ExpressPCB gives away project box

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Ok, I hope this does not sound like a promotion, but here goes, I just received a project box from ExpressPCB that is designed to fit their mimi-board pcb's.

The "box" comes in separate sides that will assemble into a box.  Overall I was impressed with the results and a project I had previously built using the miniboard,and needed a case, fit the box as advertised.   Overall I'm pleased and will order more for future projects.

You can find them here:  https://www.expresspcb.com/shop/...

 

Jim

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Last Edited: Wed. Aug 10, 2016 - 01:15 PM
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That's cute.

 

It says they're out of stock.

The largest known prime number: 282589933-1

It's easy to stop breaking the 10th commandment! Break the 8th instead. 

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Not surprising given the price!  I hope they make more.

 

 

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I see that Expresspcb has updated their website to include forums and contributed designs.  Still windows based software. 

 

I once wrote a tool (in postscript) that converts expressPCB designs to and from KiCad.  This way I can open and view the files on my mac. 

 

Now I just need to get around to making that breakout board for some TFTs that I have ...

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Wow.  I had thought ExpressPCB was dying.  Then a year ago I noticed they updated their software.  I still haven't tried it, but the next time I design a board I will.

 

Now a web site and a link to xCheck.  That's an interesting story.  I have the utmost respect for the guy who wrote it.

 

I've always liked ExpressPCB.  I find their board design software better that anything else I've tried.  Unfortunately I've seldom given them any business lately and I'm feeling guilty.  It's too easy to get gerbers at robotroom/copperconnection and then get boards made and cut to size for peanuts.  It takes a lot longer but I can wait. 

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I used to like ExpressPCB too, but their layout software, while simple and easy to use, was becoming a little too simple and easy to use - it was becoming primitive.  It hadn't been updated in ages, and was lacking in some vital features (free rotate, anyone?  Newer part libraries?).

 

I went looking for a changelog on "What's new?" in their revision 7.4.1 (which the description on the download link says it's Rev. 7.341) and didn't find it.  Anyone tried the latest and found new and different features?  Perhaps this should be its own thread.

 

Other dirt-cheap board houses were starting to eat their lunch on pricing too.  And they'd let me use something like the freebie version of Cadsoft's Eagle - maybe a bit trickier to get started, but once going...

 

And the boxes are still out of stock.

 

S.

 

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Scroungre wrote:

  Newer part libraries?

Yeah, if you don't want to make your own footprints, this might not be the best for you. 

 

Personally I don't like to use software produced by an evil sadist, and that's surely who made the other board design software I've tried.

 

It looks like the new ExpressPCB software comes with a license.  It apparently restricts you from having your boards made elsewhere.  I understand why they did that, but that presents a problem.  The miniboards are okay but I usually cut them to size, or snap them to size.  That's a real pain.

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steve17 wrote:

Scroungre wrote:

  Newer part libraries?

Yeah, if you don't want to make your own footprints, this might not be the best for you.

 

I can if I have to, but I really would prefer not to.  It's like writing assembler code - I can (and I do) but if a compiler will do it for me, I won't mind at all.  Note to all manufacturers out there - Given a choice of roughly equivalent chips, I will use those that have part libraries available instead of having to write my own.

 

Quote:

Personally I don't like to use software produced by an evil sadist, and that's surely who made the other board design software I've tried.

 

It looks like the new ExpressPCB software comes with a license.  It apparently restricts you from having your boards made elsewhere.  I understand why they did that, but that presents a problem.  The miniboards are okay but I usually cut them to size, or snap them to size.  That's a real pain.

 

That's somewhat evil.  ExpressPCB always used to say you could have Gerber files of what you made in their software (for a price), and that to me said they were willing to deal with me.  If the license now says that those files may only be made by ExpressPCB, well, I think a few old boards of mine are about to get redrawn.

 

I whacked up some of my miniboards, and some I left in one piece, and some systems wound up with two or three different miniboards all plugged up together.  For the elegant ones I sprung for the solder mask 'n silkscreen, too.  One thing I only found out the hard way was that the miniboard had a limit of 350 holes.  I could never find that anywhere in the documentation, but when I had a board with 380odd I had to do a lot of hole-removal before the software would let me make them.

 

I did find the changelog for the software.  It didn't look like it changed much at all.  Certainly no new major features.

 

S.

 

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I used ExpressPCB ONCE, and said thanks for the learning experience.  The software was the real killer.

 

I am much happier with the vendor I am using now.  Send Gerbers, and  6 days later I have PC Boards at my doorstep.

 

JIm

I would rather attempt something great and fail, than attempt nothing and succeed - Fortune Cookie

 

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Scroungre wrote:

  One thing I only found out the hard way was that the miniboard had a limit of 350 holes. 

It's there but it isn't easy to find.  None of the help files are searchable.  Open ExpressPCB.  Click Help > Manufacturing specs.

 

If 350 holes aren't enough I guess I can assume you don't think much of the newfangled SMD.  wink

 

When I want to snap my miniboards to size, I put a series of holes in a line where I want to snap.  I never hit a limit.  They'd be much easier to snap if they would make thinner boards.

 

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steve17 wrote:

Scroungre wrote:

  One thing I only found out the hard way was that the miniboard had a limit of 350 holes. 

It's there but it isn't easy to find.  None of the help files are searchable.  Open ExpressPCB.  Click Help > Manufacturing specs.

 

If 350 holes aren't enough I guess I can assume you don't think much of the newfangled SMD.  wink

 

 

It's there.  And that particular board had thru-hole components on both sides.  Assembly was...  interesting, but it worked.  S.

 

And credit where credit is due.  ExpressPCB was a pioneer in cheap low-volume PCBs, and was a major reason why I quit fussin' about with breadboards and wire-wrap and laser-printing iron-on sheets of mylar and all that sort of rot.

 

Think of them as the MySpace of cheap circuit boards.

 

S.

 

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I was wrong about searchable help.  Things have gotten better.  I still haven't found a search button on the site, but I assume your browser has one.

https://www.expresspcb.com/miniboard-standard/

 

 

It looks like gerbers are still available.

 

https://www.expresspcb.com/faqs/

 

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This was the issue I had with ExpressPCB and one of the main reasons I dumped them.  THey first told me they could not work from Gerbers, only their software package, then they told me that they can use Gerbers but I would have to pay a large tooling cost.   Then after all was said and done the offered to sell me the production Gerbers...

 

Meh. frown

 

Jim

I would rather attempt something great and fail, than attempt nothing and succeed - Fortune Cookie

 

"The critical shortage here is not stuff, but time." - Johan Ekdahl

 

"If you want a career with a known path - become an undertaker. Dead people don't sue!" - Kartman

"Why is there a "Highway to Hell" and only a "Stairway to Heaven"? A prediction of the expected traffic load?"  - Lee "theusch"

 

Speak sweetly. It makes your words easier to digest when at a later date you have to eat them ;-)  - Source Unknown

Please Read: Code-of-Conduct

Atmel Studio6.2/AS7, DipTrace, Quartus, MPLAB, RSLogix user

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I use them for prototypes all the time, service has been good and the software has improved overtime and works well for simple pcbs.

As for gerbers, they now have a membership service that provides free gerbers with each order for a single seat cost of $99/yr.

This works for me as I create more then two pcbs a year.  With the gerbers I can have the boards made in bulk or send them to my pcb assembly house.

 

Jim

 

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Robot Room's $99 "Copper Connection" pcb layout software will import Expresspcb files and let you generate Gerbers (including stencil layer) from them.  Very nice and has saved me a *lot* of cash!

Tom Pappano
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Last Edited: Sat. Aug 13, 2016 - 12:18 AM
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Yes I do that, but is it ethical?  Apparently to use ExpressPCB's latest software you have to agree to not do that, so it would be illegal.  I guess it's possible that ExpressPCB may order copperconnection not to use ExpressPCB's board designs.

 

Coppenconnection has board design software that looks good although I've never used it.  Their software doesn't use schematics so I am not interested.  I want the computer to check the board design against the schematic.  That's what xCheck does very well.

 

Today I asked David Cook at copperconnection about that.  I got a reply.

Hi Steve,

>> Are there any plans for including schematics?  I would want a computer program that compares my board with my schematic and tell me if there are discrepancies.

I have received a number of requests for that capability. At the present, I have a lot of ideas but have not gotten motivated to start working on it.

Sincerely,

David Cook
RobotRoom.com

 

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Yes I do that, but is it ethical?  Apparently to use ExpressPCB's latest software you have to agree to not do that, so it would be illegal.  I guess it's possible that ExpressPCB may order copperconnection not to use ExpressPCB's board designs.

I order a *lot* of boards from them, actually almost 200 jobs since 2006, thousands of pcbs.  Every layout I do results in an Expresspcb board order, so I don't feel too bad in doing large quantity follow-on orders from my other board house.  My fine-pitch pcbs require ENIG finish, which Expresspcb does not do.

 

Tom Pappano
Tulsa, Oklahoma

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tpappano wrote:

 

 

 My fine-pitch pcbs require ENIG finish, which Expresspcb does not do.

 

 

I learned a few things researching that.  You are probably using 0.3 mm pitch BGA.  The gold finish is less apt to cause solder bridging, for reasons I don't understand.

 

I also learned something I've always wondered about. On my regular old fashioned tinned boards, how do they get such a thin layer of solder on the traces.  It seems that after tinning, they blow off the excess with hot air. 

 

I'm thinking it might be good to get the boards without blowing off the excess.  I wouldn't need to add solder.  Just add flux and heat.

Last Edited: Sat. Aug 13, 2016 - 12:27 PM
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steve17 wrote:
without blowing off the excess

It was many years ago, but I saw a board that had not been through "hot air leveling", it was a mess; solder blobs everywhere, filled component holes (as well as vias) and shorted traces. That may have been rare example of might happen; however ... YMMV ;-)

David (aka frog_jr)