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A Guide to Low-Cost PCB Tools
10/28/2013

PCB layout for an automatic leveler performed using DipTrace.
PCB layout for an automatic leveler performed using DipTrace.

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alex_m1
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Re: Funnily enough...
alex_m1   10/29/2013 5:21:10 PM
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What is this other groups keep track of ? sounds interesting...

Aeroengineer
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Re: How good are PCB 3D models?
Aeroengineer   10/29/2013 4:28:58 PM
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Ah yes, this is true, but you are also comparing a $4,000-$6,000 software against one that is free.  So not a totally apples to apples comparison.  Though, comparing SpaceClaim to SolidWorks/SolidEdge would be a more complete comparison.  There you will find that each has their niche.  SpaceClaim is much better for prep work for analysis.  It is head and shoulder above SolidWorks or SolidEdge in this area.

TonyTib
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Re: How good are PCB 3D models?
TonyTib   10/29/2013 4:23:46 PM
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I wonder how good those external sources are; if I had time, I'd do some experimenting myself, but I have a whole long To-do list of higher priorities.

TonyTib
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Re: How good are PCB 3D models?
TonyTib   10/29/2013 4:21:14 PM
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We basically agree DS Mech looks good for modeling PCBs.  My point is that, for example, it wouldn't be a suitable replacement for SolidWorks at my company (the lack of import & export options alone is enough to eliminate it -- we have to deal with models from various sources, create drawings, etc).

Aeroengineer
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Re: TinyCad and FreePCB, a pair of elegant PCB tools.
Aeroengineer   10/29/2013 3:49:58 PM
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VHB, Thanks for sharing.  One thing that concerns me is I am not personally a big fan of having to move things from one package to another.  This is a personal preference, but it is based upon me coming from the manufacturing world.  It can get very dangerous if data is not connected together.  A change can be made, but then not propagate through to the end design.  This then makes it hard to trouble shoot a problem.  This may not be a concern for others as they may be more organized than I am ;)

Aeroengineer
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Re: Funnily enough...
Aeroengineer   10/29/2013 3:47:03 PM
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I had looked at that one when making this list.  It does look like it could end up maturing into something very nice, but it did not quite have all the features that I was looking for.  I do appreciate mentioning it.  I do like to keep track of these groups.  There is another group that I am following as well, hoping that they can get some of these things together into a nice poilshed package.

Aeroengineer
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Re: How good are PCB 3D models?
Aeroengineer   10/29/2013 3:44:53 PM
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Most, but not all get their 3D information from an external source.  There is one PCB tool that I listed above that has its own simple Mechanical CAD package for designing of components. 

Aeroengineer
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Re: How good are PCB 3D models?
Aeroengineer   10/29/2013 3:43:14 PM
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Most of the PCB packages do not have built in modeling, though one does that I mentioned above.  Many of these still do not understand that STEP is the industry standard. 

 

That aside, I mainly do 3D mechanical package design in a cad tool and then attach it to the part library.  DesignSpark Mechanical is not as weak as you indicate.  In the base package compared to the base packages for SolidWorks and SolidEdge, I would say that it is pretty close to comparable.  The biggest thing, and I needed to get some understanding of this, is that the work flow is different in DesignSpark Mechanical.  Once I got to learning the new work flow, I have found it to be rather great to use.  If you are speaking of lofting and surfacing, the yes, both of the packages that you listed are better than DesignSpark Mechanical.  Thankfully, though, most of the people needing to use a low cost MCAD package for designing electronics components should find that DS Mechanical will do what they need.

VBH
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TinyCad and FreePCB, a pair of elegant PCB tools.
VBH   10/29/2013 3:35:41 PM
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I use TinyCad available at

http://sourceforge.net/apps/mediawiki/tinycad/index.php?title=TinyCAD'

as a schematic entry package.  It is an elegantly simple schematic entry program that makes it easy to create a library of your own symbols.  It has a nice design-rule checker for schematics.  I like the fact that you can use color in your symbols to create visually meaningful circuit designs.  You can also add metadata (e.g. Distributor, Manuacturer, Circuit Parameters, etc.) to each symbol or symbol instance and create both BOMs and Net Lists with this information.  I export the PCB net list into FreePCB to do the actuall layout.  I've found that it is also fairly easy to create part footprints in FreePCB.  The user interface in FreePCB is attractive to me becuase it seems to have been designed to make creating manual layouts easy.  A small number of aptly named keystrokes makes it easy change layers, run traces, wire and unwire segments, etc.  My collegues and I have created about 30 PCBs over the past couple of years using these tools and we've been very pleased with the results.

TonyTib
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Re: How good are PCB 3D models?
TonyTib   10/29/2013 3:35:03 PM
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Two comments:

1.  How much does ePlan 3D cost?  I've looked into machine schematic software, and most of it is way too expensive.

2. I'm pretty sure ePlan 3D still isn't a good fit, because it's designed for wire harness and control cabinet design, not PCB design.


If the PCB software can't handle good 3D design, then probably the best flow is PCB software with IDF export to MCAD with IDF import.

 

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