Schematic- and PCB design programs

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From time to time, questions are posted on what is
the best schematic- or PCB-design program.

As a service, members of AVRfreaks.net created this list: This introduction- and instruction-post, and then a single post per program. The pro's and con's are discussed, cost, where to download, and an example.
This thread will be dynamic: post your input, comments etc. Your input will be processed by a moderator, (I will do that for the kick-off), such that a comprehensive thread results.
Discussions are allowed :) , but those posts will disappear in the end, and only the result will be published. That may be a challenge .... but let's give it a try ;)

Nard

Jan 26 2009: Thread tidied up

Note: if you have created your own library for your favorite design-program, don't hesitate to post it in this thread. Also usefull links are welcome.

A GIF is worth a thousend words   She is called Rosa, lives at Mint17.3 https://www.linuxmint.com/

Dragon broken ? http://aplomb.nl/TechStuff/Dragon/Dragon.html for how-to-fix tips

Last Edited: Mon. Jan 26, 2009 - 03:38 PM
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ExpressSch and ExpressPCB

URL: http://www.expresspcb.com/ ; no costs

Required OS: Windows
Description: The downloaded package holds 2 programs:

- ExpressSch
For schematic entry, files are stored in a proprietary form ( .sch ), but can be edited by
other users. The schematic can also be exported as .bmp in various resolutions. 200 dpi is preferred. Use your favorite program to turn that into a .png before posting here on AVRfreaks.net

- ExpressPCB
To create a pcb-design. It is linked to the schematic. The output-file is proprietary to Expresspcb.com. For a fee they will provide the Gerber-files.

Usernotes:

tpappano: Expresspcb has a nice free schematic program along with their board layout program. Easy to use, and they turn out pretty nice boards as well. The cad files are a proprietary format, but ExpressPCB can supply you with Gerbers if you want them. The charge for the Gerbers (so far) has been $60.00 You simply request them via email using the board order number, and they email a .zip very promptly. The charge is added to the same credit card you placed the board order on.

Plons: I use the ExpressSch program to do schematics and did not use their pcb-service.
The learning-curve for this program is flat: you can start right away after installing the program. A comprehensive "How to get started ..." can be found in the Help-menu.
Keyboard shortcuts: W for Wire, F for FullScreen .... it's almost self-explanatory. Mouse-wheel zooms. Creating new symbols is very simple.
My rating: an A !

Marzipan: A major downside is that the components aren't automatically connected to their footprint. Once you've made the schematic you have to again add each component to the board design, even though the two files are linked. Not very efficient.
I agree that it's very user friendly and intuative and that the getting started manual is awesome.
The schematic library is refreshingly easy to browse. However it is very limited. You'll find a large online community with a library of components you can add at http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/expresspcb

Contributions by: tpappano, Plons, Marzipan ....

Usefull links: http://www.aplomb.nl/TechStuff/Tools/Tools_page.html You can find there a ExpressSch components library that I created for my own convenience, but feel free to use it (edit it, improve it, etc.)

Attached: exported schematic (converted to .png) as example; if you wish to post the .sch-file, zip it first.

Attachment(s): 

A GIF is worth a thousend words   She is called Rosa, lives at Mint17.3 https://www.linuxmint.com/

Dragon broken ? http://aplomb.nl/TechStuff/Dragon/Dragon.html for how-to-fix tips

Last Edited: Thu. Mar 5, 2009 - 02:54 PM
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Eagle

URL: http://www.cadsoft.de/freeware.htm ; freeware
http://www.cadsoft.de/ ; full version, several packages
For pricing: http://www.cadsoft.de/prices.htm

OS: Packages for Windows, Linux and Mac (FreeBSD users: works well with the Linuxulator)

The following limitations apply to the EAGLE Light Edition in general:
* The useable board area is limited to 100 x 80 mm (4 x 3.2 inches).
* Only two signal layers can be used (Top and Bottom).
* The schematic editor can only create one sheet.

Description: Very popular package amongst AVRfreaks.

Usernotes:

Smiley: I use Eagle mainly because there is a free version and I've already climbed most of the learning curve. Sparkfun has a tutorial: http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce... and there is a manual and tutorial that are installed in the /doc directory. Eagle seems to be a command line program that has had a Windows IDE tacked on to it. The IDE is a bit clunky at times and it helps to think in terms of the underlying command line structure. There is an unlabeled command line window above the drawing area and sometimes it is easier to enter commands there than try to figure out how to do something graphically. BatchPCB is a good way to get inexpensive PCBs and it has a tutorial on converting Eagle files into files suitable for production.
One thing that I have to force myself to remember is to set the View\Grid to 0.1" at the very first before adding or moving anything. Some library parts are on an odd grid so you might have to set the grid smaller to move that part back to the main grid, then be sure and reset the grid to 0.1". I'm not saying you should or even can get all parts on a board at 0.1" but IMHO it is best to start with that setting and only vary from it if it is really necessary.
A good example of using Eagle in an open source project can be seen for the Arduino at: http://arduino.cc/en/Main/Arduin...

Marzipan: Eagle Cad can do everything you need it to do but the learning curve is so huge that it's hardly worth it. You have to be willing to spend some serious time with the tutorials if you want to use it. And be prepared for a mission every time you want to find out how to do something new. Not even the cut and paste keyboard shortcuts are standard!

Contributions by: Smiley, Marzipan, mikeperks ....

Xmega library by mikeperks: http://www.avrfreaks.net/index.php?module=Freaks%20Tools&func=viewItem&item_id=956

A GIF is worth a thousend words   She is called Rosa, lives at Mint17.3 https://www.linuxmint.com/

Dragon broken ? http://aplomb.nl/TechStuff/Dragon/Dragon.html for how-to-fix tips

Last Edited: Fri. Mar 13, 2009 - 01:45 PM
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Freepcb

URL: http://www.freepcb.com ; freeware
On the homepage a nice example is shown, so no need to attach it here.

OS: Windows

Description:

FreePCB is a free, open-source PCB editor for Microsoft Windows, released under the GNU General Public License. It was designed to be easy to learn and easy to use, yet capable of professional-quality work. It does not have a built-in autorouter, but it can use the FreeRoute web-based autorouter at freerouting.net. Some of its features are:
* 1 to 16 copper layers
* Board size up to 60 inches by 60 inches
* Uses English or metric units (i.e. mils or mm) for most functions.
* Footprint libraries courtesy of Ivex Design International Inc.
* Copper fill areas
* Footprint Wizard and Footprint Editor for creating or modifying footprints
* Imports and exports PADS-PCB netlists
* Exports extended Gerber files (RS274X) and Excellon drill files
* Design rule checker
* Autosave

Usernotes:

johnrk: I have used FreePCB to create the last three boards for my low vision barcode reader, I used ExpressPCB on the first version. I have also sampled other layout software such as PCB Artist (a proprietary program offered by Advanced Circuits) and the freeware version of Eagle (mention above).
In all of these programs I have always found the generation of, and/or access to footprint libraries as the biggest hurdle to overcome. And, when I first began using FreePCB it had the unique FOOTPRINT WIZARD! Inputting the package dimensions from your chosen components printed datasheet the FOOTPRINT WIZARD created a custom footprint that could then be saved in the "User" library folder and added to your PCB again and again! Additionally, you can toggle parts in-and-out of your board layout to make minor adjustments. All of this sounds good but can leave you chewing your fingernails if you have to interpolate the width of a surface mounted pad based on the "range" of widths offered on some datasheets. In this case I would order my components and have them at my side when using the FP Wizard. After generating the footprint I would import them into a Gerber viewer and print them out to scale with my laser printer. I could then physically lay the component on the printout to check for proper alignment. The Gerber viewer I use is a trial version of Viewmate (9.4.73) offered by PentaLogix. This program has the capability to print your entire board to scale.
I know there are many different upgrades and add-ons available for FreePCB offered by the vibrant community of users at FreePCB.com and I know that many have said that schematics from TinyCAD (http://tinycad.sourceforge.net/) can be imported but, I myself have never done so. When I begin a schematic I usually print out the pin-outs from the datasheet of the various components I plan to use. I then cut out the layout with a scissors and paste them to a large piece of drafting paper, penciling in the connections between pins. At this point I go to my local print shop and have a copy made. From there I lay all my traces by hand in FreePCB!
One final note: If you are a novice you may want to choose a local board house (like Advanced Circuits) that can help you to configure the software to generate the CAM files properly. The nomenclature can be daunting and most board houses will not correct your mistakes. However, the "free call back" service offered by AC circuits is priceless for a novice!!

Marzipan: FreePCB does not include a schematics editor. You have to enter your netlist by hand!
But would suggest that newbies to PCB design read the getting started doc, it has a super introduction to the PCB designing process, something often overlooked by manuals (which assume you have some idea of what you're doing).

What do you, other users, use for schematic entry ?
How is the autorouter-package ?

Contributions by: johnrk, Marzipan ....

A GIF is worth a thousend words   She is called Rosa, lives at Mint17.3 https://www.linuxmint.com/

Dragon broken ? http://aplomb.nl/TechStuff/Dragon/Dragon.html for how-to-fix tips

Last Edited: Thu. Mar 5, 2009 - 03:05 PM
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Total votes: 0

Bartels AutoEngineer

URL: http://http://www.bartels.de/bae/bae_en.htm ; Bartels AutoEngineer® (BAE for short from now on)

The free BAE Schematic Editor generates a netlist that can be used in BAE and third party layout systems, simulation tools and FGPA design systems.
The BAE Light version for PCB-design costs €159 plus VAT and delivery. (For details pls. see the site of BAE)

There's a completely free version that only enables the schematic capture (no layout), with all its
features (including hierarchical design). Using just a different license key, this version also
serves as the demo version which has all features but cannot create any external file (like Gerber, PDF, ...).

OS: Windows, Linux and various X11/Unix systems. (FreeBSD users: works well with the Linuxulator)

Description:

Is a professional, complete CAE-package. Starts with BAE Light, the entry level system for double-sided PCBs up to euro format size (160 × 100 mm). The Bartels Autorouter as well as all other BAE Professional features and User Language are included in this price.
There is a growth-path to heavier versions of BAE.

Usernotes:

dl8dtl: Things I love with BAE:
* well-thought structure of the layout parts, hierarchically structured; seems cumbersome at first but eventually turns out to be really flexible
* hierarchical schematics, schematics can consist of an infinite number of sheets
* well-thought schematics parts, good optical feedback about whether a connection to a part has been made or not (back in my Eagle days, I've been trapped by unconnected parts that looked as if they were connected several times)
* the size of the routing grid does not affect the performance, gridless routing is possible -- with today's multiple different part grid sizes (mil-based for traditional parts, 0.8/0.65/0.5mm for modern SMDs) this is really important
* a decent autorouter; I don't route the digital parts of my layouts manually anymore (only the analog parts); not only that the autorouter does the job pretty fast, it's also mentally much easier to re-arrange things later on, and just have the autorouter re-layout it again; might not look as aesthetically pleasant as a manual routing but it works pretty well
* certain things look complicated at first but turn out to be really useful over time; e.g. rather than touching a layout item with the mouse, and dragging it, you first select what kind of item you are going to handle; that way, you can clearly distinguish between moving a via, a complete part, an edge of a trace, a segment of copper, or parts of copper or documentation areas
* library elements that are used are always copied into the current project; the back-reference to the library is maintained (so you could e.g. update it in case you've really got a more recent version of the library) but you can always modify the project's copy of the element without affecting anything else but the current project; in the end, this model allows each project to also serve as a library for other projects so if you designed a certain schematics and layout part just in one project, you can later easily re-use it elsewhere
* much of the application is written in a (compiled, C-like) user language and can thus be modified by the user once you grasped the language (which takes years, admitted -- but it also allows the supporter to just send you an updated ULC implementing your wish)
* very good support even for the low-cost version (BAE Light)
What I don't like:
* the menues look chaotic at first, "historically grown"; they can be user-customized though
* the autorouter is a separate application rather than fully integrated into the layout editor, so you have to flip back and forth between both
* the color handling is quite old-stylish (16 colors which can be RGB-tuned, but you don't have more than those) but then again, the drawing speed resulting out of that is pretty good

Attachment: Detail of an example layout: ATmega1280 attached to 2 x 2 MiB of SRAM, all connections except supply have been made by the autorouter. When watching carefully, one can notice the autorouter eventually pin-swapped pins 5 and 44 between the two SRAM ICs; it had been allowed to swap arbitrary data and address pins, respectively (because that makes no difference to the operation of an SRAM).

Contributions by: dl8dtl, ....

Attachment(s): 

A GIF is worth a thousend words   She is called Rosa, lives at Mint17.3 https://www.linuxmint.com/

Dragon broken ? http://aplomb.nl/TechStuff/Dragon/Dragon.html for how-to-fix tips

Last Edited: Tue. Jan 20, 2009 - 12:19 PM
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Pulsonix

URL: http://www.pulsonix.com

Required OS: Windows

Description:

It's a very easy to use full professional package with an excellent (optional) autorouter.
Pricing starts at $1750 for a basic 1000 pin version. That might seem expensive, compared to other products like Eagle, but given that designs can be completed in a fraction of the time they take with Eagle, it is actually very good value. Pulsonix actually competes with mid-range packages like PADS, OrCAD and Altium Designer, and is much cheaper than them.

Pulsonix combines schematic entry and PCB layout in the one program. It conforms fully to Windows standards and was developed using OOP techniques from the outset, making it easy to add new features and fix problems, without introducing additional bugs.

Usernotes:

leon_heller:
Schematic entry is very intuitive - just select the parts needed from the libraries (a preview of the schematic symbol and PCB footprint is provided), place the parts, and connect them. Unlike Eagle, the pins don't have to be on the current grid to be properly connected; the connection 'jumps' to the nearest pin, if necessary. There is a very useful electrical rules check, which identifies any anomalies, like unconnected pins, unfinished connections, and so on. Components that need to be close together can be 'grouped', and the groups are carried forward to the PCB. The most commonly used operations are available via the right mouse button, or via single-key commands which are user-definable.

When the schematic is finished Translate to PCB converts it to a PCB. The user can select whether the parts are to go into a component bin, or are placed directly onto the PCB (a PCB profile can be selected if required). If they are in the bin, an autoplacement facility is available, I don't find it very useful. A nice feature is 'Cross Probe' which switches between the PCB and schematic, with selected parts highlighted in both. 'Force-vectors' are provided when moving parts, indicating the optimum position for minimising the connection length.
Manual routing is very straightforward, with lots of options which make it fast and easy - like on-line DRC, and an indication when the track is on the pad to which it needs to be connected. Double-clicking can be set so as to terminate the track, or end on a via. Off-grid routing works very well, and tracks always connect exactly to the pad centre. A basic autorouter is provided and the Electra autorouter is available as an option. It's fully integrated, and does an excellent job. The PCB can be synchronised with the schematic, and any problems arising from, say, updating a part from the library in the schematic without updating it in the PCB can be identified and fixed. Very comprehensive design rule checks are available, including some of the more esoteric ones that can affect PCB manufacture, like drill backoff and mirrored text.

Part creation is straightforward, with pin- and gate-swapping. Nets can be assigned to pins in the part editor, and unconnected pins are
allowed, avoiding clutter on a schematic by not showing the power connections. Net types can be defined for each pin, including no-connects, making it very easy to avoid silly mistakes in the design.
Pin names and numbers can be copied from data sheets and pasted directly into the part editor, saving a lot of typing. FPGAs have special
requirements and are supported. Excellent reporting facilities are provided, and user scripts can be defined for custom reports, like a particular BOM format.

Wizards are provided for footprint and schematic symbol creation for virtually every type of part, including BGAs. Pads of any shape can be created manually, if required.

Schematic and PCB designs, and part libraries, may be imported from most other popular packages, including Eagle.

A lower-cost package more suitable for hobbyists and students is Easy-PC:

http://www.numberone.com

I used it for over 20 years. A special version of Easy-PC is available free from Advanced Circuits:

http://www.4pcb.com/

They distribute Pulsonix in the USA.

Contributions by: leon_heller, ....

Leon Heller G1HSM

Last Edited: Tue. Jan 20, 2009 - 03:05 PM
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SprintLayout

URL: http://www.abacom-online.de/uk/html/sprint-layout.html ; € 39.90
On the homepage a nice example is shown, but I attached one of my designs with our AVRfreaks logo, imported as scanned copy.
Demo versions can be downloaded from http://www.abacom-online.de/uk/html/demoversionen.html
These versions have some restrictions, but nevertheless you can test the software and get a good impression of their functionality.
All demos are easy to install and uninstall.

OS: Windows

Description:

With Sprint-Layout you can design your PCB’s quick and easy. There is no unnecessary “ballast” which makes it difficult to keep the overview or which makes the usage almost impossible. Because of the logical and understandable strucure of Sprint-Layout the usage is very easy to learn. So finally, you can concentrate to the essential thing: Designing and optimizing your PCB-layouts.
Sprint-Layout offers all needed functions to design your own layouts. Of course, there is an extensive library with all common components included.

With the free viewer-software for Sprint-Layout it is possible for everybody to view or print your layouts.

Usernotes:

Plons: I see this program as a very advanced drawing program. And advanced with PCB-design in mind.
The viewer-software is much more than a viewer: it allows you to calibrate your printer, and printout the PCB-design for home-manufacturing the PCB.
SprintLayout itself has Gerber and Excellon support, so also suitable for professional manufacturing.
I chose this program because it's so simple to use ( I am fond of simple things ;) ), and I also use it for timng-diagrams etc.
It allows you to import a scanned copy: very usefull ! I copied f.i. a recommended pcb-design for a SMPS with a MC34063, from the datasheet, imported it and re-routed the who;e as if it were a transparant :)

What I don't like about it: Abacom has also a Schematic Editor, sPlan, in their productline http://www.abacom-online.de/uk/html/splan.html . But there is no link between the Schematic and the Layout-program ! And there are no plans to do it ..... such a pitty :(
The autorouter is not very usefull.

Usefull links: http://www.aplomb.nl/TechStuff/Tools/Tools_page.html You can find there a SprintLayout symbol library that I created for my own convenience, but feel free to use it (edit it, improve it, etc.)

Contributions by: Plons, ....

Attachment(s): 

A GIF is worth a thousend words   She is called Rosa, lives at Mint17.3 https://www.linuxmint.com/

Dragon broken ? http://aplomb.nl/TechStuff/Dragon/Dragon.html for how-to-fix tips

Last Edited: Wed. Jan 21, 2009 - 04:25 PM
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gEDA

Url: http://geda.seul.org/wiki/geda:gsch2pcb_tutorial

OS: pc linux/mac OS ; Open source so could possibly be installed on other systems from source code.
If you are a Linux user, these packages are probably available directly from your distribution's installer. With Ubuntu (Ibex) for example, just activate the Multiverse and then "Add/Remove" or use Synaptic.

Description:
gEDA is a collection of open source electronic design tools. They may be installed individually but by installing gEDA you get the lot.

The ones most relevant to this discussion are:
* gschem schematic capture
* gsch2pcb transferes information from gschem to pcb
* pcb for layout
* gerbv a gerber viewer. Look at layouts

Symbol repository (includes some avr) here:
http://www.gedasymbols.org/

Usernotes:

JohnWalton: Can produce other file types like ps and png. Attached is one I am working on now

blackthorne: PCB is one of the most mature packages, being that it was started in 1990 on an Atari, and best free pcb tools out there. The application is feature rich, very easy to learn, has no limitations like Eagle, and blows doors over all the other packages listed here IMHO.
Most importantly, PCB does include an auto-router!
PCB, used in conjunction with gEDA schematic editor, is a great combination: easy to use, have huge libraries, large world-wide on-line communities, work cross-platform, and have professional industry support. Many Aerospace companies use the gEDA suite for example. Best of all, gEDA and PCB are open source and free to use. In addition, I think gEDA and PCB are even easier than Eagle to use as well.
Here are some other great resources that users considering gEDA or PCB might be interested in:
* gEDA example tutorial: http://geda.seul.org/wiki/geda:gschem_warmup : a simple walk-through of how to use the tools.
* gedasymbols.org: http://www.gedasymbols.org/ : community submitted symbols and footprints.
* gEDA Tool Suite on-line documentation: http://geda.seul.org/wiki/geda:documentation

Usefull links: PCB-homepage: http://pcb.sourceforge.net/index.html
Screenshots: http://sourceforge.net/project/screenshots.php?group_id=73743
gEDA homepage: http://www.geda.seul.org
gEDA Wiki: http://geda.seul.org/wiki/

Contributions by: JohnWalton, blackthorne, ....

Attachment(s): 

If all else fails, read the instructions.

Last Edited: Mon. Jan 26, 2009 - 04:57 PM
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DipTrace

URL: http://www.diptrace.com/index.php
Freeware to Professional packages available plus affordable non-profit license.

Pricing: http://www.diptrace.com/order.php

Download: http://www.diptrace.com/download.php

Screenshots: http://www.diptrace.com/screenshots.php

Compatible with Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista, Linux(Wine)

User comments:

gr82bdad: I use DIP Trace. I had been using PADS at my job and was let go. When I started consulting, I had to have something I could afford.

I looked at a few and found DIP Trace had all the features I used in PADS for far less $$$. The non-profit license is 4 signal layers, unlimited plane layers, and 1000 pins is $125. Commercial license of same is $345. It has an upgrade path so it can grow as your projects do.

You can get a 2 signal layer package that can do 4 layer boards as long as two layers are planes only.

It included a large selection of AVR library parts - only lacking the very new stuff. over 50,000 library parts included.

It does have an auto router and auto placement tool, but I can't comment on how that works since I haven't used it yet. Like any auto router, before you press route, you have to learn how to set the rules.

It output really great GERBER files and I had boards made at Myro PCB that worked just great.

DipTrace allows for very nice Bill of Material output. You can define your own fields and even assign a link to the data sheet on the internet. Right click on the part and select the datasheet from the popup and your browser opens with the data sheet.

It has the capability to panelize and import/export GERBER, DXF, net lists of all sorts and other package formats including pick and place files.

You can change the schematic and update to the PCB as well change the PCB and update the schematic. The verification features allow you to check the board to the schematic and to design rules to make sure there are no errors before sending out your CAM files.

It is lacking in the connector libraries. But, with so many options, it's no wonder. If you use D-Subs, and 0.1" pin headers a lot, you're covered.

Libraries are easy to make and manage as well. If you don't have the time, you can ask Dip Trace to make a library part for a very reasonable fee.

The included libraries are extensive and easy to search - if you know the part number or series. Searching for a SMT 6 volt TVS is difficult unless you know the part number.

There is a very active Yahoo group dedicated to answering questions and requesting new features. The latest release was February 2009. So they are actively improving the product.

official AVR Consultant
www.veruslogic.com

Last Edited: Thu. Mar 19, 2009 - 04:13 AM
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KiCAD

More : http://kicad.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/About_KiCad Nice screenshots can be found here as well !
Wiki : http://wiki.xtronics.com/index.php/Kicad

Required OS: Windows and Linux packages

Description: Kicad includes
- Schematic Editor
- Schematic Library Editor
- PCB Editor
- PCB Modules Editor
- Gerber Viewer
- 3D PCB Viewer
- Supports import from PADS format

Wiki has a nice comparison table Eagle vs Kicad. There is also a utility for converting Eagle's libraries to Kicad.

Usernotes:

SlammerA: gEDA and PCB are more mature than Kicad but I think that Kicad is much easier.
I have completed 3 projects with Kicad and I am very pleased with the results.

Strong Points:
- Nice GUI
- Easy of use
- True Cross Platform (Windows/Linux)
- High quality prints
- Automatic Link between Schematic<>PCB
- Easy installation (only copy files)
- Ready-Made binaries for Windows

Weak Points:
- Limited official Libraries (huge collection from users)
- Too Basic native Autorouter, but can call directly the www.freerouting.net
- No pin swap

Contributions by: SlammerA, ....

Last Edited: Mon. Jan 26, 2009 - 01:38 PM
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Total votes: 0

Altium Designer
aka Protel and DXP

Required OS: Windows XP and a powerful computer as a minimum.

Description:

Commercial electronics and embedded design package. Really powerful that includes:
Schematic capture and library editor.
PCB design and PCB library editor.
Gerber editors.
Autorouter.
VHDL and Verilog (and probably more) hardware compilers.
C to Hardware compiler.
C compiler for different cores (ARM, Microblaze, Nios, etc).
Library generator that imports data from your company IC database.
Many more features.
A nice price... :twisted:

Usernotes:

Guillem Planisi: I have used this package mostly for schematic capture and PCB design. I find it quite easy and productive for manual routing, with powerful rules editor and control that help too much when placing tracks. Easy integration of schematic and PCB editor, as well as libraries editors.

Libraries usually lack a lot of components. In fact, I had found that previous versions of certain libraries contained IC's and connectors that had dissapeared in the new versions.

For multilayer design it is also really easy, and allow for many PCB stackup configurations.

Autorouter may be a real Autodisaster if no properly configurated. In fact, I never get a decent result from it, although I had to route manually many times due 'legal restrictions' and EMI issues.

For all those issues related with clearances for mains and high voltages, currents, and so on, it's rule editor is really helpful, limiting the manual routing when tracks reach the limits imposed.

The schematic hierarchy system allow to develop really huge schematics and boards, that can be partially or totally embedded into an FPGA (it also compiles from schematic to HW), and then download to the FPGA prototyping board NanoBoard, developed by Altium manufacturer.

For regular users, hobbists and little companies, it may be totally overkill. I found that I use probably <20% of all features it has, although my employeer only paid for schematic, PCB and libraries. WinAVR, AVRStudio, and FPGA free software is more than enough, and can replace this other licences.

bluegoo:
for those that have not seen the new Altium pricing model..it may interest you.. I pretty much ignored their upgrade requests over the years since Protel99 as I did not see any value in their upgrades but their recent special for a perpetual license for $2k changed my mind and a few hours talking to a serious user of the recent versions of their software...
http://www.edn.com/blog/1690000169/post/1810043581.html?nid=2431&rid=8250057

Contributions by: Guillem Planisi, bluegoo, ....

Guillem.
"Common sense is the least common of the senses" Anonymous.

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Tidied up on August 27, 2009 23:08hr, Amsterdam time

Ok guys, this thread is getting into shape ;)

There are still some open ends, and other work to do.

If you post your contribution, please do it in the format used so far. That saves me a lot of time.
I will take care of the make-up .... :)

Nard

A GIF is worth a thousend words   She is called Rosa, lives at Mint17.3 https://www.linuxmint.com/

Dragon broken ? http://aplomb.nl/TechStuff/Dragon/Dragon.html for how-to-fix tips

Last Edited: Thu. Aug 27, 2009 - 09:09 PM
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LTspice IV

Required OS: Windows XP also works well in Linux
using Wine.

Software is free to use.

Quote:

LTspice IV is a high performance Spice III simulator, schematic capture and waveform viewer with enhancements and models for easing the simulation of switching regulators. Our enhancements to Spice have made simulating switching regulators extremely fast compared to normal Spice simulators, allowing the user to view waveforms for most switching regulators in just a few minutes. Included in this download are Spice, Macro Models for 80% of Linear Technology's switching regulators, over 200 op amp models, as well as resistors, transistors and MOSFET models.

http://www.linear.com/designtools/software/

oddbudman's comments
I use this software for simulation. It's quick, free and comes with a handful of common transistors, optos and fets and other general components in addition to most of Linear Technology's range of ICs.

Best features for me is how easy it is to quickly test ideas. It's easy to dump spice models for transistors and parts into the schematic and get results really quickly.

Its also lightweight and good for quickly drawing schematics.

oddbudman

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Hi Guys,

Another freeware which deserves a mention is TARGET 3001! - a full version including schematic capture,auto-router ,auto-placer is available to download free of charge :
http://www.pcb-pool.com/ppuk/ser...

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Pad2Pad

www.pad2pad.com

Free software for PCB's

● Instant pricing
● Auto routing (as well as Manual)
● Net list import
● Auto error check
● Online ordering
● 1, 2 or 4 layers
● Silk screen
● Solder mask
● Any board shape
● Separate boards or panels
● Multiple board thicknesses
● 1, 1.5, 2 oz copper
● Gold plating
● Gerber files also accepted
● USA & international shipping
● NEW - Full Assembly Services

Pros:
● Can create your own footprint lib
● Easy to use
● Can create multiple grid presets for switching between grids.
● Good pricing for production
● reduced pricing for small run proto boards

Cons:
● Does not include a Schematic program
● Small parts library

For Schematics I use Eagle, already described above.

Don't Let the smoke out!

Last Edited: Fri. Aug 28, 2009 - 12:57 AM
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Reminder:

Quote:
If you post your contribution, please do it in the format used so far. That saves me a lot of time.
I will take care of the make-up .... :)

Nard

mtthw_emerson, please be so kind to edit your post, and use the format like in the other posts.

Jassper, what would you suggest for schematic entry ?
And the same request as for mtthw_emerson

Most obliged

Nard ... uh ... Plons, moderator

A GIF is worth a thousend words   She is called Rosa, lives at Mint17.3 https://www.linuxmint.com/

Dragon broken ? http://aplomb.nl/TechStuff/Dragon/Dragon.html for how-to-fix tips

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mtthw_emerson wrote:
Hi Guys,

Another freeware which deserves a mention is TARGET 3001! - a full version including schematic capture,auto-router ,auto-placer is available to download free of charge :
http://www.pcb-pool.com/ppuk/ser...

Interesting to see a board manufacturer + free pcb software in Euro country.

Please give us a review. Seems that "everything" is in it.
Is it really so easy to use? (Some people said beginners learn to use it much quicker then Eagle)

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Beginners will find anything easier to use than Eagle! :D

The version of Target available from PCB Pool can only be used with their PCB service, of course.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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I guess I'll need to add RIMU. They have both a schematic (US$149.00) and a PCB layout program (US$72.50). These prices re for the unlimited versions, cheaper 500 pin limit versions are available and also demo versions. (100 pins)

www.hutson.co.nz

If you have used the old Protel Easytrax or Autotrax then these program will import the files easily. Gerbers are a breeze unlike the old Protel monsters.

John Samperi

Ampertronics Pty. Ltd.

www.ampertronics.com.au

* Electronic Design * Custom Products * Contract Assembly

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Just fell over this one ... seems to be free (i hope)

Free PCB Calculator
http://www.saturnpcb.com/pcb_too...

I am not nearly advanced enough to use such a beast , but there might be someone here , that can use it

/Bingo

< copy from other thread - Plons >

A GIF is worth a thousend words   She is called Rosa, lives at Mint17.3 https://www.linuxmint.com/

Dragon broken ? http://aplomb.nl/TechStuff/Dragon/Dragon.html for how-to-fix tips

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RS has just released DesignSpark PCB:

http://uk.rs-online.com/web/generalDisplay.html?id=pcb&cm_sp=Homepage-uk-_-Online-Quotes-_-Primary-Banner

It's free!

It's actually a stripped-down version of a well-known PCB package that I used for over 15 years, from shortly after it was launched.

RS has obviously done it to annoy their main competitor, Farnell, who took over CADsoft (Eagle) a few months ago.

Here is a simple schematic I did with it:

[url]http://www.leonheller.com/Design...(Schematic).pdf[/url]

This silly forum software doesn't like the parentheses!

I'll create a formal description for Plons in a day or two.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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So which is better Leon, Easy-PC or DesignSpark PCB? Obviously DesignSpark is a whole lot cheaper, but I am willing to pay for Easy-PC.

Has anyone else tried either of these programs? It's not that I don't trust Leon, but if it turns out they only do PICs, then I guess I'll have to not only switch PCB design programs, but also switch microcontrollers. ;)

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Easy-PC is much better, DesignSpark is missing a lot of the features in Easy-PC.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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I know this don't belong here so feel free to move it but for custom panel designs,

http://www.frontpanelexpress.com...

Don't Let the smoke out!

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I found that DesignSpark, PCB Artist, and Easy-PC are the same program. I've never gotten very far with any of them so I can't confirm that Easy-PC has more features.

Finding a resistor from the library is ridiculously difficult. There are about 10 million through holes there. Every value ever made, in every wattage. It seems to me 1 resistor of each physical size, shape and layer would suffice. It's easy to set the value on the schematic.

But I was looking for SMD 0603 resistors. I once found some so labeled and put them on the schematic. Unfortunately when the PCB was made, they were on the bottom layer. I can occasionally find a generic resistor called something like R-SM, but I have to put it on the PCB to find if it is top or bottom layer and what the size is. So far they have been 0805 and I want 0603.

I found one transistor I wanted in the library. It turned out to be bottom layer too. The only success I had was a transistor I made from a similar one in the library. It was more difficult to make the custom library to put it in than it should be. In fact PCB design programs should come with a custom library, empty of course.

I'm inclined to think these programs are a sick joke. Speaking of that, Eagle seems to have been written before mice were invented and all parts on a board were TTL logic gates. If you don't have a mouse, and all the parts on your boards are TTL logic, I heartily recommend it.

Most of the rest of the programs I looked at didn't have a schematic editor so I wasn't interested.

The bottom line is ExpressPCB stands head and shoulders above the rest. Mainly because of the ease of making components and also the ease of finding components in the library. This is the program I've always used. I was hoping to find something else as good, that would error check the board against the schematic.

I'll check again in 10 years, maybe something else will turn up. There may be good programs in the thousand dollar range, but that's a bit too much for an amateur.

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They aren't the same program. DesignSpark and PCB Artist are based on Easy-PC, but have far fewer features.

I used Easy-PC for about 20 years, and never had any problems with it. If you want to change a part from the top to the bottom you simply select it and type 'F'. If you don't like all those resistors in the library, just create a single generic resistor with the various footprints you want and use that, with an attribute for the value.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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CADint PCB

URL: www.cadint.se
OS: Windows, but works in Wine
Version reviewed: 4.0.4.4

Price: 5000 SEK to 40000 SEK, depending on the number of layers (2,4,6,10,unlimited). 5000 SEK is roughly 530 EUR at the time of writing.

There's also a freeware version, and a free version for educational use.

Description:
This software was written with productivity in mind, which means there are shortcuts for doing pretty much everything. This also means that not knowing all the shortcuts, it can be quite confusing to work with. In other words, the learning curve is steep but rewarding.

The schematic editor is hierarchical, making it pretty easy to make huge schematic layouts.

They layout editor has an interactive routing tool, which features push and shove, differential pair and bus routing.

It does not have an autorouter, but can import/export to autorouting apps.

The component library is split into 4 parts, schematic symbols, pcb symbols, part references and part numbers. If you like, you can make a single part reference that represents every resistor in every package you want. Or you can make a part number for each resistor type you are using, giving you a lot of flexibility.

Designing a pcb symbol is very fast, as you usually draw a single copper pad, use the copy/repeat tool giving offsets and repeat count. Then finally use the padstack tool, to generate solder and paste masks. If you messed up the pin ordering, you can use the query tool to renumber the pins after how they are arranged.

The DRC tool is very extensive for both schematic and layout.

For its price, it's a very good PCB design tool.

Last Edited: Sun. Aug 1, 2010 - 02:13 PM
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lagger wrote:

The component library is split into 4 parts, schematic symbols, pcb symbols, part numbers.
That reminds me of my favorite joke.
Quote:
There are 3 types of people. Those who can count and those who can't.:)

Seriously, that seems like a good idea. That's the way ExpressPCB does it. It makes things simple. I will investigate CADint.

Well, ExpressPCB has 2 component libraries. Symbols for the Schematic, and footprints for the PCB. You link the two by using the same part ID for both. (i.e. R3, etc.)

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leon_heller wrote:

If you want to change a part from the top to the bottom you simply select it and type 'F'.
Thanks. Things like this are annoying to say the least. If I do the natural thing of right clicking on a pad it will tell me if its top or bottom but won't let me change it. This is the obvious place to let the user change it with a mouse click.
Quote:
If you don't like all those resistors in the library, just create a single generic resistor with the various footprints you want and use that, with an attribute for the value.
Yes, after I cooled down and regained my ability to think, I realized I could do this. When a program insults me at every turn, I get angry and can't think. I just want to break things and kill people. :)

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Easy-PC and Pulsonix parts also have three libraries - schematic symbols, PCB footprints, and the parts library which links the two first two together for a particular part. Any number of libraries can be created,

Leon Heller G1HSM

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steve17 wrote:
lagger wrote:

The component library is split into 4 parts, schematic symbols, pcb symbols, part numbers.
That reminds me of my favorite joke.
Quote:
There are 3 types of people. Those who can count and those who can't.:)

Seriously, that seems like a good idea. That's the way ExpressPCB does it. It makes things simple. I will investigate CADint.

Well, ExpressPCB has 2 component libraries. Symbols for the Schematic, and footprints for the PCB. You link the two by using the same part ID for both. (i.e. R3, etc.)


Oops. :)

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leon_heller wrote:
They aren't the same program. DesignSpark and PCB Artist are based on Easy-PC, but have far fewer features.
I have the demo version of Easy-PC. I can't save anything, the save entry in the file menu is grayed out. I remember reading about this in the demo guide. Also the "new" entry is missing from the file menu, so I guess I can't create a schematic or PCB. Other than that, I haven't yet seen any differences between these 3 programs. In any event it seems I need to do most of my testing with one of the other programs because the demo Easy-PC is crippled. I guess I can play around with the examples, but I can't save them.
Quote:
If you want to change a part from the top to the bottom you simply select it and type 'F'.
When the part is on the bottom I see the pads. When I hit the magic F key it moves to the top where I see the silk screen outline and labels but I don't see the pads.

So far the only pads I see other than the SMD on the bottom are the through hole pads.

It seems most of these programs were written before SMD was invented. The methods and libraries most suitable for through hole aren't suitable for SMD.
I understand I can get around much of this by creating my own library, but it's been frustrating with very little help from the help menu.

Last Edited: Sun. Aug 1, 2010 - 09:43 PM
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There are major differences between Easy-PC and the other programs - check the features on the Number One Systems web site. There wouldn't be much point in charging for Easy-PC, otherwise.

I didn't have a problem flipping an 0805 capacitor from the top to the bottom in DesignSpark, the pads are visible in both cases.

I've used Easy-PC in the past to create surface-mount designs with parts on both sides without any problems. It has a good selection of parts in both SM and through-hole packages, as do the other programs.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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Well it could be operator error. I used DesignSpark. These parts were selected for the schematic and then the PCB was created. All ended up on the bottom. The only exception was the through hole transistor I created. The ones on the bottom are 3 SMD 0603 and the SMD SOT-23.

I then used the magic F key on the parts on the bottom. Here are the before and after pictures.

Attachment(s): 

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Nothing like what I get, the pads are red when the part is flipped. I think your PCB is single-sided.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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Just my luck. A single sided board with only a bottom layer. :) Is there any way to display the board properties?

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I think you are correct. I put a copper shape on the board and had a choice of layers. I had 5 choices but top copper wasn't one of them. Well we've learned one thing. This program isn't foolproof. :)

Maybe I inadvertently downloaded the Australian version.

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Just add the second layer. You must have set it up wrong.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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steve17 wrote:
Maybe I inadvertently downloaded the Australian version.
:lol: :lol:

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I'm beginning to like DesignSpark, etc.. I put some schematic symbols and footprints in custom libraries so I could find the damn things in the future. Then I made some components from them. So far I just copied existing things from the supplied libraries. I suppose I will be able to modify existing symbols and footprints when the need arises.

I never had auto-routing, and I don't need it, but now I have it so I tried it out. Good for a laugh. I'm especially impressed how the program connected Q1 and R2. :)

Attachment(s): 

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As it's a double-sided board it will try and balance the copper on both sides. If you set it up properly and take some care over placement it might do a better job.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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I'm not so happy now. I was hoping DesignSpark, PCB Artist, and Easy-PC could use each others libraries. I can't get PCB Artist to use the custom libraries I made with DesignSpark. Now I have to decide which program to use.

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They can't read each other's libraries. PCB Artist and DesignSpark were developed specifically for Advanced Circuits and RS, and they presumably didn't want the libraries to be interchangeable.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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johnrk wrote:
The Gerber viewer I use is a trial version of Viewmate (9.4.73) offered by PentaLogix. This program has the capability to print your entire board to scale.
You had me scared for a minute. ExpressPCB can print out the board to scale and you don't have to know anything about Gerber. I use it for making templates for various purposes.

But I'm thinking of switching to PCB Artist, or something similar. I quickly drew some parallel traces on the board using PCB Artist and printed it. The scale was perfect. It's so perfect I need a precise metal machinist's scale to appreciate it. It's considerably better than my plastic ruler and a bit better than my metal measuring tape.

I use an HP D5160 inkjet.

Edit: The quoted text was't mine (=Plons), but johnrk. Corrected.

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I use an HP inkjet for my PCB artwork, it's *very* accurate.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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HP printers are interesting. The inkjets are on the cartridges. Did you ever notice what it does to align the jets after you replace a cartridge?

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No, I just let it do its thing.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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Mine prints some lines in various colors and then it backs up the paper an inch or two. I guess it's looking at what it printed.

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Mine is a cheap one I bought about 5 years ago, it was under £60. I can do very nice PCBs with it, though, with tracks down to 8 mils. I've done 5 mils as a test.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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Not sure if this really belongs here but here it goes:

I've used FreePCB for a few different boards now and have really grown to like it. One thing that seems to get people is the lack or presence of a component library, while FreePCB does have a complete Ivex library that you can use, can you trust it? For certain things like 0805 sized SMD components you may have to rely on the library, but for other things I prefer to just make the footprint from the datasheet. The footprint wizard and editor make it really simple to create your own footprints, and then you know that it is either correct, or you know exactly who to blame (must be the datasheet is wrong :roll: ) You can work with both metric and imperial measurements, it will convert them for you and seems to do a decent job of it based on my last boards which had parts in both systems and seems to have worked.

One thing I like is that you can either use drag and drop to position the components, or you can position them numerically. If you made your own footprints then you also know where the origin is for that positioning and rotation which is really important when using things like mezzanine connectors/risers where you need to be able to position them accurately so they line up with each other. (note jm4 and jm5 in attached image which is a 0.5mm spaced Hirose mezzanine both were numerically placed to mate with a second board).

It can import netlists from a compatible schematic design software like TinyCad, or you can make them in a text editor, or you can go straight to dropping components on the "board" and define the pins with a right click. You can also just connect pin to pin and let it make a sequential net for those pins.

The autorouter seems to work, don't have enough experience to comment on how well it works. If you are using a complex and tightly packed board, there may be some cleanup required in the form of shifting the position of some traces but overall it seems to work to a tolerable level.

The Gerber export module is 274x and Excellon drills and also offers .png output for those people that want to toner transfer or photoresist their own boards. Ive sent the Gerbers to 4 or 5 different fabrication businesses and the only one that required any fooling around or renaming was Batch PCB.

My only wish is that it would output DXF or DWG files so that I could bring them into a CAD program for making diagrams for documentation. I found a gerber viewer called GerbView that allows you to import the gerber files and generate a DXF (not free though).

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CADSTAR EXPRESS

http://www.zuken.com/products/ca...

Free Evaluation Software - Version 12.1 (Updated: September 2010)
All the functionality of CADSTAR, limited to 300 pins & 50 components.

20.000 FREE library of PARTS library (examples taken from the over 250.000 parts CADSTAR Online Library)

http://www.zuken.com/products/ca...

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