Author Topic: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?  (Read 5970 times)

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Offline sci4me

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Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« on: October 10, 2016, 07:00:30 am »
So I am working on a physically sizable project, and want to use large PCBs as such. What I have in mind is 8 in by 8 in PCBs or maybe even larger. However, I do not know what software to use to do this. It would be very ideal if I could use Eagle, but, I don't have over a thousand dollars to throw away. What would you guys recommend I do? And for that matter, why is Eagle so damn limited as far as PCB size goes?
 

Offline ebclr

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2016, 07:11:57 am »
http://kicad-pcb.org/

It's worth the money
 
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Offline 2N3055

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2016, 07:55:01 am »
Diptrace is limited by number of pads (300 for free version) but size is not limited.. So if PCB's are large but not much components on them you could do it in Diptrace...

And yes Kicad...
 

Offline ludzinc

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2016, 08:28:50 am »
Circuit Maker

Free!
 

Offline Savetheday

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2016, 08:58:22 am »
I think the best choice is kicad but there are other softwares like  http://fritzing.org
if you wanna be free , you could try www.easyeda.com. At home at work everywhere you just have to pay for pcb (5xs) :)
good luck
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Offline 0xdeadbeef

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2016, 09:05:19 am »
Diptrace is limited by number of pads (300 for free version) but size is not limited.. So if PCB's are large but not much components on them you could do it in Diptrace...
Actually you can get a 500 pin version for personal use for free:
http://diptrace.com/buy/non-profit/

An regarding KiCad: I really tried to like it, but I can't.
Trying is the first step towards failure - Homer J. Simpson
 

Offline rob77

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2016, 10:45:06 am »
8inx8in board is 64square inches = $320 @ Oshpark , are you aware of that fact ? others won't be cheaper either. You mentioned the $1k investment into software is a problem so i assume it's s low budget project.
if you plan to make the boards yourself then you will need to invest into some materials and tools.

just wanted to mention the software is not the only expensive part.

and regarding the software - i would suggest KiCad - it's open, free and multi-platform.
 

Offline sci4me

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2016, 10:56:38 am »
8inx8in board is 64square inches = $320 @ Oshpark , are you aware of that fact ? others won't be cheaper either. You mentioned the $1k investment into software is a problem so i assume it's s low budget project.
if you plan to make the boards yourself then you will need to invest into some materials and tools.

just wanted to mention the software is not the only expensive part.

and regarding the software - i would suggest KiCad - it's open, free and multi-platform.

Yeah that's... that's a bit of a problem. I wonder if it would be feasible to make them myself? Would that probably end up being cheaper in the long run? Especially considering that I'll probably need multiple different boards of this size. I sort of feel like I want to avoid making them myself if possible... I imagine I would be more limited as far as spacing between traces and things?
 

Offline rob77

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2016, 11:18:11 am »
8inx8in board is 64square inches = $320 @ Oshpark , are you aware of that fact ? others won't be cheaper either. You mentioned the $1k investment into software is a problem so i assume it's s low budget project.
if you plan to make the boards yourself then you will need to invest into some materials and tools.

just wanted to mention the software is not the only expensive part.

and regarding the software - i would suggest KiCad - it's open, free and multi-platform.

Yeah that's... that's a bit of a problem. I wonder if it would be feasible to make them myself? Would that probably end up being cheaper in the long run? Especially considering that I'll probably need multiple different boards of this size. I sort of feel like I want to avoid making them myself if possible... I imagine I would be more limited as far as spacing between traces and things?

actually you can make such a board yourself for approx $25 (2 layers , 2xsoldermask, NO silkscreen , ~100vias)  but you need to invest into materials and tools first. for example VIA rivets - yo have to buy a pack of 1000 for $40 even if you will use only 100 on your board... you have to buy the chemicals in 1kg packages even if you use 50grams... etc... and tools of course... powerfull UV light to expose the photoresist and solder mask, various plastic containers for etching, developing, rinsing... laminator to laminate the photoresist/soldermsk onto the boards... so it's some investment in the beginning, but you would be able to make the boards cheaper.
 

Offline evb149

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2016, 01:01:42 pm »
CircuitMaker might be a good choice, though I haven't personally used it yet to attest other than "it seems like a good idea".

I can say that DesignSpark PCB should be a good "non cloud based" alternative that, I believe, shouldn't have size / pin limits that would interfere unless your design is simply larger than their program supports (not as a market segmentation limit but simply as an intrinsic limit).

I can also say that KiCad is a workable option and is nice for being Open Source and LINUX compatible.  I have used it successfully, but I have to say that if I can run MS Windows and not use open source CAD SW, Design Spark PCB is a better program with respect to UI / UX facilitated capabilities.

I have no idea where you'd get physically large PCBs made most economically.  In years past I think you could buy an entire panel of a PCB from Gold Phoenix for like $155 or so, I forget the specific size, probably 2L.  But I think their prices might be different now.  See that pcbshopper.com says as to your options.  Doing DIY fabrication might work though if the PCB is that large you could have difficulty even making a photo mask or toner transfer sheet due to printer limitations, and you could also have problems with the uniformity of pattern transfer / exposure for large sizes.  I'd look at "whole panel" options from a commercial supplier.

EDIT: Oh nevermind about the "very large" aspect.  I had not seen that you "only" wanted something near 8 inch x 8 inch "or maybe bigger".  That is not a "large PCB".  "large" is really only when you start to get bigger than common panel sizes or when you have very fine features and alignment requirements over sizes approaching a panel size.  You will have no problem due to size at PCB fabricators for 8" by 8" that is less than typical PC motherboards or industrial panel boards.


« Last Edit: October 10, 2016, 01:04:48 pm by evb149 »
 

Offline sci4me

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2016, 01:02:54 pm »
8inx8in board is 64square inches = $320 @ Oshpark , are you aware of that fact ? others won't be cheaper either. You mentioned the $1k investment into software is a problem so i assume it's s low budget project.
if you plan to make the boards yourself then you will need to invest into some materials and tools.

just wanted to mention the software is not the only expensive part.

and regarding the software - i would suggest KiCad - it's open, free and multi-platform.

Yeah that's... that's a bit of a problem. I wonder if it would be feasible to make them myself? Would that probably end up being cheaper in the long run? Especially considering that I'll probably need multiple different boards of this size. I sort of feel like I want to avoid making them myself if possible... I imagine I would be more limited as far as spacing between traces and things?

actually you can make such a board yourself for approx $25 (2 layers , 2xsoldermask, NO silkscreen , ~100vias)  but you need to invest into materials and tools first. for example VIA rivets - yo have to buy a pack of 1000 for $40 even if you will use only 100 on your board... you have to buy the chemicals in 1kg packages even if you use 50grams... etc... and tools of course... powerfull UV light to expose the photoresist and solder mask, various plastic containers for etching, developing, rinsing... laminator to laminate the photoresist/soldermsk onto the boards... so it's some investment in the beginning, but you would be able to make the boards cheaper.

This sounds interesting... but I wonder if it would be worth it. I suppose, if the boards could be just as good, it probably would be...
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2016, 01:11:14 pm »
And for that matter, why is Eagle so damn limited as far as PCB size goes?

That is the restriction model they chose, sized based.
It was a poor choice, and a lot of people do not realise how expensive Eagle is if you want to create a 161mm or larger PCB in any direction.
Circuit Maker or Kicad are the major free alternatives.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2016, 01:14:32 pm »
8inx8in board is 64square inches = $320 @ Oshpark , are you aware of that fact ? others won't be cheaper either.

Wrong.
PCBway is $66 + postage for a five 205mmx205mm boards, 3 day turnaround.

 

Offline evb149

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2016, 01:17:18 pm »
Just to refresh my memory I looked at gold phoenix specials since at one point I thought they might have good prices for truly large PCBs.
http://www.goldphoenixpcb.com/singlepage.php?tg=specialprice
So for up to 155 square inches or 1000 sq. cm. of a single design PCB with low cost options the base price is $110.  That actually isn't a very large board but it is larger than you asked for anyway.  At one point in the past it did not cost extra to add many designs within that size but now it seems they have extra fees.

Secondarily I looked at PCB Shopper for a 14 inch * 19 inch size PCB which is getting reasonably large around the size of a small size PCB panel and Gold Phoenix listed $157 which is not so bad and seemed to be the best offer that I saw of several.

But for "only" 8 inch * 8 inch there was some other company listed at PCB shopper that had something like $37 price listed which was less than the listed price for Gold Phoenix and other listed vendors.  So 8 inch by 8 inch is a pretty cost effective size and not large really for 2 layers and simple design rules.

I would use CircuitMaker, DesignSpark, or KiCad if I had no other preference / better option.  Probably really KiCad or DesignSpark since I don't like "cloud" software much even though I am glad Altium makes CM available to makers freely.

EDIT: Added image.

Added DSPCB specifics

https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/pcb-features-and-benefits

No limitation on your schematic size
Quote
Be free when creating your schematic – there is no limitation on your schematic size or number of your schematic sheets.
No limitation on your PCB design!

Feel free to use as many layers as you need on your next PCB design. There are no limits on the maximum number of nodes or pads and no restriction on the number of connections. The maximum size your PCB can be is 1m X 1m

« Last Edit: October 10, 2016, 01:24:43 pm by evb149 »
 

Offline Zero999

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2016, 07:00:06 pm »
Eagle can be cracked, which is illegal but will remove all of the restrictions for free. I have tried Eagle and don't like it. At work I use Proteus which is quite good and much cheaper than Eagle. As far as free is concerned, I'd go for KiCAD.


8inx8in board is 64square inches = $320 @ Oshpark , are you aware of that fact ? others won't be cheaper either. You mentioned the $1k investment into software is a problem so i assume it's s low budget project.
if you plan to make the boards yourself then you will need to invest into some materials and tools.

just wanted to mention the software is not the only expensive part.

and regarding the software - i would suggest KiCad - it's open, free and multi-platform.

Yeah that's... that's a bit of a problem. I wonder if it would be feasible to make them myself? Would that probably end up being cheaper in the long run? Especially considering that I'll probably need multiple different boards of this size. I sort of feel like I want to avoid making them myself if possible... I imagine I would be more limited as far as spacing between traces and things?

actually you can make such a board yourself for approx $25 (2 layers , 2xsoldermask, NO silkscreen , ~100vias)  but you need to invest into materials and tools first. for example VIA rivets - yo have to buy a pack of 1000 for $40 even if you will use only 100 on your board... you have to buy the chemicals in 1kg packages even if you use 50grams... etc... and tools of course... powerfull UV light to expose the photoresist and solder mask, various plastic containers for etching, developing, rinsing... laminator to laminate the photoresist/soldermsk onto the boards... so it's some investment in the beginning, but you would be able to make the boards cheaper.
What do you mean NO silk screen? A black silk screen can be applied using toner transfer, then fixed by spraying with a thin layer of lacquer or conformal coating.
 

Offline ansonbao

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2016, 07:40:02 pm »
http://kicad-pcb.org/

It's worth the money
Kicad is a good software,easy to use and has a huge support in the open source hardware community.KiCad is available for different platforms like Windows, Mac and Linux.

And KiCad has an integrated environment for schematic entry (Eeschema) and PCB design (Pcbnew) along with some tools like 3D visualization of PCB, bill of materials and Gerber file generation (GerbView).

It has tools to import components from other EDA tools such as eagle.
I am PCBway manager and you can ask me any questions about pcb technology.
 

Offline rob77

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2016, 09:17:02 pm »
Eagle can be cracked, which is illegal but will remove all of the restrictions for free. I have tried Eagle and don't like it. At work I use Proteus which is quite good and much cheaper than Eagle. As far as free is concerned, I'd go for KiCAD.


8inx8in board is 64square inches = $320 @ Oshpark , are you aware of that fact ? others won't be cheaper either. You mentioned the $1k investment into software is a problem so i assume it's s low budget project.
if you plan to make the boards yourself then you will need to invest into some materials and tools.

just wanted to mention the software is not the only expensive part.

and regarding the software - i would suggest KiCad - it's open, free and multi-platform.

Yeah that's... that's a bit of a problem. I wonder if it would be feasible to make them myself? Would that probably end up being cheaper in the long run? Especially considering that I'll probably need multiple different boards of this size. I sort of feel like I want to avoid making them myself if possible... I imagine I would be more limited as far as spacing between traces and things?

actually you can make such a board yourself for approx $25 (2 layers , 2xsoldermask, NO silkscreen , ~100vias)  but you need to invest into materials and tools first. for example VIA rivets - yo have to buy a pack of 1000 for $40 even if you will use only 100 on your board... you have to buy the chemicals in 1kg packages even if you use 50grams... etc... and tools of course... powerfull UV light to expose the photoresist and solder mask, various plastic containers for etching, developing, rinsing... laminator to laminate the photoresist/soldermsk onto the boards... so it's some investment in the beginning, but you would be able to make the boards cheaper.
What do you mean NO silk screen? A black silk screen can be applied using toner transfer, then fixed by spraying with a thin layer of lacquer or conformal coating.
anything involving toner-transfer is basically a hit & miss. and also i doubt the toner would adhere well to the dry film soldermask.
the only acceptable involvement of a toner is to make the image on the transparencies ;)
 

Offline Zero999

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2016, 11:48:14 pm »
anything involving toner-transfer is basically a hit & miss. and also i doubt the toner would adhere well to the dry film soldermask.
the only acceptable involvement of a toner is to make the image on the transparencies ;)
I've done it myself before and it works perfectly. I didn't have a solder mask thought but I think the silk screen could be applied before.
 

Offline rob77

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #18 on: October 11, 2016, 12:10:32 am »
anything involving toner-transfer is basically a hit & miss. and also i doubt the toner would adhere well to the dry film soldermask.
the only acceptable involvement of a toner is to make the image on the transparencies ;)
I've done it myself before and it works perfectly. I didn't have a solder mask thought but I think the silk screen could be applied before.
i've done a ton of boards with toner transfer - and it's far from perfect ;) anything more complex or with finer details is a hit & miss. and furthermore for a 20cmx20cm board you would need a hotplate press - there is simply no way to do the transfer without distortion to the image when using laminator or iron. it's kind of ok for small and simple boards but unusable for more complex or bigger ones.
 

Offline ludzinc

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #19 on: October 11, 2016, 12:51:59 am »
http://kicad-pcb.org/

It's worth the money
Kicad is a good software,easy to use and has a huge support in the open source hardware community.KiCad is available for different platforms like Windows, Mac and Linux.

And KiCad has an integrated environment for schematic entry (Eeschema) and PCB design (Pcbnew) along with some tools like 3D visualization of PCB, bill of materials and Gerber file generation (GerbView).

It has tools to import components from other EDA tools such as eagle.

Ki-cad, easy to use?

Oh man, I needed a good laugh!
 

Offline Wilksey

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2016, 01:18:44 am »
Eagle can be cracked, which is illegal but will remove all of the restrictions for free.

 :o
 

Offline Wilksey

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #21 on: October 11, 2016, 01:20:43 am »
http://kicad-pcb.org/

It's worth the money
Kicad is a good software,easy to use and has a huge support in the open source hardware community.KiCad is available for different platforms like Windows, Mac and Linux.

And KiCad has an integrated environment for schematic entry (Eeschema) and PCB design (Pcbnew) along with some tools like 3D visualization of PCB, bill of materials and Gerber file generation (GerbView).

It has tools to import components from other EDA tools such as eagle.

Ki-cad, easy to use?

Oh man, I needed a good laugh!

Well, KiCAD is easy to use, most packages are relatively easy to use.  :horse:
 

Offline CraigHB

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #22 on: October 11, 2016, 04:19:00 am »
I think Eagle is one of the most unintuitive computer programs I've used.  Took me a long time to get used to it.  My main complaint with it now is it tries to help when drawing, but usually the help it lends is only a hindrance.  Eagle has made me want to throw my monitor through the window at times.  KiCAD has to at least be better than Eagle, the developers would have to really work at it to do worse.

I either send my boards to the fab or make them myself.  The simple ones I usually do myself just to avoid the turn-around time.  I use toner transfer with a laminator.  Based on my experience I would agree it might be a bit difficult to get an 8"x 8" board to transfer toner well.  I'm sure it would be possible to make the board yourself and save some money, but how much is your time worth.  Depending on board complexity it might be better to go with a fabricator due to the time involved in doing it yourself.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2016, 04:32:39 am by CraigHB »
 

Offline Zero999

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #23 on: October 11, 2016, 04:59:35 am »
anything involving toner-transfer is basically a hit & miss. and also i doubt the toner would adhere well to the dry film soldermask.
the only acceptable involvement of a toner is to make the image on the transparencies ;)
I've done it myself before and it works perfectly. I didn't have a solder mask thought but I think the silk screen could be applied before.
i've done a ton of boards with toner transfer - and it's far from perfect ;) anything more complex or with finer details is a hit & miss. and furthermore for a 20cmx20cm board you would need a hotplate press - there is simply no way to do the transfer without distortion to the image when using laminator or iron. it's kind of ok for small and simple boards but unusable for more complex or bigger ones.
I've managed fine. You forget, that toner transfer for a silk screen, doesn't have to be as high quality as for etching because the toner doesn't have to resist strong chemicals and it's easier to touch up with a marker pen.

Here's a PCB I did awhile ago, using toner transfer for the silk screen. It isn't perfect, but it's certainly better than not having a silk screen at all.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2016, 05:01:58 am by Hero999 »
 
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Offline rob77

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Re: Larger PCBs without paying for CAD software?
« Reply #24 on: October 11, 2016, 05:28:59 am »
Here's a PCB I did awhile ago, using toner transfer for the silk screen. It isn't perfect, but it's certainly better than not having a silk screen at all.

actually it looks really good  :-+ :-+ i agree for smaller and simpler boards it works well, i did a ton of toner transfer myself.
but for bigger boards you'll get distortion and smaller details can't be consistently reproduced (e.g. silkscreen for boards with 0805 or smaller parts.) and not talking about the board's artwork itself... MSOP and 0,5mm pitch QFN is simply impossible with toner transfer (o.k. you might get lucky , but it's a hit & miss) while it's perfectly doable with dry film photo-resist and can be consistently reproduced many times without fail.
 


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