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?Best (Free) Software for producing schematics?


#1

What free software is best for producing schematics?
I have been flying by the seat of my pants, designing my boards without schematics. Now, I find I want an official engineering review of my work, and a schematic seems necessary. I have Gerbers, a Drill file, and a BOM. I tried converting the Gerbers to Eagle, but the free version only does the first 3000 lines. My top silk is 54k lines! I realize creating schematics after the fact invites errors and discrepancies, but this is where I find myself. Thanks for any helpful suggestions.


#2

Based on discussions with a few on the forum:

KiCad is one but it’s not the most intuitive.

DipTrace is one that is more intuitive, but I’m not sure of it’s size limitations.

I haven’t done more than the tutorials for either, and not completely finished them yet.


#3

@ Gregg

While it is not entirely free, Eagle is good software to start with: http://www.cadsoftusa.com/

It is capable of even laying out 2 layers of a board to a certain size. I am uncertain if there are any limitations to the schematics other than you are limited to one page. The site should give you the limitations for their light version.


#4

To my knowledge KiCAD and Design spark PCB are the only ones without restrictions


#5

I’m an eagle user. But… .the time to decide a product is before you learn any, unless you’re doing this for work. If you’re doing it on a hobby and a limited time budget, like most of us, then you probably only want to learn once - so pick wisely :slight_smile:

I personally would try KiCAD. It does have no limitations on schematic size or board size or layers, and there are some cool features coming (now CERN have said they’re sponsoring work on it, there’s a cool push-routing feature they demoed a few weeks back). Check out the Chris Gammell videos to get an intro… https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkJRycUz2CylxpiP-zMePow


#6

While I mostly agree with Brett, for me the biggest factor usually comes down to which tool has the most parts readily available. I hate it when I have to spend more time creating parts than actually creating the PCB. So, I’ve stuck with Eagle so far for this one reason. However, I do expect I’ll eventually move on to KiCAD as I have needs for larger schematics. If the industry would put their noodles together and agree on a universal part description this would be a moot point and we could all just focus on what is the better tool.


#7

yes, parts libraries does play a factor, but I hate to say it often times you want to put your own part footprint down anyway to make sure it’s matching your exact part, and can be reasonably quick, if you know how, to create this from scratch.

Oh and I forgot to mention, personally I think you’re out of luck with your silkscreen import, into any other tool… it’s going to be a challenge to get that into anything as a reusable silk, and might just be worth starting again.


#8

Does work supplied Altium count as free? :whistle:

They all have their pros and cons and personally i think it comes down to the UI that is most comfortable.


#9

No Justin, it does not. Please go make another module in it, that you can tell us all about. ( :wink: )

They all have pros and cons, and personally I think they pretty much all suck on the UI front, so it comes down to how you can figure out the quirks in the minimum amount of time, and minimise your actual effort in learning them (and certainly not re-learning if at all possible). The workflows seem very different and can take a huge mind-bend if you need to change products, and I’m too old to be taught new tricks !


#10

Thanks everyone! I ran into the free Eagle’s limitations on my first two boards, so I shy away from it. I’ll give KiCAD a look first.
I’ve been using Pad 2 Pad, from the board house of the same name, but it doesn’t output Gerbers. Best I can do is printing PDFs. I’m curious how much extra work I’m doing. Here’s my workflow:

Draw board as I suppose any package can do, but without a schematic.
Print layers to PDF.
Replace PDF clipped rectangles with Bezier curves with a quick and dirty C# program, because the next utility doesn’t handle clipped rectangles.
Use PDF2Gerb to generate Gerber files from PDFs.
Use Gerbv to remove P2P watermarks and overzealous drill holes, and align the layers.
Package it up and RTM.
Wish I had a proper schematic.

I’ve gotten fairly efficient with the process on my current project, but a new project will probably bring new challenges. Is it typical to have to massage Gerbers after output?


#11

In my view, gerbers to board manufacturer is a one-step process. If your gerbers aren’t in a form the board manufacturer can use, then there’s a problem. (using Eagle and OSHPark for my small-run boards, I don’t even need to do that, their site interprets the Eagle BRD file)