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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 6:56 pm 
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nitro2k01, I would think you could do most of those things in nearly any PCB CAD. It doesn't have to be Eagle. And just because you're not using the supplied library component footprints doesn't mean you're not using library component footprints at all. You mention the DB-25 for example. I made my own, and added it to one of my custom libraries. It's quick to make up a new one, and there's no possibility of moving a screw hole without moving the rest of the holes and making it so the connector won't go in. (Maybe I misunderstood what you're saying though.)

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 12:10 am 
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I still use Proteus, I like it pretty well. There's no free version though, just a trial version that (last I checked) let you do everything but save. Lots of really cool example projects come with it though, including simulators for various things including MCU's that you can import your code into. I've spent like $700+ on it over time, would have been less, but I bought updates for several years. Unlike Eagle, their model is you buy the current version, and pay extra if you want to continue getting the updates.

It was 8 to 10 years ago when I tried out other CAD programs, I didn't like Eagle, gEDA was interesting but seemed like it had a steeper learning curve, KiCAD seemed easier to use than gEDA but still kind of rough or incomplete. I've heard KiCAD has improved since then, haven't tried any newer version of it myself though.

With KiCAD I've heard 2nd-hand about a couple people who had trouble when they've tried updating KiCAD or its libraries in the middle of a project. But that seems kind of crazy to do with any editing software I'd think, best to finish what you're working on before installing an update.

I also really like this routing program here, and it's free:
http://www.freerouting.net/
It's an auto-router, but it actually creates good results if you're careful to set it up right. But it can take a very long time, give it a slightly complex job and 8 hours later it might be finished, but still running optimizations. I actually use it more often for manual routing though, it's good for that. When laying a new route you can easily push the other traces and vias around. Especially when I get down to those last few pain-in-the-ass routes. It's also kind of interesting to give it a board that you've finished, and see how many vias it can remove or what traces can be shortened.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 12:34 am 
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Yeah I get there is reasons and maybe even benefits for Eagle's setup for those that know how to use them. My point is simply that it's often recommended as the go to tool for people designing their first PCB presumably for hobby. Complex expensive tools like Eagle and the likes have their place in professional/institutional settings especially when groups of PCB artists within a company must all conform to the same tool. IMO a hobbist or semi-professional shouldn't be mourning the pricing structure of Eagle. They should take it as a sign that they aren't the intended market and find another hopefully more user friendly and free alternative because they exist.

All of your listed uses of all those layers are just as possible with the free CAD tool I use. They're just done in a much more intuitive way that doesn't require me to memorize layer numbers and necessity to scroll through a giant layer list buried within a menu somewhere. If I want to keep a part from being moved I simply right click and select fix location. From what I've found from both Eagle and Designspark (and probably every other tool) you're a asking for problems if you fully trust the design rule checker. You MUST verify all layers of the gerbers with a fine tooth comb using something like GCPreview before sending your files to the fab or suffer the consequences.

Grouping all features of a given component into one unmodifiable component is a common feature as I understand. I wouldn't recommend such a tool that allowed one to easily corrupt a component as you to explained with the DB25 connector.

Memblers wrote:
I also really like this routing program here, and it's free

In my experience it's easy to think an auto router is saving you time/effort. But throw an SRAM or programmable logic at an auto router and it'll vomit compared to what you can do with pin swapping optimizations. If you get successful results from an auto router, it's probably coming at the cost of more expensive pcbs due to layer count, board size, minimum tolerances or all of the above. Sure if you're just making a quick and dirty one off low volume pcb to make a simple tool for yourself that you don't want to hand wire, an auto router can prove handy. Anything manufactured in volume that auto router is far from free. Perhaps I'm biased though as I enjoy hand routing each trace as if it were a puzzle, much like the satisfaction that comes with writing a good chunk of highly optimized hand written assembly code.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 2:11 am 
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infiniteneslives wrote:
From what I've found from both Eagle and Designspark (and probably every other tool) you're a asking for problems if you fully trust the design rule checker. You MUST verify all layers of the gerbers with a fine tooth comb using something like GCPreview before sending your files to the fab or suffer the consequences.

My CAD (Easy-PC Pro) has DRC but it doesn't understand the unorthodox things I'm doing to get higher density, so on a somewhat complex board it might report thousands of lines of design rules violations. So I just do the checking visually, going up and down rows on the board, one layer at a time, which doesn't take very long compared to the time spent doing the actual layout. There are easy ways to check certain non-obvious things though, like if you put a trace between a couple of pads at an odd angle, and you're going for .007"/.007" trace/space, just make that trace (or maybe just that segment) .021" wide temporarily and see if it touches those pads. If so, fix something. Then put it back to .007".

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Grouping all features of a given component into one unmodifiable component is a common feature as I understand. I wouldn't recommend such a tool that allowed one to easily corrupt a component as you to explained with the DB25 connector.

I suspect most or maybe all CADs probably have this base covered. On mine, there's no way to modify the component when you're doing a board layout. Even if you modify it in the library, boards that already have it loaded will have their own unaffected record of what it was like when they originally loaded it. You can refresh it if you want to, but I never have, and it won't happen accidentally.

Memblers wrote:
In my experience it's easy to think an auto router is saving you time/effort. But throw an SRAM or programmable logic at an auto router and it'll vomit compared to what you can do with pin swapping optimizations. [...]

Yeah, there are too many possibilities an autorouter won't catch. Since I'm always trying to get high density, I route the parts while I'm placing them. (This works better for analog than digital though.) If you just sprinkle the parts in and then try to route it later, you either have to leave extra room between parts to route in unforeseen situations, or you'll end up unable to scoot things one way or another enough to get the last traces through. I'd say skip the autorouter.

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