Author Topic: Free software for designing simple breakout board?  (Read 4892 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline paoloTopic starter

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 31
Free software for designing simple breakout board?
« on: November 23, 2012, 05:35:52 pm »
Apologies if this has been covered before - a quick search drew a blank.

Here's what I'm trying to achieve:

A simple breakout board for a TLC5947. I have a pair working great on a breadboard, and now need to upscale to lots of them, each on it's own board. On the basis of me having to do the soldering, it would be the HTSSOP-32 package, rather than the QFN.

Also on the board will be two caps and a resistor. That's pretty much all you need for basic 5947 operation. (Surprisingly, none of the public domain board designs that I've found so far has placement for those bare bones components - hence wanting to do my own)

Signals will manifest either as big row of pads at the edge, or also be drilled and have 0.1" headers in them.

All of this is doable in two layers (possible even just one!).

Two issues so far:

1. The UI on the two packages I've tried (Eagle first, then Sunstone) leaves a bit to be desired. Are they all fairly arcane, or is there one out there that's a bit more intuitive than the rest? If they're all a bit odd, I'll just have to plough through the tutorials I guess.

2. Do any of them have a TLC5947 already in their library? I tried fashioning my own in Sunstone, but after a promising start it started telling me I couldn't save it. Or if they don't have a TLC5947, at least an HTSSOP32 generic.

Feeling *very* frustrated at the moment. Perhaps I just need to suck up doing the tutorials - if everyone else can learn Eagle, maybe I should too.  ::)

[update: I realised I'd not tried DipTrace... just fired it up and first impressions are good. No TLC5947 in the TI library, but I'll have a crack at creating one in the component editor.]
« Last Edit: November 23, 2012, 07:39:03 pm by paolo »
 

Offline caffeinatedbard

  • Regular Contributor
  • *
  • Posts: 66
  • Country: us
Re: Free software for designing simple breakout board?
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2012, 12:27:03 am »
I would suggest ExpressPCB if you haven't tried that before.  Software is easy to use and seems very suitable for what you want.

Beware though, that depending on the volume, it might get  really expensive really fast compared to other places.

Another caveat is the software is proprietary and so is only usable with their fab house.

Also, I think Diptrace could be a very fine candidate!

Good luck!
« Last Edit: November 24, 2012, 12:32:37 am by caffeinatedbard »
 

Offline paoloTopic starter

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 31
Re: Free software for designing simple breakout board?
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2012, 01:31:27 am »
If I use DipTrace, will that lock me into a particular fab facility? Or is that package more general? I assume the latter.
 

Offline caffeinatedbard

  • Regular Contributor
  • *
  • Posts: 66
  • Country: us
Re: Free software for designing simple breakout board?
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2012, 01:44:45 am »
@paolo-Diptrace is not facility dependent.  The gerber files generated should be accepted by any reputable third-party facility.

Quoting from their website:
Quote
Manufacturing output formats
DipTrace provides support for a number of different manufacturing output formats. Using this PCB software you can produce N/C Drill files for numerically controlled (N.C.) drilling machines and RS-274X Gerber files for sending to board manufacturers. Vectorizing function allows to export true-type fonts and raster images. Also DipTrace supports DXF output.
 

Offline poptones

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 709
  • Country: 00
Re: Free software for designing simple breakout board?
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2012, 02:00:12 am »
I've used pad2pad, expresspcb, and pcbartist and found pad2pad a bit cheaper than the others. The one company that advertises 3 boards for $51 offers that ONLY to a certain size board, if you use any other outline it gets considerably more expensive. 4pcb (pad2pad folks) want, for example, $89 for 3 3.75x3.74" two layer boards with silk screens and everything. The $51 folks want more than $20 more for the same order and you don't get silk screens or solder mask. The one drawback with either is you are locked into their fab using their tool.

Pcbartist fab is marginally more expensive but they have a few cool perks like 50% off your first order and you get gerbers for all your work after your initial order of that board so you can use them for prototypes and you'll get gerbers after that you can send to any fab. They also claim to be very fast, like a few days turnaround. I prefer the pad2pad tool but may use pcbartist for the next simple project. I wouldn't use any of these tools for anything complex.
 

Offline Jon Chandler

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 539
    • Throw Away PIC
Re: Free software for designing simple breakout board?
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2012, 05:45:26 am »
It's true.  Whether you're a Windows, Mac or Linux user, the Eagle user interface will be confusing and difficult to learn!  I developed a Eagle Tutorial to help people get started.  Take a look, it should help you make sense of it.

PCB Fabrication Sources compares prices at several PCB fab houses that I'm familiar with.  This link has been recently updated compared to the copy on the page above.

iTead Studio and Seeed Studio are hard to beat.  A few people have reported some problems here, but I've had great service for both of them.
 

Offline paoloTopic starter

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 31
Re: Free software for designing simple breakout board?
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2012, 06:21:20 am »
Thanks people. :)

I think I'll start off trying to learn DipTrace. It seems kind of logical (to my mind), and for my needs (hugely sub-300 pins ;) ) it's free.
 

Offline paoloTopic starter

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 31
Re: Free software for designing simple breakout board?
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2012, 11:29:26 pm »
A quick update: I'm really liking DipTrace.

This morning, I started on the tutorials.

By lunchtime I had the first rev of my schematic done, complete with a few components I crafted myself.

An hour or two later I had my first board design. Not hugely complex, just 2 layers, but very quickly got the hang of nets, traces, vias, copper pours etc.

The rest of the day I've been doing what you're meant to do with design, that's fret over your design not fret over the software you are using to do it.

Some minor niggles. There seems to be a potential disconnect between the schematic and the layout. One doesn't update the other seamlessly. And sometimes refreshing the layout from the schematic doesn't pull in every change. Maybe that's user error.

Generally massively impressed though.

I'll upload my board soon so people can pick it apart. ;)
 


Share me

Digg  Facebook  SlashDot  Delicious  Technorati  Twitter  Google  Yahoo
Smf