which is the best industrially used free pcb design software for beginers?
I like KiCAD a lot, not sure how industry wide it is though.
I think most industrial users have paid software. Sometimes quite expensive.
Most on this Forum like KiCAD as Liam suggested I think. I have not personally used it for PCB design but looks OK. It produces Gerber and drilling files for a fabricator.
When I used Windows I used to use Sprint Layout by Abacom software (German) which is quite good. Does not do Auto Routing but as they say you usually have to go over everything again after the Auto has done its thing so you may as well start manually in the first place. it has all the other nice functions. I think it will produce a milling file also if you are using that method.
I once had some PCBs made in Melbourne and the company only wanted the Sprint Layout files. i did not have to produce the Gerber etc files for manufacture. I got the impression here that this package was quite well known. It is a purchased product but is very affordable and good value. With the added incentive that (when I purchased anyway) you don’t pay the German VAT (GST) or that used to be the case so it is a bit cheaper than the advertised price (in Euros). I was informed the Auto Routing was omitted to keep the price in an affordable range and they considered this to be the best option.
They have other interesting software reasonably priced as well. Worth a look.
Just had a look. Auto Routing is available but I think you have to draw in your own rats nest of connections. I don’t think it imports or locks into schematics. There are free “demo” versions of all their software packages to use for evaluation. All are downloadable so you can be using in a few minutes.
I have also been using KiCad for the last couple of years for several designs. It works well, has many powerful facilities, and is free. Its built-in 3D Viewer and Gerber Viewer are another couple of great inclusions.
For professional/commercial applications, the main thing I notice (compared to Eagle, which I used previously) is that while KiCad will generate a Bill of Materials quite adequately, that BOM will not include any extra ‘component property’ fields which you might add to the components. This carry-over of extra component property fields is probably better supported in commercial software such as Altium, which I’ve not yet had the budget for.
For example: You might add properties or attributes to a component to give the Stock Code Number for ordering the part, e.g. a custom property might have a name of OC_XYZ meaning the Order Code at supplier XYZ. The property might also be an extra Label, such as ‘Adjust Voltage’ for a trimpot.
This custom attribute does not get copied to the PCB Layout, and even if you add it there, it does not get added to the Bill of Materials.
Given that KiCad is free, I’m not too worried about this issue. Aside from that it’s a very good software package. However if you’re involved in designing products which aim for commercialisation some other (expensive) software packages may handle this area better.
Of course KiCad might improve this support in the future - they seem to bring out a major new version about once per year.
For makers, and for professionals who might be on a tight budget or might be in-between employment opportunities, I would highly recommend KiCad.
Interesting question! KiCad is a great choice, but if you are looking for some others I would try ExpressPCB as its designed for beginners. You could also have a look at ZenitPCB.
If you end up using Sprint Layout as Bob suggested, try using FreeRouting with it. I haven’t tested the compatibility myself but it would be worth a shot.
I have not done any board design for a number of years and have been using KiCan mainly as a circuit drawing tool. Mainly because I have been using a Mac for the last 9 years and my Windows machine is defunct.
From memory the “Auto Route” function in Sprint Layout lays down tracks as you make the connections, or you can make all the connections then select tham one at a time for routing. If you do this carefully in the order that is least likely to have interference it is not a bad way to get an initial layout. All edited at any time anyway. That is with an earlier version, The latest version may have complete auto routing. Don’t know, you could try the free trial. With my limited experience in this I have found that the “auto” function sometimes requires a fair bit of editing anyway.
Another factor in choosing a PCB Design software package is the availability of free, downloadable pre-drawn component symbols for that software package. For example, you want to use a component which is not in your design software’s standard library - but you don’t want to spend hours drawing the Symbol and the Footprint for it. This is quite a common situation when designing Schematics and PCBs.
Two very useful free online services for downloading extra Symbols and Footprints for components are Ultra Librarian and the SamacSys Component Search Engine.
Sites like this can save you a lot of time, especially if the component has many pins or a non-standard footprint. Even if you decide to rearrange the pins in the downloaded symbol (which I’ve sometimes done), it’s still far quicker than drawing the symbol from scratch - and you get a downloaded PCB footprint too!
In writing this post I wanted to make two points:
To let you know about these useful design resources, which can save you a lot of time.
In order to make use of these resources, it’s clearly helpful if you choose one of the PCB Design software packages whose component-file formats they make available for download. They both support quite a few different PCB-design software packages including KiCad and others. If you use a less-common software package which is not on their supported file-format list, you would not be able to make use of these helpful services for downloading extra component definitions.
Great stuff, I will be exploring these for my next couple projects. I have also found Github to be quite useful when I have been using KiCad.
It can also be good to create some footprints of your own just for that bit of experience. I have found I have gotten footprints that aren’t quite right in the past and it was good to know how to make quick changes.
Of course I wouldn’t recommend doing this all the time, why redo something that is readily available.
Keep up the great work!
There are many suggestions for Kicad. Kicad is good. You can consider altium also.
Here is a step-by-step Altium tutorial that you can follow: