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Old 03-15-2017, 04:53 PM   #1
tekra
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The current state of electronic hardware design apps.


I've been using Xcircuit and gEDA Pcb for casual projects, but am now starting more serious work. Xcircuit is ancient and pretty horrible, but it allows me to draw schematics using my own style (equally ancient, but I still prefer it).

I run Debian 8.2 from a 13-DVD set, so installed Kicad and the rest of gEDA for evaluation. Kicad is dated 2014 and has a number of bugs, but upgrading might be a pain given the probability of new dependencies. gEDA looks more promising, but most of the websites referenced in the docn have disappeared, and a search doesn't locate a current Home Page or development site.

This leaves me wondering at the state of play with EDA tools. My requirements are very simple: mostly two-sided PCBs, occasionally four, no VHDL, Verilog or Spice - just yer garden variety job lots.

Can anyone comment on this issue from up-to-date experience?
 
Old 03-16-2017, 08:57 AM   #2
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I used Kicad for an SMT project, a long distance transceiver for POF. As I was doing FM I had to run @ 250 MHz. Kicad was fine. The board worked without issue but I didn't manage professional design standards of finish. No HF issues. But I have experience and know what I am doing. I go back to the days of pads & sticky tape, and light boxes.


I think Kicad is about the best of a bad lot. With GPL, no manager can pay someone to add features to a program. So professional touches can be lacking.
 
Old 03-17-2017, 12:09 AM   #3
tekra
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> I think Kicad is about the best of a bad lot. With GPL ...

Thanks for the reply. Yes, the FOSS basis of the apps shows through sharply here, simply because of the enormous coordinated effort required. I joined the Kicad forum and got marginally helpful (though sincere) replies, the gist being that my version is too old to reflect what appears to have been a recent (mild) surge in development.

The gEDA apps have proved far better, though they require knowing how to operate "closer to the metal". Their IRC channel was particularly helpful, and (with other reasons) persuaded me to adopt it in preference to Kicad.

My guess is that the slowly burgeoning interest in the "Maker" sphere, along with the abundance of dev boards (see http://www.cnx-software.com/) will slowly but surely see them improve.
 
Old 03-18-2017, 01:57 PM   #4
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XCircuit is early hopeful stuff. The thing I was doing was all 74AUC SMT; tiny SMT packages clocking @ 250 Mhz miniaturised as much as possible, and getting the packages on the board required Kicad. XCircuit is for hobbyists. The backup modules are better organised than the other FOSS packages.
 
Old 03-19-2017, 12:38 AM   #5
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> XCircuit is early hopeful stuff.

Yes. I sympathize deeply with the developers' aims, but the reliance on Postscript and related technologies doomed it to a special interest corner.

> The thing I was doing ...

Phew! Highly specialized.

> required Kicad.

I try to avoid apps based on Qt4. Qt3 was pretty heavy, but found its apotheosis in KDE 3.5, which remains the zenith of Desktop development. The Trinity Project is keeping it alive, though to what end is impossible to say.

> XCircuit is for hobbyists.

It'd be a cruel thing to recommend Xcircuit to any youngster, hobbyist or professional. I regard it as a valuable anachronism that should be preserved until its example can be used to initiate a superior implementation.

Having settled on the gEDA suite, I'm finding that the decision has proved well-founded, although low-level insights are essential for manufacturable results. Early days as yet, but (touch wood) it looks increasingly promising.
 
Old 03-20-2017, 08:46 AM   #6
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The old fashioned way was for draughtsmen to do circuit boards on draughting boards with pads & tape. What was sadly lacking was circuit knowledge by the designers! It was like a mechanical drawing to them.


QT I generally don't like, even less the Athena widget set, but I install them when required and use the programs that call them. Thankfully Athena Widgets can be avoided nearly everywhere.
 
Old 03-20-2017, 03:16 PM   #7
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Wonder if this would be worth testing? http://www.autodesk.com/products/eagle/free-download
 
Old 03-21-2017, 11:25 AM   #8
tekra
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I did a bit of the pads and tape stuff, but after moving to Singapore in 1988 found it unnecessary - thank God!

Eagle has quite a following, esp by Windows users, but the freebie has limitations that soon prove frustrating.

My enthusiasm for the gEDA suite is now full-blown, and I've settled on it as my standard platform.
 
Old 03-21-2017, 01:39 PM   #9
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I was once a contract techie hired to build an automotive electronic day/night mirror, for selling into BMW, as it happened. 2 engineers & 2 techies couldn't get it through the stiff unit testing in a week. I called out the circuit board on day one. I ended up redoing the circuit board after the event, and my replacement board found it way into early BMW 3 Series in small numbers as a second source (~ 10%).


I enjoy most PCB work. But I had a frustrating week trying to fit an extra part on a PCB with stiff creepage requirements. You never have to sweat about that now. I announced there wasn't room, and the rules were changed, a filter was moved to a different PCB, and all proceeded.


The modern design tools allow the engineers to design the PCB, which is an intergral circuit component

Last edited by business_kid; 03-22-2017 at 04:39 AM.
 
  


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