner 1 and inner 2. If you look at the board properties window to the right of the display you'll see a checkbox marked "multilayer" which adds the two inner layers.

cheers
Alex VK5ALX

User avatar
VK4GHZ
Forum Diehard
Posts: 1844
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:39 pm
Contact:

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by VK4GHZ » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:28 pm

Being an old Protel AutoTrax user from many years ago, and getting back into making PCBs recently, I started playing around with ExpressPCB.
It is free to download.
It makes AutoTrax look like a complete dinosaur!

Very easy to learn, and simple to use.
Creating your own parts is easy and painless, if you need to.

There are even two Yahoo ExpressPCB users groups, where users share their custom components. Very handy.
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/expresspcb/
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/ExpressPCB_Users/

You do not need to use ExpressPCB to make your ExpressPCB generated boards, (which I think was the original idea behind it).
A number of 3rd party manufacturers now accept the ExpressPCB file format.
I have been using Futurlec to make double sided plated through boards, with solder mask and silkscreen overlay - excellent quality.
Most recent example was the controller board for the Thunderbolt Display project.

Image

:D
Adam, Brisbane
http://vk4ghz.com | VK4GHZ on Youtube
Image Waiting for the perfect 2/70/23 multi-mode SDR transceiver

User avatar
VK4ADC
Forum Diehard
Posts: 473
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2007 7:47 am
Location: New Beith, Qld 4124

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by VK4ADC » Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:38 am

All of my PCB projects for the last few years have been created using ExpressPCB too. In my case, the boards are all created here at home with track widths down to 0.25mm easily done. I use RS Components' Fotoboard2 in either single or double-sided depending on the project. I considered using Futurlec or ExpressPCB's services but since my boards are all either one-off (or so), it hasn't been worthwhile.

Examples of my PCBs can be seen in the various technical projects on my web site at http://www.vk4adc.com with a specific page about my processes here : http://www.vk4adc.com/web/index.php/gen ... -pcbs.html. My most recent PCB layout is on a 10MHz TCXO project board at http://www.vk4adc.com/web/index.php/gen ... ctcxo.html.

It is fairly easy to create custom components in ExpressPCB - easier still if you can see something even remotely similar in the supplied library, place it on a blank PCB layout then de-group it, modify as needed, re-group and then save as your new custom component layout.

I print on inkjet transparencies, typically either Celcast IJ21 or Nobo UF0025/UF0050 series, using a HP photo printer on it's highest print resolution mode. I haven't had much success using either of the two laser printers here to create my artwork - the image is simply not dense/black enough on the laser transparency media.
Doug VK4ADC, QG62lg51
http://www.vk4adc.com

VK4APN
Frequent Poster
Posts: 166
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2007 4:20 pm
Location: Cairns

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by VK4APN » Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:29 am

VK5ALX wrote:
VK4APN wrote:...
It is a maximum of double sided - not multilayer.

http://www.abacom-online.de/uk/html/sprint-layout.html

Paul vk4apn
I also use this one because it is so easy. Actually if needed it does allow 4 layers - top, bottom, inner 1 and inner 2. If you look at the board properties window to the right of the display you'll see a checkbox marked "multilayer" which adds the two inner layers.

cheers
Alex VK5ALX
Thanks for that Alex!! Never spotted it - probably as it is not the default at startup, I wonder when that feature was added?
Agree it is really easy to use.
Paul vk4apn

User avatar
VK4GHZ
Forum Diehard
Posts: 1844
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:39 pm
Contact:

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by VK4GHZ » Fri Jun 07, 2013 5:52 pm

Just wondering if any ExpressPCB users have found any other PCB fabricators who accept the ExpressPCB .pcb file format?
(Other than ExpressPCB themselves, and Futurlec)

Getting PCBs made in China is incredibly cheap, a lot cheaper than Futurlec (who are cheaper than ExpressPCB!), but it means learning a new package like Eagle that can output Gerber files.
The learning curve with ExpressPCB is quick and painless, and you can become an "expert" user creating your own footprints in almost no time.
A different story with Eagle, from my quick play with it. :cry:

Any other fab houses out there that do ExpressPCB?
Adam, Brisbane
http://vk4ghz.com | VK4GHZ on Youtube
Image Waiting for the perfect 2/70/23 multi-mode SDR transceiver

VK4MIL
Frequent Poster
Posts: 64
Joined: Fri Feb 04, 2011 2:50 pm

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by VK4MIL » Fri Jun 07, 2013 6:37 pm

http://www.3ds.com/products/draftsight/ ... -software/

You could always use an autocad type of software this one is brilliant I use it for work every day to produce 2d Mechanical drawings

User avatar
VK4GHZ
Forum Diehard
Posts: 1844
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:39 pm
Contact:

Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK4GHZ » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:58 pm

VK2XAX wrote: That's expensive ! - My gerber ouputs from Diptrace were made by this mob...

http://www.pcbcart.com/

Way cheaper than ExpressPCB and with more options.
Tim, thanks for that.
Old thread I know, but having a fresh look into PCB design software.
Have been using ExpressPCB for the last 2 years, and it's a great program for a freebie, but need to find something that can generate Gerber files so the choice of fabricators is wider (and cheaper!).
I did have a brief play with Eagle, but not easy to pick up at all. :cry:

I Googled "Eagle vs Diptrace", and found nothing but glowing comments about Diptrace here: http://forums.parallax.com/showthread.p ... r-DipTrace.
Installing Diptrace as I type.
If all the comments are correct, this seems like a no brainer, and even the Starter and Lite registration options are very affordable. :D
Thanks for the lead. :D
Adam, Brisbane
http://vk4ghz.com | VK4GHZ on Youtube
Image Waiting for the perfect 2/70/23 multi-mode SDR transceiver

User avatar
VK4EA
Forum Diehard
Posts: 309
Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:28 pm
Location: Northgate

Re: PCB Autorouting design software?

Post by VK4EA » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:36 pm

Kicad, good price, bit of a bugger to learn, but again, good price.

And http://imall.iteadstudio.com/open-pcb/p ... yping.html

I've had excellent results so far.
Cheers,
Peter
VK4EA

VK5ALX
Forum Novice
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2007 2:32 pm

Re: PCB drawing software.

Post by VK5ALX » Sat Jun 08, 2013 12:16 am

VK4GHZ wrote: Getting PCBs made in China is incredibly cheap, a lot cheaper than Futurlec
Can you suggest a good place in China. I ordered a pcb from Futurlec on March 8. On April 16 I received a package with someone elses boards. Got back to them and they promised to get mine out by express. Three weeks later I contacted them again and they now said they wanted Gerber files as they could not load the native Sprint file I sent them even though it's on their list of supported formats. I did that but am still waiting. Never again.

ZL2BKC
Frequent Poster
Posts: 101
Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2011 5:53 pm

Re: PCB Fabricators

Post by ZL2BKC » Sat Jun 08, 2013 8:57 am

VK5ALX wrote: Can you suggest a good place in China. I ordered a pcb from Futurlec on March 8. On April 16 I received a package with someone elses boards. Got back to them and they promised to get mine out by express. Three weeks later I contacted them again and they now said they wanted Gerber files as they could not load the native Sprint file I sent them even though it's on their list of supported formats. I did that but am still waiting. Never again.
2 of the most popular are:

ITeadStudio: http://imall.iteadstudio.com/open-pcb/p ... yping.html
SeeedStudio: http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/fusion ... p-835.html

They both are similar in service and price - there is still some speculation whether the large panels are actually made using the same backend board house.

OSH Park and BatchPCB are also popular, but it does depend on what part of the world you are in as shipping prices can influence the final cost.
For my needs (including small production runs) I am using ITeadStudio - I have produced around 15 boards thru them and have no complaints at all.
The only issues have been self-inflicted by not double-checking my schematic correctly.

There are several comparison reviews on the web (now you know the names to start searching with) and this one is the first I came across:
http://www.youritronics.com/seeed-studi ... -osh-park/

Any PCB layout package takes a while to master. I started to get productive with Eagle after a few hours, and there is a lot of tutorials out there.
It can be used for RF layout (most of my boards are for RF on 0.8mm substrate), but there are a few extra tricks that need to be mastered - in some cases it has taken me an entire evening to work out how to do some things like multiple grounds to the same RF device in a library and not have the design rule checker go crazy - now I have that mastered I'm quite proficient.
There are several tutorials on how to correcly produce the gerbers - I recommend you preview them beforehand using gerbv (or some of the other free utilities out there)
One good resource for Eagle PCB tips & tricks can be found here: http://dangerousprototypes.com/category/eagle/

Track widths and pad sizes are not an issue in Eagle - you can specify any custom width you desire which is good for RF work. There are tools out there that turn a DXF export into a library for you - I have used this concept to take a filter design from Ansoft Designer into Eagle - it is rather cumbersome but better than manually transfering dimensions.

73,
Wayne

User avatar
VK4GHZ
Forum Diehard
Posts: 1844
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:39 pm
Contact:

Re: PCB Fabricators

Post by VK4GHZ » Sat Jun 08, 2013 9:12 am

VK5ALX wrote:Can you suggest a good place in China.
I'm a bit over Futurlec too.
Fourth order with them, and it's taken them 8 days just to confirm the order/artwork and provide the quote with an opportunity to pay.
emails generally take two days to get a reply. Too bloody slow. Their actual PCBS are very good quality though, although my last order didn't get the silkscreen (as requested), and I was really pissed off about that from an aesthetics point of view.
I've only kept using them, because it was the easy (lazy) option. It's time to move on though, which unfortunately means dumping the ExpressPCB schematic and PCB programmes and learn something new.

I've heard generally good reports about http://imall.iteadstudio.com/open-pcb/p ... yping.html in Shenzhen (as both Peter & Wayne mention above as well).
Common niggles with iTeadstudio appear to be poor communication (I reckon it would help if you could speak Mandarin! and so-so silkscreen)
They're coming into their holiday schedule right now.

It's hard to beat video when it comes to getting a message across. (You may have to wait/skip/close any annoying ads)





That last video also puts you onto another Chinese mob http://www.goldphoenixpcb.com/, who's website is a lot more user friendly with much more information readily available.
Their services definitely deserve some checking out as well.

Both of these fab houses require Gerber files.
Adam, Brisbane
http://vk4ghz.com | VK4GHZ on Youtube
Image Waiting for the perfect 2/70/23 multi-mode SDR transceiver

VK4APN
Frequent Poster
Posts: 166
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2007 4:20 pm
Location: Cairns

Re: PCB Fabricators

Post by VK4APN » Sat Jun 08, 2013 9:42 am

VK5ALX wrote:
VK4GHZ wrote: Getting PCBs made in China is incredibly cheap, a lot cheaper than Futurlec
Can you suggest a good place in China. I ordered a pcb from Futurlec on March 8. On April 16 I received a package with someone elses boards. Got back to them and they promised to get mine out by express. Three weeks later I contacted them again and they now said they wanted Gerber files as they could not load the native Sprint file I sent them even though it's on their list of supported formats. I did that but am still waiting. Never again.
eBay seller - Member id sitopway. Have had several lots of boards from them - excellent quality and price. i.e. 10 pcs 10cm*10cm double sided, screened, solder masked, tinned usd$55 including dhl shipping. Max turnaround has been 10 days from order to bench.

Also, latest version of Sprint allows gerber export. FYI

Post Reply