Do PCB-fab sites free layout pgms TRAP you ?

Yes, it's a trap.

Best regards, Spehro Pefhany

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Spehro Pefhany
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BlackWater wrote:> the better way to go ?

Try gEDA it is free, and works quite well enough for small boards.


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Chuck Harris

I recently looked-into several of the well-know PCB fabricators ... the ones who will do small runs ... like ExpressPCB, Pad-2-Pad etc.. They offer free layout software for designing your boards and then uplinking the info to their sites.

Thing is, when I tried to import some old TraxMaker files I got messages like "Not an ExpressPCB .pcb file". Now this worries me ... have they made this software SO proprietary that once you design boards using their software you can never move it to any OTHER software or fabricator ??? Is it a trap thereafter - "US, or redesign from scratch" ?

I remember there's one company, PCBexpress I think, that can just use the standard Gerber files my old TraxMaker (and many other programs) output. Is this the better way to go ?

PCB-layout programs are SO incredibly expensive nowdays ... and there seems little between "total junk" and "full-time professional designer" to choose from that's gonna be compatible with commercial fabricators and/or other layout programs.

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- they have a couple of low-volume offers, use standard gerbers, and the free-software gEDA and PCB packages are known to work well with them (in fact, their techs helped us modify PCB to work better - for them and in general :)

As for ease of use, you upload a zip of your gerbers to their web site, it DRCs them, you give them payment info, and they ship you boards. How much easier do you need it to be? ;-)

So there's no point in falling for the traps the other set, when it's easier to use a trap-free solution.

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DJ Delorie

Yes it is a trap.

I think *all* pcb manufacturers can use gerbers .

PCB-layout programmes are *not* incredibly expensive. Although you can pay a lot of money for a pcb cad programme you do not have to. Many expensive packages are firstly expensive (so that they must be good) and secondly functional. Have a look at Easypc from Number One Systems. It is good and cheap. I do not recommend this as the best value pcb package (I do not know enough about all those available to make such a statement) but it is typical of a (small) number of economical and functional pcb cad packages.

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I have used expresspcb a few times. It is definitely a "trap," but one where all the terms are disclosed or evident up front. Their software does what they say and is easy to use.

In my limited experience, they deliver exactly as advertised.

So for quickie jobs that save you the trouble of bread-boarding, there is no problem with using expresspcb.

If I had a board I may be making a bunch of, or if the board is complicated, I would probably not use expresspcb. But if the board is simple, I figure I can always redo it in pcb (or whatever) later. I do find expresspcb's software very easy to use, and it runs on windows, which is what I use at work. I haven't been very happy with pcb under cygwin. I may try to set up a linux box at work for gschem and pcb. Have to convince boss that it is a worthwhile investment of my time.

I think that the folks at expresspcb actually can make gerbers from the proprietary files you send them, although I don't think they will give them to you.

The only thing you can get is a soldermask file which you may need to make a solder mask if you do automated assembly. They charge for creating the file.


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This is Mac for forever:

Can you use stuff like VMware, at work?

If so, you could install Linux on it and run Linux under Windows (!).

Chaos Master®, posting from Canoas, Brazil - 29.55° S / 51.11° W / GMT-
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