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The Living PCB Design Thread

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Thanks for writing this up Komar! I really need to start learning how to design my own PCBs...

Great! :thumb:

Subscribed. Need to get some PCB designing skills under my belt if I'm ever going to get a 65%  :)

Thank you so much.

The next logical step for me is to learn PCB designing.

I started learning PCB design a few months ago. I tried out the free versions of Eagle, KiCAD, DesignSpark PCB, and DipTrace.

Eagle seems to be best known one and has been around the longest, but i liked it the least. The UI is not very intuitive but they seem to have the most complete component library. Still it did not have a diode array that i needed for my design. The free version of Eagle is limited to 2 layers and PCB size (4" x 3.2") - too small for what I need. There "hobbyist" and "standard" licenses are size limited too (4" x 6.3) so if you wanted to build a keyboard then you would need the "professional" version - $1640 for Layout+Schematic+Autorouter. I moved on quickly.
KiCAD did not feel like it had as big a library, but was more intuitive than Eagle. It feels like it was 3 separate apps stitched together rather than a tightly integrated PCB design package. It did not have the Atmel chip that i wanted to use, but i was able to find it in a library that someone else created and published (sparkfun or adafruit IIRC). I was not able to find a library with my diode array in it, but it was pretty easy to build the footprint. KiCAD is free with no limitations.

The DesignSpark PCB user interface was nice and seemed to me to have the tightest integration. Not quite as intuitive as DipTrace, but more than Eagle. Library size similar to KiCAD. Free with no limitations.

DipTrace was the most intuitive for me. It had the smallest component library, but building components was easy and i hear that it can import components from Eagle libraries. The free version of DipTrace is limited too, but not by PCB size, but by number of signal layers (2 excluding ground and power) and pins (300) so some keyboard designs will work and some will not. Licensed versions are available for higher layer and pin counts, but i don't expect a "hobbyist" would be going above 500 pins ($145) unless they are working on a full sized board with diodes and LEDs on every key.


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