Reply To: PCB Examples

Profile photo of Jeffeb3

Very cool. What size tools and depths of cut did you use?

I’m assuming you’re happy with your CAD solution, but if you really want to make anything more complicated, you are less likely to have wiring errors if you use a PCB CAD program. Something like eagle or KiCAD. In those programs, if your schematic is correct, then your layout has a high chance of being correct. The trick is finding a good part library, which had a 2D model of the part and a schematic. Sparkfun also has a big part library, which can really help getting started. Making parts from schematics is a pain, and most of the time, someone’s already done it. Doing this in 3D is going to be really tough when you start adding a lot more connections.

Sparkfun guide:

The gist is:
1) install eagle and get a good 1 or 2 parts libraries
2) All all your parts to the schematic, including any pin headers (0.1″ pin headers are useful if you actually solder on headers, or even just to solder on wires)
3) Wire everything together in the schematic.
4) Go layout, set the size of the board, move your parts around. Add holes for mounting, etc.
5) Make your traces, adding vias to the other side of the board, if necessary, etc. You can adjust the size of the traces. You can also do an autolayout or autotrace if you are bold.
6) Export it into a bunch of files… This is where it gets hazy, but the files are some standard format, with funny extensions, and they still need to be CAM’d.

I’m trying to remember, but when I did this last, eagle exported individual 2D files, something like a dxf for each layer, top and bottom, one for drill holes, and one for the perimeter, then I had to use something specifically designed for the PCB mill I was using to actually do that CAM.

Unfortunately, it is a steep learning curve, but if you’re already familiar with CAD, you’re going to be a step ahead. When you get your first PCB cut though, you will have learned 90% of the program. There’s no escaping that. You might also try to just find some eagle files out there to play around with. Again OSHPark has some shared designs:

When you do learn a program like this, you can definitely whip up some boards pretty quickly, and when you are done, you can just inspect the schematic to see what was wired where. It’s a very useful debug tool. The schematics can also have little subsections to make them easier to understand. I’ve seen some very complicated PCBs made this way, and with very few errors and revisions.Then when it comes time to put them into service the schematics were the only way to find out where to debug things.