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Fabbing PCBs
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Fabbing PCBs

by RichG on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:29 am

Hi!

What's the best *affordable* way to start producing Gerber files to have a PCB manufactured?
I'd like to be able to design / supply artwork and to have PCBs manufactured from that artwork.

Which design tools do you use to create the kits sold here on Adafruit?
e.g. are the Arudino and Chumby boards designed on an open source tool chain?

What is the best way to get into creating PCBs?

Thanks!

edit: am on Mac. Opening the bidding with macports and sudo port install geda-gaf pcb
does anyone use those?
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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by hjohnson on Sun Oct 10, 2010 12:47 pm

The "hobbyist-industry-standard" (including Adafruit) is EAGLE: http://www.cadsoftusa.com/ Lots of tutorials on sparkfun, and no huge-ginormous-OMGWHATISTHIS learning curve http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/tutorial_info.php?tutorials_id=108 A nice feature is that you can capture your schematic as a circuit diagram, then with a single button press open up a new board with all of the components you need. You still have to arrange them, route them (not autoroute, please!), and then run a script inside the program to turn them into Gerber, soldermask, etc files. You can then take those files and submit them to a site like http://batchpcb.com and have them made. It's easier than it sounds, trust me, it just takes a bit of time and effort to learn. (Like anything)
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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by westfw on Sun Oct 10, 2010 5:16 pm

Being on a Mac limits you a lot. Other than EAGLE there is GEDA and KiCAD. Those latter programs are Open Source, while EAGLE is a commercial product (though one with especially friendly hobbyist licensing terms, and not too expensive even for a full commercial version.)

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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by chatham on Mon Oct 11, 2010 1:37 am

I'm personally a big fan of KiCad, on account that it's OSS and actually, has been the most problem-free piece of OSS I've ever used. It'll get you through the entire schematic->layout->gerber process, although a tutorial will help a lot. I came into it with zero electrical engineering/pcb setup background, so it's very doable. I also use Gold Phoenix for pcb manufacture, but that's because I usually wind up using quite a few of the boards I get done up, so when I pay $100 and get 60 boards a week later in the mail, it's worth it to me more than spending $20-30 and getting 5 boards in the mail a month later.
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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by bythewater on Mon Oct 11, 2010 1:00 pm

Original question concerned the Mac, I'm finding some old posts on this software running on the Mac but so far nothing recent. So is anyone using this with success on the Mac? If so, can you point to reliable installation instructions for compiling? There tend to be a variety of approaches to this and various dependencies e.g. MacPorts, etc. Thanks.

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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by westfw on Mon Oct 11, 2010 2:31 pm

I just tried to download a newer version of KiCAD for my Mac (binary), and couldn't get it to work at all (apps immediately crash.) Perhaps it is now 10.6 only? Previous versions I tried had a very "laggy" GUI interface...

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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by cstratton on Mon Oct 11, 2010 3:26 pm

bythewater wrote:Original question concerned the Mac, I'm finding some old posts on this software running on the Mac but so far nothing recent. So is anyone using this with success on the Mac? If so, can you point to reliable installation instructions for compiling? There tend to be a variety of approaches to this and various dependencies e.g. MacPorts, etc. Thanks.


If would think you should be able to run the linux version of eagle in a linux virtual machine without much difficulty.

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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by hjohnson on Mon Oct 11, 2010 3:32 pm

Alternatively, there is also DesignSpark PCB, (free with registration, and usable for commercial purposes I believe). http://www.designspark.com/pcb I haven't been able to play around with it a ton myself, but I've heard good things. It is in theory windows-only, but from my testing it works wonderfully under crossover.http://www.codeweavers.com/compatibility/browse/name/?app_id=7730 It was also mentioned on the forums here a while back.
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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by RichG on Mon Oct 11, 2010 5:02 pm

Hey everyone! Thanks for your replies;

I've had a look on MacPorts and I can get geda and pcb to install and build;
I had to tweak the Portfile for geda-gaf to get it to build on 10.6.4, adding the line

Code: Select all | TOGGLE FULL SIZE
configure.args   --disable-update-xdg-database

to the end of the file
Code: Select all | TOGGLE FULL SIZE
/opt/local/var/macports/sources/rsync.macports.org/release/ports/science/geda-gaf/Portfile

and then it builds

The binary distribution of Kicad works out of the box for me also;

it looks as though KiCad > geda, though the wcalc utility in geda was worth the time spent getting the port to run.
I'll have to see about crossover + DesignSpark, the integration with RS, in terms of generating a bill of materials could be useful.
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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by neutron spin on Mon Oct 11, 2010 7:26 pm

I use Eagle most of the time. The parts libraries are extensive and support is good. I purchased the non-commercial version....it's a real bargain for a hobbyist :D
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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by mtbf0 on Mon Oct 11, 2010 8:42 pm

hate to jump in amongst a host of people who actually know whereof they speak but, if your needs are modest, you might try fritzing. i managed to design and get manufactured a fairly simple arduino shield. check it out to see if it meets your needs.
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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by Agent24 on Mon Oct 25, 2010 2:52 am

westfw wrote:I just tried to download a newer version of KiCAD for my Mac (binary), and couldn't get it to work at all (apps immediately crash.) Perhaps it is now 10.6 only? Previous versions I tried had a very "laggy" GUI interface...


It works perfectly for me in Windows XP, but lags very badly in Windows 7. I don't know why. Perhaps this is some reason as to why it lags for you as well?

Ubuntu works OK, but 3D view always crashes PCBNew.
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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by RichG on Sat Nov 13, 2010 8:33 am

Thanks for the replies everyone, I can report back that KiCad is comprehensively broken on the Mac, but it runs fine on Ubuntu VM via Parallels.

A neat feature on KiCad is the integration with the freerouting.net autorouter. I was actually surprised with how well freerouting.net performs.

KiCad has some limitations on the package footprints, (or modules) that you can design using it - for some reason you can only specify circles, ovals, rectangles and trapeziums, I need some SMP connectors on the board that have concentric rings for their footprints, so I made a workaround by a script to translate DXF into KiCad modules, and then drew the SMP footprint in Autocad LT, but it's not very satisfactory.

I think to go forward with KiCad I need to sit down and understand how Gerber and how Autocad represent polylines, then write a script to scan the output Gerber files and replace certain apertures with more complex shapes
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Re: Fabbing PCBs

by Agent24 on Sat Nov 13, 2010 6:25 pm

RichG wrote:KiCad has some limitations on the package footprints, (or modules) that you can design using it - for some reason you can only specify circles, ovals, rectangles and trapeziums, I need some SMP connectors on the board that have concentric rings for their footprints


Ask them about that idea as a feature request at KiCad's launchpad page. They would probably add it.
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