EagleCAD is a computer-aided tool for schematic capture and designing printed circuit boards that runs on Macs, Linux, and Windows. There is a free (as in beer) version available here:
The free version is slightly crippled in terms of the size of the board you can design but is perfectly fine for most hobbyist use.
More info, tutorials, etc. from the SWARM wiki: http://wiki.orbswarm.com/index.php?title=The_PC_Board_Page
List of EacgleCAD "gotchas"
I promised I would post my list of "gotchas;" hope this helps avoid some irritation! Jtfoote 23:38, 27 April 2009 (PDT)
- IF BOARD AND SCHEMATIC GET OUT OF SYNC, YOU ARE SCREWED. This can happen if updates on the schematic don't make it to the board. To avoid this, always keep board file open when editing schematic, and vice versa! Use "rip up" instead of "delete" on the board. DRC will tell you when you are not in sync, otherwise you won't know. Use it often, and save often.
- Don't click on "Drop" button when adding a component. Hit "cancel." "Drop" "drops" the library (!)
- tOrigin layers must be visible to move/rotate components.
- Overlapping wires sometimes don't logically connect. Add junction (green dot) if a problem. Check by moving component and seeing if wire moves with it.
- "Cut" (scissor icon) is really "copy to paste buffer" and only works on groups! Use "copy" for single items. In V5, use shift-right-click or menu item to copy/move groups.
- Pay attention to messages in the status bar, they are often helpful. For example when trying to select things on top of each other, clicking will cycle through each and the status bar will tell you how to select the one you want.
Possible topics for advanced tutorials
- How to design/edit custom parts using the library editor
- How to fab a board. Converting EagleCAD designs to Gerber and drill files, checking output files and design rules, uploading to fab houses.
- Panelizing (step-and-repeat copying) designs using http://claymore.engineer.gvsu.edu/~steriana/Python/gerbmerge/ (one way around EagleCad board size limitation)
- Advanced tricks like logo images in the silkscreen layer
Checking Gerber file output
You will want to check that things look OK. Use a gerber file viewer like ViewMate (reg req) http://www.pentalogix.com/Download/download.html#item8
or GerbView (free, open source, a little buggy) http://sourceforge.net/projects/gerbv/
PCB Fab Houses
Where to get your printed circuit boards fabricated after you've designed them
Lady Ada has a PCB cost calculator with most sources: http://www.ladyada.net/library/pcb/costcalc.html
The following is a biased list from Jtfoote 09:36, 5 May 2009 (PDT)
- Gold Phoenix: cheapest, longer turn-around (sent from China), fine quality, no charge for "panelization," can submit multiple boards for one run. SparkFun uses them; so could we, if we want to combine orders. They don't have web upload; you email your gerbers to some dude, but it worked great for me.
- Sierra Proto Express: I found this best combination of price/turn around time for small orders and prototypes, and they're local (Sunnyvale)
- 4pcb.com (same as 33each.com and others) Good quality, slick marketing, more expensive than they seem (not-well-advertised setup charges and minimums). Avoid, but definitely use their free gerber file check site: http://www.freedfm.com/