What CAD tools does Adafruit use?
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What CAD tools does Adafruit use?

by kscharf on Wed Aug 08, 2012 9:07 am

What CAD tools to you use at AdaFruit to design your boards? I assume Eagle since you usually publish schematics and board layouts in Eagle file format, but you have mentioned other tools as well. If Eagle, which version did you actually buy? I've down loaded their basic "Free" version and I wonder if it is featured enough to design single board projects with the complexity of the stuff that you are currently selling? Certainly the board SIZE is compatible, but is there a limit on net size, parts list size, etc? Also the schematic must fit on one page that itself is limited in size. I know that if I use Eagle and design something I want to sell I'll have to pony up for a commerical license, but I wonder what is the lowest cost package I could get away with. At the moment my goal is just to learn how to use the basic Eagle CAD. I've already used it to design a simple board for a project from QST (the R1 direct conversion receiver) but I need more practice to do more complex circuits.
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Re: What CAD tools does Adafruit use?

by westfw on Wed Aug 08, 2012 6:02 pm

I wonder if [EAGLE Freeware] is featured enough to design single board projects with the complexity of the stuff that you are currently selling? Certainly the board SIZE is compatible, but is there a limit on net size, parts list size, etc?

The limit is on board size, number of layers, and paging in the schematics. CadSoft does a pretty good job of making this clear on their web page. The "number of layers" is starting to be a limiting factor as 4-layer boards become more affordable, and chips get more leads. Putting a couple of 64pin LQFPs on an Arduino-sized 2-layer board gets challenging; chip designers are starting to assume that their chips will go on 4-layer boards (placement and requirements for power pin connections.)

Also the schematic must fit on one page that itself is limited in size.

I believe the "one page" can actually be of rather unlimited size, though I'm not sure how that works out for printing, and it certainly gets "inconvenient" on large schematics. It's "interesting" to look at the way that professional schematics (say, the Digilent Inc "ChipKit" board, or the TI LaunchPad") are drawn compared to those drawn with the freeware.

I know that if I use Eagle and design something I want to sell I'll have to pony up for a commerical license, but I wonder what is the lowest cost package I could get away with.

The $49 "Lite" version has the same limitations as the freeware, but permits commercial use. IMO, It's a Very Good Deal. Even the full professional version of EAGLE is a "good value"; not as powerful as some of the truly professional packages, but also much lower priced.
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Re: What CAD tools does Adafruit use?

by kscharf on Wed Aug 08, 2012 7:17 pm

Thanks for the info. The most complex circuit I have in mind at the moment might use a 64 pin tqfp and a 48 pin one. No ground slugs on either one. So maybe a two layer board would work. I think most of Adafruit's boards are only two layer and fit in Eagle's size limits.

Just checked on Eagle's website. Their prices have increased somewhat. The lite version is now $69 which allows commerical use (free download does not.) There is a 'hobby' version of the standard version that allows 6 layers and 160mmx100mm sized boards (vs 100x80 for the lite). The upgrade to standard from hobby allows commerical use but costs $820 with auto router and $575 without. Yeah that is probably cheaper than other cad software but would STILL be a big bit trying to bootstrap a hobby to a business trying to sell its' first product. So I will probably see just how much I CAN do with the lite version.
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