Software for making Printed Circuit Boards

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RonGinger

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I want to make a control panel for my Mach Mill. I have purchased some push buttons made for PCB mounting. Id like to use some software to design the board, and generate the g code to drill the holes and mill the traces. I'd like to use some cheap- or free- software to do this. I dont need the most powerful package- I will likely only do a single side board.

Any one have some suggestions.

thanks
 

rcfreak177

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Hi Ron,

This is the easiest way I have found to interface the control panel with the pc.

Simple keystrokes using hotkeys, simply wire the switches to this board (keyboard emulator)

http://www.ultimarc.com/ipac1.html

Also if you want switches that light up, flash or whatever you can use this,

http://www.ultimarc.com/pacled64.html

This same company also offers buttons,joysticks and the pre made wiring for the units at a very reasonable price.

Just throwing an idea out there for you.

Baz.
 

stevehuckss396

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I have made a few boards by drawing the board in cad and then just do an engraving tool path to cut the board traces.
 

Scott_M

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Hi Ron

I use Eagle. It is free for non-commercial use and has a limit to the size of the actual board ( 3x 4 inches I think )
http://www.cadsoftusa.com/eagle-pcb-design-software/product-overview/

It is very powerful and has component libraries. You first make a schematic and then do the board layout.
It takes a bit of getting used to , but very good.

There are add ins for g-code creation. just Google "eagle g-code" and you will find several.

Hope that helps.

Scott
 

clivel

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I had a paid licence for Eagle and really enjoyed using it. Self taught in only a few days, I soon had no problem creating four layer surface-mount boards. Like most CAD packages Eagle has its quirks, but nothing insurmountable. Unfortunately my original disk and licence documentation was lost in a move a few years back, so when I recently needed to create a board that was bigger than the limitations of the free version instead of paying for a licence once again, I decided to investigate the alternatives.

I first tried Kicad EDA which is completely free and open source, so despite some extremely annoying quirks I really tried hard to like it. However it's component library handling is so poorly designed and convoluted to use that it does not give one much faith for the rest of the program. After a frustrating few weeks of on again off again trying I eventually purged it from my hard-drive in disgust.

Apparently similar to Eagle, but completely free without limitations is DesignSpark PCB . I only downloaded and installed it last night so I haven't had much time to give an accurate assessment but so far it looks very promising.
 

RonGinger

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Thanks for the replies.

Baz, I have used an ipac for other panels, this one will be using a pokeys. No big reason, I just want to do this one with pokeys.

Steve, I want to do a real pcb CAD because Id like to learn that. Might be faster to use my old TurboCAD.

Scott, I looked at Eagle, but my panel will be quite a bit bigger that its free size allows.

Clivel, I will look at Design Spark PCB, thanks

Thanks everyone for the suggestions.
 

albertorc19

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I've tried Eagle PCB and works fine for small PCB's, but I think that you must be sure that the software you use provides a G code output. PCB CAM files are usually in "Gerber code", this is a very particular code because PCB manufacturing, even in small batches or prototypes can have several layers and different ways of manufacturing, for example, a PCB CAD software creates one file for tracks and a separate file for drilling, they also create other files for solder masks, printing layers, etc.
If your PCB has only one layer use the bottom layer, if you plan to make a two sided PCB be sure to add alignment holes in order to make both layers coincide when you turn over you PCB once the first layer is finished.
A friend of mine has made a few PCB's using Eagle's Gerber CAM output files and he told me that they are basically equivalent to a regular G code's CAM file but some tinkering with the code is in order: you have to manually add the Z movements, define both spindle and axis speed based on your best knowledge of tool and material and add tool change code lines. He uses very small carbide cutting tools, 0.5mm and 0.2 mm. I think that Eagle's file makes 90% of the job and the 10% left is to be solved by the expertise of the machinist.
Good luck with your PCB's
 

bhowden

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Most hobbyists seem to recommend Eagle. I tried it and found it to be very unintuitive and clunky. I think it was written in the DOS days and ported forward many times. The free version restricts the board size. I use the free version of something called Dip Trace which I find far smoother and much more intuitive to learn and use. No restriction on board size but there is a restriction on the number of pads. If you register I think it is 1000 which I have never come close to. You can take this as a 100% endorsement of Dip Trace and a -1 for Eagle. The only plus I found for Eagle was that many of the hobby places have Eagle libraries for their parts. Dip Trace does have an import tool that does a good job of converting an Eagle library but it is an extra step. I usually end up finding I have to modify outlines to fit what parts I already have. Again I found the Eagle library editor totally non intuitive and awkward to use and that the Dip trace editor was easy to use.

As always, YMMV.

Brian
 

RonGinger

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Thanks for all the info.

I looked at Diptrace, but was turned off by the price for the paid versions. I guess I didnt try to guess my pin count, but with a little thought 1000 pins will probably be way over anything I try to do.

Im also reading about Fritzing.

Im sure my first problem will be a part file for the push buttons I want to use. I found them surplus and they dont seem to have a maker ID so I will likely be faced with designing a part for my very first project.
 

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