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TommyBoy
02-03-2012, 05:32 AM
Hey kids,

I'm looking for some free or inexpensive sofware for laying out schematics. If it also does PCB layouts, that would be a bonus.

I've googled the subject but I get a ton of hits and most look like a good conduit for spam. So...

What are you folks using? Pro? Con?

Mark_T
02-03-2012, 09:31 AM
The free version of Eagle http://www.cadsoftusa.com/downloads/freeware/?language=en is limited to 100mm by 80mm board size and 2-layer, but seems pretty popular. I've heard good things about KiCad too: http://kicad.sourceforge.net/wiki/Main_Page

Leon
02-03-2012, 10:54 AM
DesignSpark from RS is free:

http://uk.rs-online.com/web/generalDisplay.html?id=DesignSpark-Jan11&cm_sp=EEM-_-EEM-Landing-_-DesignSpark%20PCB%20version%203%20is%20here!

It's based on Easy-PC which I used for many years.

stamptrol
02-03-2012, 12:41 PM
ExpressPCB has free software for both design of circuits plus production of boards.

Produces excellent finished products, quickly and for a reasonable price.

Cheers,

idbruce
02-03-2012, 07:46 PM
Eagle has my vote

Publison
02-03-2012, 08:26 PM
Check down at the bottom of this thread for "Similar Threads" where this has been discussed before.

TommyBoy
02-03-2012, 10:45 PM
Thanks guys.

Yes, I noticed that the subject has been discussed previously but new stuff is always coming out, improving and dropping off by the wayside. 2009 was the last time PCB software was discussed and I'm sure there have been nice improvements since then, that's why I brought the supject up again.

Based on the comments here, I've got a couple of mature products to try out.

If you've used any other good programs, please let me know and I'll check them out too.

Thanks again.

Publison
02-03-2012, 11:39 PM
Thanks guys.

Yes, I noticed that the subject has been discussed previously but new stuff is always coming out, improving and dropping off by the wayside. 2009 was the last time PCB software was discussed and I'm sure there have been nice improvements since then, that's why I brought the supject up again.

Based on the comments here, I've got a couple of mature products to try out.

If you've used any other good programs, please let me know and I'll check them out too.

Thanks again.

I use Express PCB all the time as my boards are always within the limits. Very good quality and turn around.

I have just started using Diptrace, and find it is a good Schematic and PCB layout program.

I did download DesignSpark when Leon first mentioned it a few months ago, but I totally forgot about it. I just reloaded it again tonight and will spend some time with it. As far as I remember, it is a quite capable suite with this following quote from the website:

"Free from practical constraints on board size, pin counts, layers, and output types"

I just downloaded Eagle 6.1. The entire file system has been changed over the XLM, so I don't know how all the old libraries are going to play. Time will tell.

Jim

idbruce
02-03-2012, 11:54 PM
@TommyBoy


2009 was the last time PCB software was discussed

Actually that is just for the discussions that are listed at the bottom. There have been a couple of other brief discussions pertaining to this matter, but it all boils down to what you really want and how much effort (perhaps money) you are willing to put forth to get it.

If you have the time, investigate several of them until you find one that suits your learning curve, desires, and needs.

Bruce

Bobb Fwed
02-03-2012, 11:59 PM
I prefer DipTrace. It's free within a few limits like number of pads, layers, and schematic pages. It's also easy to learn (much easier than others, like Eagle), and won't limit you in the long term (as proprietary CAD systems such as ExpressPCB will do).

xanadu
02-04-2012, 02:17 AM
If your board isn't going to production any time soon (or you just need one made) I can't help but vote for http://www.4pcb.com/free-pcb-layout-software/ Coming from a beginner - it's easy to use you'll get it done and the schematics look great. It's an easy transistion into PCB layout from there using the same software. They also have support, for free.

If you're going to production soon you'll want something that outputs gerber files like everyone said most of the free ones are somewhat proprietary but again that only matters when you're going into production and shopping around.

TommyBoy
02-04-2012, 02:25 AM
If you have the time, investigate several of them until you find one that suits your learning curve, desires, and needs.


Thanks Bruce. I think that's what I'll do. The one that has the shortest learning curve will certainly grab my attention.


... and won't limit you in the long term....

I've always been a fan of this concept too. I like options to grow... or not.

Bobb Fwed
02-04-2012, 04:14 AM
I like options to grow... or not.

I started with ExpressPCB many years ago. It was very easy, because it was simple. After a few projects, my needs greatly outgrew ExpressPCB's usability. I received flawed boards from them, and developing more and more complex projects became increasingly more difficult. Ultimately I was forced to find a better fabricator and CAD software.
The switch was very tedious. Transferring schematics from one suite to another is time consuming and carries a great potential for introducing errors. I completed it, and was very happy with the fact that now, not only is fabrication almost completely restriction-free, but also cheaper. Professional CAD suites provide much more functionality and flexibility. Now we use DipTrace for fabrication, assembly (automated pick and place), and are starting to integrate it into device design with its new 3D capabilities.

With their payment scheme, you only have to pay for the amount you use it. At first it is free, but as your designs and projects expand, DipTrace can handle it, but you'll have to pay for increased complexity.