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Suggestions for PCB design software

Discussion in 'd.i.y.' started by paulski, Oct 8, 2019.

  1. paulski

    paulski pfm Member

    Can anyone suggest a PCB design package that's relatively easy and intuitive to use? I thought i'd download something and get going in minutes but I've spent a couple of hours with KiCad and it's driving me nuts. Initially all I want to do is design a board that has 3 connectors on it that are interlinked. It's not rectangular and it needs mounting holes. It would seem that I've got to figure out how to:
    • Create a design for a non-rectangular board
    • Figure out how to add holes
    • Figure out how to dimension the board
    • Design the footprints for my connectors
    That all sounds straightforward but, so far, I've accomplished none of them!

    In case anyone is wondering it's a board to go inside an LP12 to replace the rat's nest of wiring from my DIY Armageddon.
  2. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

  3. david ellwood

    david ellwood Kirabosi Kognoscente

    +1 kicad

    I use 4.0.7 , don’t know if ver 5 is worth trying yet.
  4. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    Generally you start with a schematic you've drawn using parts from the software's library of parts. You then transfer this to the actual PCB layout part of the software where you will get a rats nest type layout. You set number of layers and shape of board etc at this point. You can then usually use auto-route to get somewhere near and make it all a bit tidier to work with before routing it better manually. You can use DRC (design rule check) to look for mistakes but much depends on how DRC is set up! Then define any holes needed and do another DRC. You then need to generate a DRF (Drill Rack File) from this which tells the CNC drill machine which drill bit to use for which hole. the PCB output is then converted to a Gerber File and this plus the DRF are sent to the PCB maker.

    It's much the same process (details will differ) for all the main programs available. Range of parts in the parts library will often be a deciding factor! Eagle is good and has huge libraries plus plenty of on-line user groups etc which often host parts created by members. Yeah it's a right PITA if you have to create new parts manually!
  5. CoherentSystems

    CoherentSystems Trade: Coherent Systems

    Kicad is very usable, Eagle to if you can work around its quirks.

    Or use your own desktop PCB machine, works great for prototyping and finishing then off to a manufacturer of your choice for the board to made.
    Has cut down the design to finish time by significant amounts.
  6. timH

    timH Senior Moment Member

    How are you intending to get the board made? If it’s very very simple it can be easier to draw it yourself and then etch it yourself. Especially for a one off
  7. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    Yep +1 to that. Even if it's not that simple.... forget SMD or double sided though! Decon Dalo pen.
  8. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    Seed studio or pcbstudio, dirt cheap and delivered fast.
  9. MJS

    MJS Trade: Consultant at WH Audio

  10. Jeff Young

    Jeff Young pfm Member

    +1 for Kicad. (And FWIW, 5.1.x is much better than 4.0.7.)

    Disclaimer: I'm one of the developers, so I'm biased. ;)
    Julf likes this.
  11. paulski

    paulski pfm Member

    Thanks for all the suggestions chaps, it seems I was right to go with KiCad from the start. The trouble is it feels like I’m going to have to invest hours in becoming sufficiently proficient just to create a simple board and I’m not sure I’ve got the time or the patience. Even the footprint editor is a mystery....
  12. Shadders

    Shadders pfm Member

    It may take a long time to get up to speed with any PCB creation tool, and then you may not know if you have met the requirements for the PCB manufacturers fabrication limits etc., or that the gerber files have been produced properly as you need, solder resist options.

    I do not use Kicad - but if you are new to this area, and someone were to complete the work for you - then an open source program which anyone can download for free is preferable.

    The job required is small - so you may ask someone to help you out here.

  13. Jeff Young

    Jeff Young pfm Member

    Feel free to post questions if you get stuck....
  14. Richard Lines

    Richard Lines pfm Member

  15. paulski

    paulski pfm Member

    I was looking for a free package and the free version of Eagle is limited by a maximum board size that’s far too small.
  16. davidsrsb

    davidsrsb pfm Member

    If you need to ask, stick to the supported release of KiCad, currently 5.1.4
    I am a moderator on the KiCad user forums so I can also help here.
    Draw the circuit first before trying to design the PCB.
  17. imarks

    imarks Ian Marks

    I installed KiCad yesterday having never used anything similar previously.

    The 'Tutorial1' from the getting started section of the KiCad website is really good, took a couple of hours to work through it from entering the schematic, creating new components, layout and routing the PCB and finally generating the Gerber files. You can even render a 3D model of populated PCD. I was very impressed and will definitely be using KiCad for an up coming project.
  18. davidsrsb

    davidsrsb pfm Member

    Beware that the tutorial authors have not fully kept up with UI changes from 4.0.x through 5.0.x to 5.1.x
  19. orangeart

    orangeart KJF Audio Ltd.

    I do t think you can beat Eagle, it's free if you are only designing small PCB and is well supported. It also talks to fusion if you want to do 3d models.

  20. david ellwood

    david ellwood Kirabosi Kognoscente

    Eagle is great software and only really falls down in three areas. Annoyingly limited libraries. Difficult to edit and amend libraries. Not being KiCad.

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