The prototype will still be finished using perfboard and should hopefully be done by x-mas, but the remaining 4 pieces are crying for PCBs. Maybe I’ll make them myself (it turned out that I had forgotten my UV-box at my parent’s), or I’ll send the job to a fab. The latter would spare me to buy some more tools for now and look much better for sure. You just can’t make black (or white) PCBs at home.
Some 15 years ago I used a very old DOS demo version of Ranger to build a score board for some judo club. A few weeks ago I tested the latest free version on Eagle. Inspired by Meggy Jr RGB made by the people of evilmadscientist.com I’ve decided to give open source tools a chance.
Stay tuned for my findings… (on vacation).
→ Update 1: 17.12.2008:
This will be short, as I don’t have much time at hand and as Terry Pratchett might put it: I’m ‘quite disadvantaged in the health department’.
Warning, this is strongly biased and just my personal thoughts.
Compared to KICAD, the autorouter seems better. Creating new symbols or footprints is bloody utterly painful. I did not find a single tutorial (I understood) on how to create them from scratch. Also there is no single GUI from where to start. Without knowing the right program and when to use it you’re completely lost. It may be a collection of powerful tools, but what it lacks is a single GUI. I hate it, although I like the layout editor better than the one that comes with KICAD.
This is more like it. There’s a single GUI which makes it pretty clear what to do. Given the help of a tutorial I found, I managed to create a new symbol/footprint pretty quickly. NO console hacking involved. The autorouter is rather bad, but at least there’s an interface to freerouting.net. There’s a schematic editor, netlist creator which allows footprint assignment and the layout editor. Supports exporting gerber files just like gEDA. Selecting active layers in the layout editor is a bit strange, this is done better in the gEDA suite.
A good KICAD tutorial.
The learning curve of gEDA is way too steep for my liking. Although the individual tools (schematic/layout editor) may be more powerful as in KICAD, once one has mastered them after 20 years, but the lack of a single GUI is a killer – just like the process of creating new symbols/footprints. YUCK!
→ Update 2: 07.01.2009:
The gerber file viewer gerbv is also part of the gEDA suite and it is rather good. It is better than the one coming with KICAD, which is still OK. Files in gerber format contain all the layer information needed for a PCB manufacturor (copper, silkscreen …). On openSUSE it can be installed from a separate package.