An interesting and cheap thing to download in anyone's quest for homebrew is ExpressPCB software. It is free, and allows you to design schematics and PCB's. It's a pretty good program, and it allows you to make professional looking schematics and PC boards.
You can design your own custom parts, if they are not already in the library, and it facilitates the design process. I have used it for several years to both design schematics and boards.
The main downside is that the board software is proprietary to their company for manufacture, but their prices are reasonable, so it doesn't matter to me. Even if you never use the PCB part of it, the schematic part is worth the price of download.
If those of us who are interested in this forum all had a copy, we could exchange schematics for other people to critique or modify. The files are very small, only a few kilobytes typically.
I have been using this for a while now.
Good program and very helpful even if experimenting.
I just downloaded it to see if it would run under wine, and it does. Get the XP/2000 version and you can run it on linux. Of course, I have not tested it extensively.
I've been playing with it for a while, and quite like it.
Unfortunately, it has one missing feature. I was intending to use the laser printer toner transfer resist method for making my own PCBs. ExpressPCB doesn't have the "mirror" printing option necessary to do this. I've just loaded PCB123, which does have that feature ... another learning period in store.
I prefer wirewrap which vritually eliminates "PCB design", but SMD, especially some of the very small packages, doesn't work with wirewrap.
I have just downloaded ExpressPCB, I'll give it a try. It's been a few years since I actually drew schematics and did layouts myself, so I'm probably a little rusty. The only good thing is the components haven't changed any.
Many printers allow you to mirror in the printer settings....
Originally Posted by zl3gsl
I've used EasyTrax for many years and love it.
But I have to keep an ancient computer, monitor & plotter just for EasyTrax under DOS; it takes up a lot of space so I have tried several Windoze-based PCB programs and hated each one!!
ExpressPCB seems to be the best of them, though; I intend, reluctantly, to switch to it.
My old setup makes boards by plotting directly to the copper; if I change to Express I will try the "ironing" method.
It seems to me that "flipping" the image isn't necessary; doesn't a normal print of the bottom layer give the required result?
Correct, if the normal view of the bottom layer is "through the board" you do not need to reverse it for the "iron on" technique.
Originally Posted by VK2TIL
I have been using the toner iron-on technique for my boards with good results for several years. Even with trace widths down to 0.015 inch and SMT ic's with 0.025 inch lead pitch. My laser printer is a HP laserjet 6p. Sadly the toner in my new printer, also an HP, refuses to co-operate; and does not work for this. I have found that the laser printer actually does better with narrower lines than thicker ones. With 0.040 and wider lines the printer seems to have trouble filling in the center of the black area with enough toner. I just use a sharpie to touch up the pin-holes in the toner.
Thanks for the advice.
Do you use any particular paper?
I can buy the "proper" paper here but it's expensive; I understand that "clay-based" matte photo paper does a good job.
Jim VK5JST is a very smart bloke and he recommends it;
I have had good results with cheeper versions of the "iron-on T-shirt" products for ink-jet printers. IMPORTANT: You need to peel off and discard the front layer (the part that irons onto the t-shirt) and use only the back "release-paper" part. If you don't do this it will make a big mess inside you printer. Some versions (Avery) you can't peel the layer off, don't use these.
Originally Posted by VK2TIL
Lately I have been buying laser labels and have had good results after pealing the labels off of the release paper. These seem to leave a little of the adheasive residue on the paper and have degraded the image quality of the drum a bit. The iron-on part of the process was a little easier with this release paper though.
You need to experiment a bit with the heat and pressure a bit. I've been using a ski waxing iron, because that is what I had on hand when I first tried this.
I have only been able to find the "high-gloss" photo paper, it doesn't work at all.
I leave one side entirly ground plane on most of my boards.