KiCad video series: from concept to manufacture

Many of our readers took the habit of using Eagle to design their PCBs. Even if you’ll find plenty of support for this software as well as a lot of parts libraries, the software comes with limitations. The useable board area is limited to 4×3.2 inches, only two signal layers can be used and more importantly the schematics editor can only create one sheet. On the other side, some of you may already know KiCad, a free open source and unrestricted schematics and layout software. [Chris] just tipped us of a video series he made, showing people how to design and build their very first PCB using this software. It’s a simple 555 circuit, but goes through all the steps necessary to design a PCB that costs only $5 through OSHpark… and will blink by the end. All the videos are also embedded after the break.

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Visualizing PCB revisions using a Gerber viewer

gerber_schematic_highlighting

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.

CircuitBee makes sharing schematics and circuit diagrams easy

circuit_bee_schematic_hosting

When looking for things to write about, there is nothing we like to see more than well-documented schematics and code available for download. In the case of schematics, we realize that they can be a bit of a pain to publish. Many times we see them in the form of blurry JPEGs or humungous PDF files, neither of which are incredibly convenient to use. The folks over at CircuitBee thought the same thing, and have been working diligently to make it easier for everyone to share their awesome ideas with the world.

Their free service requires registration, and not much else. Once you’re in, you are free to upload your Eagle or KiCAD circuit diagrams, which are then run through CircuitBee’s servers. They convert your drawings into embeddable objects which allow others to view your project without a lot of fuss. Their embeddable schematic window can be rendered in full screen mode, and gives users the ability to zoom in on any portion of the drawing to see the circuit’s finer details.

[Ben Delarre] from CircuitBee says that the product is in the alpha stages right now, so there are plenty of features and useful tools coming in the near future. If you like to build and share, it’s definitely something worth checking out!

[via Make]

[Thanks, Sanchoooo]

Nokia schematics via Shenzhen

nokia

The silicon hacker behind the Chumby, [bunnie huang], was browsing through the Mobile Phone Megamarket in Shenzhen, China and stumbled upon an unusual repair book. It turns out the book had the schematics to hundreds of Nokia phones. It’s hard to tell if they are legitimate, but the amount of information makes them seem so. [bunnie] claims that the book is a learning experience because it shows how some sub-circuits are implemented. Also, it can be a good reference for sourcing parts. Since Nokia buys millions of each component, the supply of parts they use are stable. There are also editions for other brands, such as Motorola and Samsung.