PCB prototyping.

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bodgy
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PCB prototyping.

Post by bodgy » Thu Jun 05, 2003 4:52 pm

T J Byers mentions Futurlec in his column (June 2003).<p>As Futurlec have taken down their PCB info, I can't double check this, but did he really mean max size PCB 30mm * 30mm ? After all this is 1.25" Sq not a very big PCB. Or should that have been 300mm or 30cm?<p>I use Olimex and some people use PCB Pool though the latter is far more expensive as they are geared towards large order placements.<p>Colin<p>
PS Yes my June issue has actually arrived 2-3 weeks early. Yippee!
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grant fair
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by grant fair » Thu Jun 05, 2003 7:21 pm

I just found Futurlec PCB information at:<p>http://www.futurlec.com/PCBService.shtml<p>I asked for a quote on a 3" x 5" prototype (single sided, no component silk screen or solder mask) and for one, the price was $6.77. The quote come up immediately after you input your requirements, number etc.<p>Grant
Grant

bodgy
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by bodgy » Thu Jun 05, 2003 8:29 pm

Well there you go!<p>I couldn't find that page this morning.<p>Colin
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desterline
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by desterline » Mon Jun 09, 2003 8:07 am

Fururlec's prices are good, but what kind of file format do you send them?<p>They spec a "Protel" file, But protel is $2000 to $8000 (that's not a typo), Waaaaayyyyy out of my budget.<p>Anybody know of an alternative?<p>Thanx

Chris Foley
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by Chris Foley » Mon Jun 09, 2003 10:16 am

Protel has free downloads for two of their older DOS (early '90s version) programs -- Autotrax v. 1.61 and EasyTrax, which has been their freeware offering in the past. I'm not sure if the downloadable version of Autotrax on their website is artificially limited, but I still use the full DOS version frequently. It works just fine (living within its limitations), and I can get boards made to spec from it. As I remember, the EasyTrax and Autotrax commands are fairly similar, and there's a large help/read.me file with the EasyTrax package listing commands. Also, if you'd like, Protel will be happy to send you a trialware disk for their current product by signing up at their website. Their "suite" is a little pricey, but at least you'll know what to tell your employer to buy once the economy improves(?). Believe it or not, there are much more expensive programs out there, and the Protel line is at the "low end" of what you'd expect to pay for a real board package. You might want to consider that, with the amount of product support a real circuit board CAD program is expected to have, and the fact that their market is inherently limited, their offerings really are fairly reasonably priced. Their customer service people are OK, too. Happy hunting.<p>Protel Download Site<p>[ June 09, 2003: Message edited by: Chris Foley ]</p>

desterline
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by desterline » Mon Jun 09, 2003 11:11 am

Forgive me, I did not mean to imply their software wasn't worth the price they charge, what I was saying was that if were picking a PCB manufacturer over a $5 price difference, I can't justify spending several thousand on the design package.<p>The thread I intended to start was: What inexpensive (hobby) software tools will create files I can send to Futurlec?

Chris Foley
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by Chris Foley » Mon Jun 09, 2003 12:38 pm

desterline -- go to the website listed above. Download EasyTrax or Autotrax. Both will output files in Protel format. Both are suitable for hobbyists. EasyTrax was Protel's freeware offering to starving college students for years, and many board shops are accustomed to getting low-budget orders from college students done with EasyTrax. Every program has a learning curve, and the curve for these programs isn't too steep, especially if you remember how to use DOS. I run Autotrax from DOS in Win 98 without problems (go for the generic VGA screen driver during setup -- that's the easiest and most foolproof way, even though 640X480 res is a little hard on older eyes). I have experience with Autotrax, and use it every month. It has Gerber file output which can be sent directly to <any> board house. I know the Gerber file output works because I use it. No offense taken (and hopefully, none given -- just a grumpy tech here, I guess). Either of these Protel programs will get you where you want to go. If you're not sure you're doing it right, e-mail the board house and ask. As long as you don't tie up their phone lines, and don't crowd 'em, I've found that most are remarkably generous with advice. By the way, also expect that you'll have a couple of minor problems the first time you get an order filled. Unless you're lucky, you should expect a redo the first time. Connsider it part of the learning curve. Happy hunting.<p>[ June 09, 2003: Message edited by: Chris Foley ]</p>

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Bob Scott
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by Bob Scott » Mon Jun 09, 2003 3:23 pm

Bodgy,<p>Have you checked into Eagle software which does schematics and layout. They are at cadsoftusa.com (and other countries).<p>There is a demo version for Windows downloadable that is limited to 2 layers and small boards about 3 X 3 inches. This was ample for my project. The program takes a couple of days to learn and get used to. I like the interface. This is a nice program.<p>Some caveates:<p>IMPORTANT: Before sending data in RS-274X format to your board house you should
make sure you ask them how *their* software will interpret octagon data.<p>And the Gerber data produced is for board houses that use "flexible aperature wheels" whatever that means.<p>The produced schematics are not compatible with any other CAD software, so it's not portable to Autocad or Orcad. I had to let Sanmina do my schematic and layout over again because I wanted the final version to conform to industry standards.<p>Bob
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bodgy
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by bodgy » Mon Jun 09, 2003 9:06 pm

Bob,<p>I actually use the full version of Eagle, it does most of what i want.<p>That is one of the reasons I use Olimex [url=http://www.olimex.com,]www.olimex.com,[/url] because they are geared towards Eagle software, they are also cheap. I can get two DS with silkscreen for U$26.50 + P&P size 3.4" * 3"<p>Colin
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desterline
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by desterline » Tue Jun 10, 2003 6:58 am

Actualy I already have eagle light, and have been using it for about 6 months. Using various methods to buid my own boards.
I downloaded Autotrax and will try it this week, but on Protel's website they pointed out that easytrax / autotrax were developed pre-smt and don't directly support them. (they did point out that you can use traces to draw smt pads... sounds like a pain to me)
An e-mail to Futurlec I asked about other file formats, specificaly Gerber, the replied that they would only accept it on orders of 100 pieces or larger.<p>Idealy what I'd like is a tool to export Eagle into the right file format. I don't know if this even exists. <p>Thanks<p>[ June 10, 2003: Message edited by: desterline ]</p>

bodgy
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by bodgy » Tue Jun 10, 2003 3:24 pm

Eagle has a DXF ULP that can be run, also the power tools download has a converter as part of its repertoire.<p>I don't know how good a job either of them do though.<p>Have you tried asking at the Eagle newsgroups?<p>news.cadsoft.de is the server.<p>Colin
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russlk
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by russlk » Tue Jun 10, 2003 3:37 pm

I have been using Ultiboard, by Electronics Workbench. I don't remember the cost, but it was no more than $300. There is schematic capture available at extra cost, but I don't use that. There are a lot of pad layouts for surface mount and thru-hole parts but I make my own in most cases. It does 4 layers and you can "pour" a ground plane. I have commercial board made with it and they came out good.

jamesjain2003
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by jamesjain2003 » Wed Jun 18, 2003 5:55 pm

I found pcb-pool useful but definitely expensive.
A new vendor www.PCBFabExpress.com is really working out for me..I have used them for 2 and 4 layers and prices are cheap..plus free legend, which is really important to my application.-James

hlreed
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Re: PCB prototyping.

Post by hlreed » Thu Jun 19, 2003 9:56 am

For small two sided curcuit boards try
]http://www.expresspcb.com]
The software they give you is ok. I use very small boards; use their standard $62 3.8 x 2.5 boards and cut them apart. You get 3 boards for $62. It is all done online, with no fuss.
They advertize in Nut & Volts. Don't know if they ship everwhere.<p>[ June 19, 2003: Message edited by: Harold ]</p>
Harold L. Reed
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