Please help a CAD Wannabe

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glennfin
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Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by glennfin » Sun Jan 26, 2020 1:14 pm

I am so very tired of drawing schematics on paper, then hard wiring the circuit on a protoboard.
Understand, I'm an old school designer. I'm talking graph paper, rub-on PC etch resist, etching bath, drilling pads, AHHHh!!! :bang:

I did work with a schematic capture CAD program about 15 years ago but I remember very little about it besides being able to add parts to the schematic from a library, etc..

I would very much like to start learning some sort of CAD, schematic capture, PCB layout software. Something that would allow me to draw a schematic and send off a file to a PCB house for production.

Requirements; Free or inexpensive. Relatively easy learning curve for a newcomer. Able to export a PCB layout file for submission to a PCB production house.

Suggestions? Please?

Thank you.

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by infinitemachinery » Sun Jan 26, 2020 1:34 pm

Kicad seems to be the most popular. Open source and free
https://kicad-pcb.org/

EasyEDA is another. It has a free version.
https://easyeda.com/

Any ECAD problem is going to have complexities and a learning curve to get to a comfortable level of use.

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by devinw1 » Sun Jan 26, 2020 2:24 pm

Kicad is free and there are some good tutorials on youtube. That's what I did. I'm an ME and used mechanical cad for many years but hadnt touched ECAD until about 2 years ago and hit up those YouTube tutorials. It will come quick for you. :tu:

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by Lolo73 » Sun Jan 26, 2020 2:29 pm

DipTrace is free for small circuits (less than 300 pins). You can easily create your own components and your own patterns.

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by KSS » Sun Jan 26, 2020 2:39 pm

glennfin wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 1:14 pm
Requirements; Free or inexpensive. Relatively easy learning curve for a newcomer. Able to export a PCB layout file for submission to a PCB production house.
Suggestions? Please?
Thank you.
Agree with initial reply that KiCAD seems to be the current leader seen around here, given your requirements.
Personally went with Diptrace, even though it costs real money. You can do a lot with its free and low cost versions too. And it directly imports Eagle libraries, which was important for me.

KiCADs workflow does not gel for me and its schematics to me are UAF. I *do* checkit out on occasion as things in software evolve and sometimes one program gets better over time. Still not there for me, and by now Diptrace does what I need and my part libraries represent a lot of time.

But will also agree with first reply that all EDA software comes with its own set of problems. IMO they ALL suck on some level and in some -or more- ways. It's a matter of finding the one which resonates with you and whose set of suck-points 'cost' less than its good features. You're going to spend a *lot* of time getting up to speed, and what you learn in one EDA doesn't necessarily help much in another. So it's worth taking some time to make a good assessment and choice.

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by emmaker » Sun Jan 26, 2020 3:50 pm

Personally I don't think there is any real good schematic/PCB program out there. None really seem all that intuitive to me and they all have their quirks. I think all you can do is pick one, learn it and develop your own libraries for it.

I just decided to go with KiCAD and call it good. It's free, probably going to be around a while and if I really wanted to change it I can get the source code. I do also have Eagle (or whatever it's called now) installed because a lot of people doing DIY have used it and it's nice to look at the schematics and see the PCB layout. I do a lot of work on symbols and footprints with files in the text editor. Also starting to look at writing some Python scripts to generate symbols.

One thing I noticed on the Mouser website recently is that they have buttons to download schematic symbols for various parts. Some are there and some you can request if they aren't (don't know how well that works though). There are options for Eagle, KiCAD and other packages.

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by jimfowler » Sun Jan 26, 2020 5:05 pm

Eagle (via Fusion) is on sale until the end of the month.

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by revtor » Sun Jan 26, 2020 5:41 pm

A big part for me was finding libraries of parts that will get you going so you do t have to create what you need in the beginning.
sparkfun and adafruit have some useful libraries that have helped me (Eagle user)
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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by Altitude909 » Sun Jan 26, 2020 6:05 pm

I'm keeping my eye on https://librepcb.org/

It seems like a eaglish clone (which is desirable for me) . Starting fresh (like REALLY fresh), KiCAD may be for you though. If you have to learn something from scratch and figure out all its weirdnesses yourself, it might as well be that since its pretty well supported and the chance of it suddenly going to a $300 a month subscription model is very low

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by KSS » Sun Jan 26, 2020 7:07 pm

Just remembered another possible option: Fritzing
Is part of an integrated art to part set and is open source. Member WSY used it to develop his FMOgre TZ VCO. It's capable, but is a memory hog. Not standard in many ways, but it certainly has its niche. Worth having a look.

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by Mungo » Sun Jan 26, 2020 7:55 pm

jimfowler wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 5:05 pm
Eagle (via Fusion) is on sale until the end of the month.
Eagle also has a free option that is limited in board size and layers, but they make it hard to find out this exists and promote the paid subscriptions.

Altium also have a free option with circuitmaker, online only and they push you to share your designs freely (could be a positive or negative for people).

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by Altitude909 » Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:09 am

^
Its part of Fustion 360 now. You cant grab it separately.


TBH, all these "lite" and "free" versions from big companies are there only to bait you into purchasing their full package. Unless your willing to spend the money (fusion is actually reasonable at $60 per month, altium is like 10 grand.) I'd say avoid them if youre starting fresh, eventually you'll get dicked by them and you'll be right back to this moment, looking for new software that you have to learn from scratch. Opensourced and not gimped is what I would have chosen in retrospect

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by Troubleshooter » Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:44 am

EasyEDA doesn't need installing, it works entirely web based, just register and give it a try. If you like it you can install it on your system for a bit more performance.

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Mon Jan 27, 2020 10:21 am

Don't forget GEDA on linux
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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by Flounderguts » Mon Jan 27, 2020 1:46 pm

+1 for EasyEDA...has an installable program if you don't want to run it in a browser. Easy to learn if you're not CAD fluent, as well. I found KiCAD harder to get started on, and I like the easily accessible user libraries of parts on EasyEDA.
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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by Mungo » Mon Jan 27, 2020 8:14 pm

Altitude909 wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:09 am
Mungo wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 7:55 pm
jimfowler wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 5:05 pm
Eagle (via Fusion) is on sale until the end of the month.
Eagle also has a free option that is limited in board size and layers, but they make it hard to find out this exists and promote the paid subscriptions.
Its part of Fustion 360 now. You cant grab it separately.

TBH, all these "lite" and "free" versions from big companies are there only to bait you into purchasing their full package. Unless your willing to spend the money (fusion is actually reasonable at $60 per month, altium is like 10 grand.) I'd say avoid them if youre starting fresh, eventually you'll get dicked by them and you'll be right back to this moment, looking for new software that you have to learn from scratch. Opensourced and not gimped is what I would have chosen in retrospect
The free versions of the expensive tools have their place, you get the community behind the full package with all their guides/tutorials etc. If they have higher tiers other users may or may not see the value in it.
Subscription based platforms:
Eagle: free (non-commercial), $65/month, $500/year.
EasyEDA: free, $5/month, $10/month.
Perpetual Licensed software:
Altium: free circuitmaker, $500 circuitstudio, $6000 designer
Diptrace, Free (non-commercial), $75/$145/$395/$695/$995
Open Source:
KiCad
gEDA

Better (more capable, more features, better supported) software can be worth that money if its saving you time or eliminating design iterations. None of those packages are replacements for each other and as KSS mentioned above they all have good/bad/pain points.

The Eagle platform does still provide free options:
eagleFree.png
But they make it very hard to find and use lots of sneaky language around it to try and convince you to get a subscription. If the license doesn't suit, get an older free version with a better one.
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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by mattip » Tue Jan 28, 2020 8:50 am

Even I learned KiCad after watching this series about there times in a row:


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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by glennfin » Tue Jan 28, 2020 12:25 pm

WOW!... so many thoughtful - helpful replies. Thanks very much to everyone who replied.

Guess I'll give Kicad a go. I assume all these come with some sort of library?
The only odd parts on this design I'm currently prototyping are LDR's, everything else is pretty much standard DIP components (TL084's, .100 headers, 1/4w resistors, 2n3904's, etc)

I didn't have the benefit of Youtube when I tried this 15+ years ago so I'm sure that will be a big help. 8-)

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Tue Jan 28, 2020 3:58 pm

The largest part library and user library is with eagle. Then kicad. Then diptrace. However, designing your own parts with custom drill diameter and custom pad size should be a requirement for every PCB design. There is no one size fits all. There are popular sizes but you should evaluate them based on your specific needs for your PCB to see if the part library is suitable.
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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by KSS » Tue Jan 28, 2020 5:07 pm

EATyourGUITAR wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 3:58 pm
The largest part library and user library is with eagle. Then kicad. Then diptrace. However, designing your own parts with custom drill diameter and custom pad size should be a requirement for every PCB design. There is no one size fits all. There are popular sizes but you should evaluate them based on your specific needs for your PCB to see if the part library is suitable.
Agree that personally useful intuituve component creation and editing is a *very* important aspect to assess as you will almost *always* find yourself at some point having to create or alter the schematic or PCB representation of some or many components. Beware to trust existing libraries! Not saying you can't trust them. AM saying you'd better check and be *sure* about them before you *do* trust them!

Next up IMO after four decades of using EDA from cheap to astronomical priced, is library tools. Really just a follow on from the point above, and what EyG wrote. Unfortunately that's IMO one of the weaker aspects of Diptrace. Excellent part creation and edit, and poor library mgmt tools. YMMV.

Against this, the ability of Diptrace to easily incorporate EAGLE's parts and libraries is a really good thing.

I stopped using EAGLE before it was assimilated by Autodesk, and having spent decades in that company's borg-like vortex, am glad beyond words not to be caught in their ongoing web of "capture and maintain" practices. A bit of which was outlined in posts just above this one. If past experience is any clue, take care choosing EAGLE-Fusion, as Autodesk is not known for keeping things inexpensive.

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by glennfin » Wed Jan 29, 2020 12:07 pm

KSS wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 5:07 pm
EATyourGUITAR wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 3:58 pm
The largest part library and user library is with eagle. Then kicad. Then diptrace. However, designing your own parts with custom drill diameter and custom pad size should be a requirement for every PCB design. There is no one size fits all. There are popular sizes but you should evaluate them based on your specific needs for your PCB to see if the part library is suitable.
Agree that personally useful intuituve component creation and editing is a *very* important aspect to assess as you will almost *always* find yourself at some point having to create or alter the schematic or PCB representation of some or many components. Beware to trust existing libraries! Not saying you can't trust them. AM saying you'd better check and be *sure* about them before you *do* trust them!

Next up IMO after four decades of using EDA from cheap to astronomical priced, is library tools. Really just a follow on from the point above, and what EyG wrote. Unfortunately that's IMO one of the weaker aspects of Diptrace. Excellent part creation and edit, and poor library mgmt tools. YMMV.

Against this, the ability of Diptrace to easily incorporate EAGLE's parts and libraries is a really good thing.

I stopped using EAGLE before it was assimilated by Autodesk, and having spent decades in that company's borg-like vortex, am glad beyond words not to be caught in their ongoing web of "capture and maintain" practices. A bit of which was outlined in posts just above this one. If past experience is any clue, take care choosing EAGLE-Fusion, as Autodesk is not known for keeping things inexpensive.
How would i go about checking the library as you say "before I can trust them"?. Are you taking about pad spacing on standard components like op-amps?. Please remember you're not talking to an advanced user. :mrgreen:

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by KSS » Wed Jan 29, 2020 5:00 pm

glennfin wrote:
Wed Jan 29, 2020 12:07 pm
How would i go about checking the library as you say "before I can trust them"?. Are you taking about pad spacing on standard components like op-amps?. Please remember you're not talking to an advanced user. :mrgreen:
Nah, the pad spacing of a typical DIP is likely to be OK.

But the mapping of the pins in the schematic symbol to the DIP layout pattern can be mixed up. Same thing happens with connectors. Incorrect pin numbering in the layout pattern and/or schematic symbol, and their relationship to each other.
Transistor pins correctly mapped are another thing to confirm. Diodes having A and K correctly mapped. Note that these have to do with the relationship between the programs schematic and PCB layout portions. If any of these is wrong, the supposedly helpful and simple conversion from schematic to PCB becomes not so helpful.

For most standard parts in well known programs like the KiCAD you're planning to use, it's not going to be a huge worry. Until you start using user provided libraries, or grab a component from some source besides the SW mfr. Like those free CAD files someone mentioned now available from Electronic parts distributors.

But mistakes do creep in -beware new library updates, even from the mfr. We're all human. So you *do* want to have some idea of where they might be found, and it's a good plan to get up to speed on editing patterns, parts, and components in whatever program you're going to be using.

Some basic things to check and confirm for PCB patterns: mechanical dimensions, pad size, hole size, screen print on top of holes or pads, solder mask overlap, paste stencil-if SMD, and the aforementioned pin to pad conformance. Mistakes that turn up on OPAs are mixing a single and dual OPA, so that +power pin is 7 instead of 8, or swapped negative and positive inputs. One item that has gotten people in trouble is that a 14 and 16 pin DIP need the same PCB space. Easy to miss, and hopefully your library creator got this right.

For schematic symbols themselves, there is usually more latitude since the visual aspect can be quite up to the individual, but it still pays to be sure the symbol fits a standard grid size -all pins end up on a vertex in the grid. For some programs this isn't strictly necessary, but it's a lot better when all your parts are consistent. traditionally this grid is 0.100" 2.54mm, but modern smaller parts and dense schematics mean some tigher grids are used. For typical analog synth projects, I'd recommend to use the .100 grid for your schematic.

A schematic symbol can and often is mapped to more than one PCB pattern layout. You wouldn't be the first to accidentally choose the wrong pattern for your schematic symbol. Which for a transistor can easily mean the pins as seen on the PCB are not a match to the actual physical part you plan to use. And your schematic looks fine.

Again, you're probably going to be fine with KiCAD standard parts, I would just begin your design expecting those parts to be correct. Certainly worth asking the user group if any known faults or gotchas are there to beware of.

After you've got a design laid out:
Use the 3D viewer built in to most EDA SW these days to sometimes catch things missed in the 2D view. But *remember* this 3D view is still SW and can have its own faults too.

For this reason, make full size printout of your PCB and *check* the physical parts against the layouts. Make sure your printer is actually printing the correct size before getting freaked out if things don't match.

And IMO, it's *always* a good idea to run your design through at least one 3rd party Gerber viewer. There are several free and online versions. PCB mfrs. are also often providing one online, or offering the service. But be sure you understand exactly what they're going to check. It sucks to get a checked board that doesn't work.
A 3rd party Gerber viewer will often let you catch things which slip through what becomes a 'conditioned view' when you're using your preferred EDA package.

Another important point, since you're coming from a DIY PCB background, the standard libraries are going to assume you're using plated through holes. If you're still planning to make your own PCBs using the results of your program, take note that the pad size for a plated through hole can be *much* smaller diameter -due to the 'rivet' action of pads on both sides- when compared to what's needed for a robust single side or non plated through hole two side PCB. Related to this is to make the hole size much smaller than actual -I use .015"- so the etched board has pre-made drill center dimples instead of hard to hit -when manually drilling- bigger holes.

The standard libraries will not usually take this into consideration, so it pays to keep it in mind and do it yourself -shrink holes and increase pads- when you're making a DIY PCB.

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Re: Please help a CAD Wannabe

Post by glennfin » Thu Jan 30, 2020 7:05 am

Thanks so much for the detailed explanation. I do plan on sending the pcb files out to a pcb house, probably to China. This is all quite scary at the moment, so much to absorb and understand.
I got Kicad installed yesterday. Thankfully there are tutorials (I'll be watching over and over again) and a forum.
So much to absorb and learn. :hmm:

Yes, i remember back in the day having to print the PCB layout and layout components on the paper to check sizing and spacing. So that hasn't changed... 8-)

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