Script lets you import Eagle boards for use in FreeCAD

eagle-designs-imported-for-freecad

[Christian Aurich] wanted to use his Eagle CAD circuit board design in a proper CAD program in order to design enclosures. There are already a few options along these lines, but they didn’t quite fit his needs so he developed a script to import Eagle boards into FreeCAD. The script is packaged as a python macro for FreeCAD.

In describing the shortcomings of what’s already out there [Christian] does mention the use of EagleUp to model boards in Google SketchUp. But he feels the way the data is produced by SketchUp makes these models work well with 3D printing, but says they’re not easy to use with mechanical design CAD software. He also feels that the photo-realistic renderings are useless when developing enclosures.

It’s worth mentioning that this approach is only possible because CadSoft’s migration to XML makes it dead simple to get at the data.

Design a Gingerbread House in CAD, then cut pieces with a laser

design-your-gingerbreak-house-in-cad

This is one of those ideas that’s so simple we can’t believe we haven’t heard of it before now. [Johan von Konow] is upping his holiday decorating game this year by designing his Gingerbread House in CAD and cutting it out on a laser cutter. If designed well this will easily allow you to increase the complexity of your design by orders of magnitude.

We remember making Gingerbread Houses with mom when we were little. She would bake a sheet of gingerbread, then pull out stencils she had made from file folders to carefully cut the walls and roof of the houses. But these were the homesteading equivalent of candy construction — one room consisting of four walls and two roof pieces. [Johan's] design uses roofs with multiple pitches, dormers, and an entryway off the front of the main building. Quite impressive!

He mentions a few things to keep in mind. The gingerbread should be an even thickness for best results. You’re also going to want to plan for ventilation during cutting and give up the idea that you might eat the house when the holidays are over. The cutting process creates quite a stink and leaves a horribly burnt taste in the baked goods. Of course you could always cut out templates and use a knife when working with food.

Tutorial designs 3D printed cases for your projects

how-to-desing-3d-printed-enclosures

[Landon Cox] recently finished up a 3-part tutorial on designing project enclosures for 3D printing. The series is great if you have not yet tried your hand at this realm of the 3D printing universe, but there’s a lot to take away about design and modeling even if you don’t plan to print your creations.

He starts off part one of the tutorial by explaining the need for 3D printed cases. He believes it’s the natural progression after you’ve made it far enough to have your own PCB manufactured. Why not add a well designed and fabricated case to compliment your meticulously laid out circuitry? In part two he gets the design ball rolling by modeling the top and bottom portions of the case seen above in blue. The final step is to design a face plate that matches the needs of your circuit; in this case it’s DB9 and RJ45 connectors.

It’s not all smooth sailing along the way. [Landon] does actually print the case and the faceplate is just a bit too big for the the rest of the enclosure. But better too big than too small as shaving away a bit of the edges fixes it right up.

[via Adafruit]

Comparing Altium and Cadence PCB layout tools

We see a lot of projects using Eagle for the schematics and PCB layout. There are a few that use Kicad, but we hear very little about other alternatives. Recently, [Limpkin] has been working with Altium and Cadence and wrote about how they compare when it comes to PCB layout. Neither are free packages so it’s good to know what you’re getting into before taking the plunge.

[Limpkin] begins his overview by mentioning that the schematic editors are comparable; the differences start to show themselves in the PCB layout tools. Here you can see that Altium always labels the pads so you know what net each of them belongs to. Cadence (whose PCB layout tool is called Allegro) will display the net if you hover over the pad with your mouse. Both have 3D rendering, with Altium’s looking a bit more pleasant but what real use is it anyway? Okay, we will admit we love a good photorealistic board rendering, but we digress. The most interesting differences show themselves once traces are all on the board and need to be rejiggered. Cadence will actually move traces on other layers automatically to avoid collision with a via that is late to the party, and Altium shows some strange behavior when dragging traces. [Limpkin] doesn’t register a final judgement, but the comparison alone is worth the read.

View Gerber files in 3d in your browser

[Mark] wrote in, eager to show off this new tool he’s created to view your gerber files in 3d. He also wrote an instructible to go along with it, to help you figure out how to use the tool. Being an in-browser tool also means you can shoot it to your friends for a quick 3d review as well. Some of you may not feel that the 3d view is that helpful to the process, but we think that this is a welcomed feature that just might get some use around here.

[Mark] points out that it is still being actively developed, so please shoot him bugs via the form on the website if you should encounter any.

Video: Learning Eagle CAD part 2

This week we are continuing on with our multi-part series where [Jack] shows you how to use Eagle CAD. This video continues where last week’s video left off by showing how to create a custom part and how to use the schematic editor. If you haven’t seen last week’s video, you can find it here. Also, check out our youtube channel where we have uploaded several supplementary videos that go into further detail about many of the tools that are commonly used in the schematic editor. After watching these videos, you should have all of the knowledge that you need to start designing the schematic portion of a circuit board.

This is a fairly long video, clocking in at about 25 minutes, so be prepared to dedicate a chunk of time.

Importing PCB layout into Google Sketchup

If you’ve been spending hours with the digital calipers while designing enclosures for your circuit boards there may be a better way. [Phil] tipped us off about a new software package that will let you import PCB layout files into Google Sketchup. This way you can start working on the enclosure in CAD before you’ve populated your first board. Of course this adds to the pain of realizing there’s an error in your layout, but what are you going to do?

The free software was developed by RS Components, a European component distributor. It takes IDF files, which can be exported from most PCB design software, and converts them to a format compatible with Sketchup, Google’s 3D design software. For those who enjoy a very dry demonstration video you won’t want to skip seeing what we’ve embedded after the jump.

We’re kind of surprised that this hasn’t already been done. If it has, leave a link in the comments.

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