Learning to lay out a printed circuit board takes some time. But after you’ve churned out a few it’s really pretty easy. If you find yourself at that point it may be time to learn about more complicated board fabrication. We think a good primer is this multi-layer PCB layout guide which [Rik te Winkel] recently put together. It’s one of the results of his internship experience.
One of the major differences with boards that have more than two layers is the ability to alter what layers are actually connected by vias. Vias are plated holes through the substrate that connect different layers of copper. In the case of a 2-layer board these just go right through and connect the top to the bottom. But as you can see above, there are additional choices when it comes to multi-layer boards. #1 is a through via connecting all of the layers. #2 is a blind via; it stops part way through the board. And #3 is a buried via; it connects internal layers but cannot be seen from either side.
The guide is aimed at Eagle CAD. To use more than two layers you’ll have to purchase a license. But we think the concepts can easily be translated to other PCB layout software like Kicad.
Look at it. Just look at it! This board is a lie. It doesn’t exist (at least not what’s seen in the image here). Instead this is a lifelike rendering made from Eagle CAD files.
We’ve already seen that it is rather easy to pull Eagle CAD files into Google SketchUp thanks to the EagleUp package. You’ll get a 3D model that looks quite nice but it’s hardly photo-realistic. This process starts exactly the same way. But you’re going to want to process the SketchUp file one more time.
A program called Kerkythea does this for you. It’s an open source project aimed at producing realistic renderings. It has a plugin which will process any SketchUp model and apply the textures and shadings that look so wonderful in the image above. It’s not a one-click process, but reminds us of the mountain of options you’d find in a program like Blender3D. You’ll need to map out settings for each different material you’d like to map, but the guides found at the link above do a good job of showing how it’s done.
[Koogar] came up with a useful tool for checking the measurements of your layouts in Eagle CAD. He calls it the Gridrunner; a custom part that adds a 200mm ruler to your design. Tick marks are in 1/10th of a millimeter increments for great accuracy when used with the zoom feature of Eagle. Once you’ve got the layout just right, delete the ruler from your design and export it for fabrication. [Koogar] does mention that the beta version of Eagle 6 has a new measuring tool, but he still thinks the Gridrunner offers some things that the built-in tool doesn’t. See just how handy it is in the video after the break. The measuring starts about 1:40 into it.
We found it interesting that [Koogar] is using Eagle for quite a bit more than PCB design. We’ve used it for laying out a drilling template for face plates before, but he’s going far beyond that. He uses the library editor to recreate the parts of his CNC machine which he says are then really easy to align. From there, he exports the CAM files for mounting brackets. Do you use Eagle for something other than PCB design? Let us know about it by leaving a comment. Continue reading “Gridrunner: a custom part for measuring in Eagle CAD”
[Karl] wrote in to tell us about a software package called EagleUp that will import your Eagle CAD PCB designs into Google SketchUp. It bridges the gap between the two using the open source image processing software ImageMagick.
As you can see above, you’ll end up with a beautifully rendered 3D model of your hardware. This is a wonderful way to make sure that your enclosure designs are going to work without needing to wait for the PCBs to arrive from the fab house. It is available for Windows, OSX and Linux (although the last time we tried to run Sketchup under Wine nothing good came of it — perhaps it’s time to try again).
In [Karl’s] case, he’s working on an Arduino compatible board based around the Xmega. He mentions that EagleUp is a great way to get an idea of how component placement will end up, and to see if the silk screen layer is going to turn out well or not. Here’s a link to one of his test designs.
Version 6 of the popular schematic and PCB layout software EAGLE is now in beta testing. The most notable change is the migration to XML file formats that we looked at last month.
[PT] didn’t waste any time getting his hands on the software and giving it a thorough test drive. The image seen above shows the files of a MintyBoost. It’s impossible to make out at this resolution, but it is indeed spitting out human-readable (well maybe) XML in the windows below instead of the ‘no trespassing’ binaries they used to use.
Earlier today when working on a feature we had to jump on a different computer that had EAGLE installed in order to look at a .SCH file. We wonder if someone will put out a rendering package that can parse the new format and spit out a quick PNG? At the very least, we expect to see some useful hacks for part replacement or pin swapping. It shouldn’t be too hard to poke around and figure out what happens when changing some of the stored values. Got anything in mind that you can do by editing these by hand?
Oh, we almost forgot! The biggest benefit you get from this is the increased version control compatiblity since programs like git will be able to perform diff functions on the files.
Here is the next installment in our series of Eagle CAD videos. In this video we skip ahead a bit and show off the CAM processor that you use to create the files necessary to have your circuit boards be manufactured. After watching this video, you will know how create a new CAM program, load a circuit board into the CAM processor, tell it where to save your files, and actually use it to create the files.
We’re skipping ahead today because of a screw up on our part. We meant to show the layout portion of the program today but edited the wrong video… We’ll show layout next week. After that, we will show the completed circuit board and solder the parts onto it.
If you are itching for some Eagle CAD layout info, you may be interested in some supplementary videos that we have uploaded to our Youtube channel. In those videos, we show how to use the most important features in the layout portion of the Eagle CAD.
Have you missed the previous videos? Here are some links to them:
Schematic and the beginning of a custom part: [click here]
More custom part stuff: [click here]
Video is after the break:
Continue reading “Video – Eagle CAD’s CAM processor”
We all know that Eagle has its share of shortcomings. Instructables user [westfw] was particularly annoyed by the fact that while Eagle keeps copies of up to 10 revisions of your board, it cannot open those files without resorting to manually renaming each one. Even more frustrating to him is the fact that you can’t use Eagle to view two files simultaneously in order to compare layouts. This made hunting down changes quite tedious, so he started looking for a better way to do things.
While using his favorite open-source gerber viewer gerbv, he noticed that the application let him load multiple copies of the same layer, XORing the PCBs’ colors together. Realizing that with some clever color selection, he could use gerbv to automatically highlight layout differences, he set off to automate the process.
The resulting script works on any flavor of *nix, and should play nice in Windows under cygwin as well. The script reads through Eagle backup files, renaming them and tweaking the colors so that when XORed, they show up as bright red areas in gerbv. It’s a simple yet handy tool to have on hand if you happen to do a lot of PCB design.