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Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?
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Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by nphillips on Mon Dec 22, 2008 6:08 pm

Does anyone know of a useful alternative to Eagle?

I like Eagle. It's nice, once you get used to it. Plus, it seems that "everyone else" in the DIY crowd uses it.

However, I'm considering selling the PCBs from some upcoming designs, and that violates the licensing on the freeware and non-profit versions of Eagle.

I've played around with KiCad, and it does a decent job, but since I'm planning on licensing everything under GPL and Creative Commons, I get the impression that the KiCad sources are mostly "unreadable" by my target audience. (not to mention the fact that I can't get it to export usable images of my boards, so I can etch them myself...)

So...what other options are there? The "Standard" package is way out of my budget range. Even the non-profit version is a little painful (though I could conceivably save up for it). Or, is there a legitimate way "around" the freeware non-profit clause in the license?

I don't want to be a "freetard" on this one, demanding handouts and expecting everything to be free, just because I say so... but given my current financial situation, I have zero chance of having the spare cash for Eagle lying around any time soon.
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by westfw on Tue Dec 23, 2008 3:22 am

There's the $49 version of Eagle. Same restrictions as the freeware version, EXCEPT commercial use is OK (at least, that's how I read it...)

Then there's the gEDA suite from gnu; IIRC, KiCAD is based on this, so it has the same distribution issues WRT project source and etc. I'm not sure what the problem is there; it's not YOUR problem that people aren't able to install and use a free software package; you can always package up "standard" format files (gerber, pdf, whatever.) Not being able to print successfully is another problem, but I assume that it's solvable (perhaps only by going to gerber and then using a gerber printer/viewer to print.) It certainly is "nice" that Eagle is so professionally packaged and easy to install on a wide variety of OS environments...
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by josheeg on Tue Dec 23, 2008 8:56 am

I sent my ki arduino kicad arduino out to be made just do a google search for kicad and you get autorouters that are seperate freeroute and a schematic symbol creator on a webpage and tutorials on kicad.

Go with it the automation it provides makes eagle look silly. Also the design flow of make the scematic before deciding on the capacitor size package is nice.
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by nphillips on Tue Dec 23, 2008 10:34 am

westfw wrote:Then there's the gEDA suite from gnu; IIRC, KiCAD is based on this, so it has the same distribution issues WRT project source and etc. I'm not sure what the problem is there; it's not YOUR problem that people aren't able to install and use a free software package; you can always package up "standard" format files (gerber, pdf, whatever.)
True enough. I just wanted to try and be as "nice as possible" but in the end, it really doesn't matter. Providing the Gerbers and a pdf of the schematic is more than enough. A tarball of the kicad files is OK...it's cross platform and all.

Not being able to print successfully is another problem, but I assume that it's solvable (perhaps only by going to gerber and then using a gerber printer/viewer to print.)
That's my biggest pet peeve about it. The exported graphics are horrible. I need to get another gerb viewer, and make sure it's not ruining those, too (it shouldn't; gerbers are sort of text-based, not graphical)

It certainly is "nice" that Eagle is so professionally packaged and easy to install on a wide variety of OS environments...
Exactly. Kicad does a decent job, too...but I think the "use multiple applications with odd names for every step" is a bit of a put-off. It wasn't until I really tried to understand it that it made sense.

josheeg wrote:I sent my ki arduino kicad arduino out to be made just do a google search for kicad and you get autorouters that are seperate freeroute and a schematic symbol creator on a webpage and tutorials on kicad.
I'm relatively comfortable with kicad, now...and freeroute is an excellent app. How did your PCB turn out?

Go with it the automation it provides makes eagle look silly. Also the design flow of make the scematic before deciding on the capacitor size package is nice.
Once you've gotten used to it, it makes a lot of sense. I do like the fact that the schematic is separated from the physical component list, too. That was my biggest stumbling block in trying to figure it out. I also found a nice eagle script that can convert libraries, so your SparkFun parts list can be turned into a kicad library :D

All that to say..."thanks!" You both have essentially said what I was thinking deep down inside, but wasn't ready to admit. ;) I think I will stick with kicad, and just kick back some donations to the developers as I'm able -- I'll probably devote a percentage of the return from the PCBs/kits to kicad.
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by josheeg on Tue Dec 23, 2008 10:53 am

Kicad is very easy to install unzip the zip file or whatever compression it was. I did into the directory for my OS that the instructions told me and then coppy the shortcut to my desktop ...

Yes their was no synaptic package manager option for kicad but geda's one is out of date sometimes and can be inconsistent with the tutorials.

Also GEDA requires more command line knowlege I am semi comfortable with it but kicad is easier and provides many of the same features and licence. Like the chip numbering...

Providing the gerbers does not allow someone to change one or two things in the scematic editor reroute and send out. Gerber and pdf schematics give a person some but if schematic sheets can be shared with the underling packages or whatever kicad calls it you have a way to share and connect designs without rework...

Kicad does come with a gerber viewer I got another open source one somewhere on my ubuntu computer it is great so is sparkfuns result files from it's drc bot.

Free route is quite entertaining and it did a amazing job of routing it.

Unfortunatly sparkfun has great prices but they wait for a sheet to fill up before they send out the order to china or something. So you don't have to order 3 for 50$ I got my one board for 10$ and 10$ shipping and whatever else.

So I am still waiting for the board sorry I could not share pics but the last 2 boards I got from sparkfun worked great.

Just have a parrellel project to keep you busy whale waiting for the boards like setting up your ubuntu server with joomla cms and virtuemart shopping cart. So your online store can be ready when your shopping cart is done and circuit board is tested.
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by nphillips on Sat Jan 17, 2009 4:50 pm

As an interesting follow-up, I came across this: http://reprap.org/bin/view/Main/KiCad

RepRap is using KiCad for electronic design.


It gives me quite a bit of confidence to continue using kicad when I see a large, healthy, and popular project proudly proclaim their use of kicad :)

Plus, these guys are proactive about giving back to the other open source projects they use, so kicad might see some nice upgrades too :D
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by nweinham on Mon Apr 12, 2010 3:46 pm

nphillips wrote:Does anyone know of a useful alternative to Eagle?
This thread has been quiet for a while, but since I've been looking for an alternative to Eagle, and this thread keeps popping up in my searches, and I figure other folks might be going through the same steps, I thought I'd post this info here:

Have you had a look at Fritzing? http://fritzing.org/welcome/
For one thing, they've got a handy comparison page here: http://fritzing.org/about/comparison/

Their tool allows you to build a graphic image of your Arduino prototype, translate it into a schematic, and design and print your PCB layout.
Getting Started: http://fritzing.org/learning/get-started/
Project View: http://fritzing.org/learning/get-started/project-view/

As reported on Adafruit, there's talk of Fritzing producing PCB's for you, though I think this is still in the "almost" stage.
http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2009/12/08/its-fritzmas-get-one-of-24-free-individual-arduino-shields/

From their website: "Fritzing is an open-source initiative to support designers, artists, researchers and hobbyists to work creatively with interactive electronics. We are creating a software and website in the spirit of Processing http://processing.org/ and Arduino http://arduino.cc/, developing a tool that allows users to document their prototypes, share them with others, teach electronics in a classroom, and to create a pcb layout for professional manufacturing."

The following images come from Szymon Kobalczyk's Blog http://geekswithblogs.net/kobush/archive/2010/01/04/137328.aspx. His Fritzing project is also available on the Fritzing site. I am posting them here because they're excellent examples of a Fritzing project lifecycle.

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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by DavidCary on Mon Apr 26, 2010 11:39 pm

* All the current PCB design tools I've ever heard of are listed at Open Circuits. http://www.opencircuits.com/software_tool
They include:
* Liquid PCB: It's cross-platform, open-source GPL, hosted on Sourceforge, and free. http://www.liquidpcb.org/
* PCB123: free. The "how much does this board cost?" auto-calculator looks useful. http://www.pcb123.com/
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by Sheepdog on Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:23 pm

I don't do a lot of PCB design, just the occasional hobbyist odd and end... but I DO know computers, freeware, etc...

I've used Eagle (some), but really like what I've seen of KiCad so far, and would commend it. Another interesting option is DesignSpark.

I've published a comparative review of PCB CAD software for hobbyists... it is at...

http://www.arunet.co.uk/tkboyd/ele2pcb.htm

Goes into pros / cons of Eagle, KiCad, DesignSpark, plus less extensive comments on some other options.
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by ezekielmudd on Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:25 pm

You could also check out AutotraxDEX.

It's not free but $99 isn't that bad.
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by Technobly on Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:14 pm

I'll put my vote in for KiCAD. It's free and has been said to be the most used software for PCB designs submitted to Laen at http://www.Dorkbotpdx.org

I prefer it over Eagle at the moment, but if I have my choice it would be OrCAD because I know it so well.
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by minerva on Mon Nov 14, 2011 9:02 am

Can Fritzing generate Gerber files? Multiple-layer boards?

I think Fritzing is nice for beginners, but there's no way it's competitive with serious EDA/CAD/CAM software such as Eagle or KiCAD.
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by cstratton on Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:36 pm

minerva wrote:I think Fritzing is nice for beginners, but there's no way it's competitive with serious EDA/CAD/CAM software such as Eagle or KiCAD.


I could see it having substantial uptake amongst people whose goal isn't "to do electronics" but rather to accomplish the production of a circuit (ultimately board) needed for some other project - for example, grad students in other fields who need something to enable their experiment.
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternative to Eagle?

by Sheepdog on Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:16 pm

Since my post in September, I've spent MANY hours with KiCad... superb... and FREE.

Re- publishing your work... part of the "question" at the very top of this thread:

CircuitBee.com offers a fabulous answer for circuit diagrams. They host your schematic, which you just upload, if you are a KiCad user, and then people can look at it... So what, you say. Another Flickr? No! The CircuitBee service allows your viewers to zoom in, pan around... a bit like using Google maps.

AND they are working on providing the same service for KiCad PCB layouts, too.

Also in the first post: Something about not being able to generate artwork from which to make the PCB??? Of course you can generate the artwork! And/ or Gerber files, if you want to have a commercial service (BatchPCB, for instance) make up the boards for you.

I don't "profit" from it... but I so like KiCad that I've produced a website which aims to help you get to grips with using KiCad...

http://KiCadHowTo.org

Hope you like it!
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