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Anybody tried Advanced Circuit's "PCB Artist"?

Discussion in 'CAD' started by Joel Kolstad, Aug 2, 2007.

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  1. Joel Kolstad

    Joel Kolstad Guest

    Just curious... we have boards done at Advanced Circuits every now and again,
    and I'm noticing they now have their own free schematic capture/layout
    software -- presumably to compete with ExpressPCB. Their angle is that *after
    you buy your initial prototypes from Advanced Circuits*, you do get the option
    to generate Gerber files so that you could take your production to anyone
    (whereas ExpressPCB ties you into their system forever).

    Web link: http://www.4pcb.com/index.php?load=content&page_id=46

    ---Joel
     
  2. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    But when you want to do the slightest circuit change or re-layout you
    have to start over and order proto boards there again? And when you need
    a highly specialized base material that 4PCB doesn't offer you might
    have placed yourself between a rock and a hard spot.

    Nothing against the company, I've done several PCB fabs at Advanced and
    they usually did a nice job at reasonable cost. But I prefer to remain
    independent. After all, a software like Eagle ain't that expensive.
    Usually less than one of our proto runs.

    BTW I almost hit a snag with Advanced but caught it just in time. Back
    then their proto runs were "upgraded" to lead free which I absolutely
    positively did not want to mess with. We had to do a mini production run
    to get around that. However, they staff is really helpful in solving
    such pickles.

    Hey, and now they give you Outback Steak House gift cards for referrals.
    That's kind of cool. Not so cool for people with high cholesterol though.
     
  3. Joel Kolstad

    Joel Kolstad Guest

    Yes, I would imagine so.
    Agreed, 4PCB is great for relatively straightforward boards, but they're
    definitely not a high-end fab. I once called them about their then-new flex
    circuit capabilities, and it was clear they didn't have the foggiest notion as
    to what they actually could or couldn't do with them yet (but perhaps by now
    they do!).
    Ditto... Pulsonix is also quite reasonably priced IMO for what you get.
    Maybe they'll start baking the Bloomin' Onions rather than deep-frying them?
     
  4. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Eagle is $400 each for schem, layout, autorouter. Since us analog guys
    can't use an autorouter that's $800 for the full-blown package, less if
    you can live with limitations such as 4-layer. Huge downside IMHO is
    that they have not hierarchical sheets structure and don't seem to
    understand why that is a show-stopper for many potential buyers.
    I avoid deep-fried stuff.
     
  5. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    AFAIK, geda has heirarchical sheets, but I've never used them. The
    relevant hot topic these days is figuring out what works best for
    everyone wrt hierarchical refdes's and netlisting, plus slotting
    across blocks.
     
  6. Joerg

    Joerg Guest


    Most of all it's (usually) best to stick with what you've got and accept
    that no system is ideal. Changing horses too often costs too much time.
     
  7. Joerg

    Joerg Guest


    Also, gEDA only runs under Unix/Linux AFAIK. That precludes the majority
    of users including me.
     
  8. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    Unix, Linux, MacOS, and Windows. It's not pretty under Windows, but
    that's mostly a packaging issue. We're hoping to get a
    windows-centric developer to help clean it up and package it nicely.

    I think it runs on Amiga too, but not the official version.
     
  9. Joerg

    Joerg Guest


    Thanks, it didn't say that on the gEDA web site. Maybe I should give it
    a shot then. The fact that Eagle doesn't allow sheet hierarchies really
    irks me.

    And it doesn't have to be pretty. I would have kept old DOS Orcad were
    it not for printing issues and the like.
     
  10. JeffM

    JeffM Guest

    For OS X: (I guess that's pretty much *n?x.)
    http://groups.google.com/group/sci....-*-*-*-fink-packages+qq+*-OS-X-*-*-*-platform
    ..
    ..
    As DJ said:
    :It's not pretty under Windows, but that's mostly a packaging issue.

    **Creating a Windoze Installer is a Thankless Job**
    http://www.google.com/search?q=cach...ons-*-*-*-*-*-*-*+point-and-click-*-installer
    http://www.google.com/search?q=cach...s+port+the.moment.they.released.a+2006+binary

    This is the best that currently exists in that realm:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=Dan+build_pcb.script+Dan+OR+McMahill+site:seul.org&num=100
    ....and folks *have* gotten gEDA working under Windows this way.
    http://www.google.com/search?q=cach...d+2007+missing.dependencies+*-*-despair+Linux
     
  11. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    Because it's still not clean enough to be worth it for us to try to
    help users get it running :p
    Before you commit to it, check the geda mail archives to see if the
    instructions for building it (probably under Cygwin) are readily
    available. The biggest hurdle is gathering all the other packages
    you'll need to build it (cygwin, gtk, guile, etc).
    :)

    As for printing under Windows, you'll probably have to export to pdf
    and print that. Windows doesn't have the "all printers are
    postscript" meme.

    Like I said, we're hoping to get a Windows-centric developer to help
    clean up these things.
     
  12. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    Yes. It pretty much "just works" under OS/X due to the unix
    underpinnings.
    We also have a fear of opening the floodgates of clueless windows
    users in order to provide packages for the minority of clueful ones.
    It's not that we think windows users are more clueless than Linux
    users, it's just that there's SO MANY OF THEM that the clueless among
    them would overwhelm us.

    Nonetheless, we do keep talking about how to support Windows without
    losing our sanity.
     
  13. Joerg

    Joerg Guest


    Well, then I better leave it alone for now. Got to be honest here. WRT
    Windows I am probably closer to the category "clueless" than I should be
    in order to get this up and running.
     
  14. Joel Kolstad

    Joel Kolstad Guest

    That is inexpensive. I'm not sure of the exact pricing, but Pulsonix -- who
    does pricing based on the number of pins rather than the number of layers --
    ranges from approx. US$2500 (1000 pins) to $6500 (unlimited) for schematic
    capture & manual routing (I believe the actually prices are a little lower
    than this). For the autorouter they get another $1000 to $7000 depending on
    pin *and* layer count. That's definitely somewhat outside of the "cheap"
    ballpark, but still considerably less than the likes of, e.g., an ORCAD- or
    PADS-based solution.

    I think a savvy user is typically more proficient in a well-done "suite" such
    as Pulsonix or Eagle than when you choose, e.g., ORCAD for schematic capture
    and PADS for layout and only have the lowest common denominator of a netlist
    to link them together. (Want to mark some traces as, e.g., 50 ohms and others
    as 10A power traces and others as clock signals that need to be routed in a
    specific order from ORCAD and get it into PADS? You're out of luck unless you
    buy various third-party "helper" programs such as Precience!)

    Speaking of which... I'd be curious to learn how many people here do use
    schematic attributes to guide layout? I make extensive use of them for
    getting layot to automatically choose the correct default trace width (e.g.,
    "generic" signals, power signals, and controlled impedance traces), but often
    don't bother with the fancier stuff like routing order.
    Pulsonix does do hierarchical sheets pretty well.
    They should give you a discount on your life insurance policy for this. :)

    ---Joel
     
  15. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    $6500? Yikes! One of the well-trodden paths is to keep using older CAD
    software. AFAIR my layouter's SW is 5+ years old and just fine. It does
    whatever I ask of him. My old DOS Orcad served me very well for over
    eight years and the only reason I switched to Eagle was that it became
    ever harder to link printers to it. The new OrCad was way too pricey IMHO.

    Old fashioned here: I sketch it onto a paper, scan that and send it over
    to the layouter.
    At those prices it better ;-)
    I don't have life insurance. My life insurance policy is spelled out in
    the bible here on the shelf ;-)

    But we all have our weaknesses. Mine will be a nice ice-cold margarita
    tonight.
     
  16. Joel Kolstad

    Joel Kolstad Guest

    If you really want to tempt a heart attack, take a look at the prices of,
    e.g., Microwave Office, Agilent's ADS, Ansoft Designer, or similar microwave
    design packages. :)

    I'm told that IC design/layout tools are pretty spendy as well... last I
    heard, full-blown HSpice was >$10k...
    All the vendors get you on the "subscription" plan whereby financially it is
    difficult to switch, especially once you have more than a small number of
    licenses.
    Your wife might benefit more from some greenbacks than just a nice eulogy,
    though. :)

    Enjoy your margarita,
    ---Joel
     
  17. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    And it is surprising what an RF guy can get done without them ;-)

    You can get most packages sans subscription to some expensive "service
    plan". If not, I would not buy.
    But what about me, who makes my margaritas if I'm the survivor ...?


    Thanks, I will. But first I've got a job to do. Fire up the Weber and
    grill a nice steak.
     
  18. Joel Kolstad

    Joel Kolstad Guest

    Yeah, but when even RF power amplifier guru Steve Cripps makes extensive use
    of them, I figure they must be worth at least a little!
    Good point... at least for those >$10k packages they do usually seem to have a
    "lease" option. In fact, an ADS salesguy told me that realistically almost no
    one actually buys ADS anymore, since it starts at something like $35k and can
    easily be >$70k "nicely configured."
    Mmmm... find yourself a nice widow? Assuming your interpretation of religion
    condones that? :)
     
  19. I used the Postscript plotter driver that worked nicely with a
    NEC Silentwriter LC890 and Laserjet 6MP.
    I'd expect it to work with Acrobat.

    regards, Gerhard
     
  20. Andy Peters

    Andy Peters Guest

    In the months since I wrote that post, there have been some major
    improvements to gEDA. Yes, the dependency issues still exist (and the
    biggest issue is guile, which uses gmp library, whose developer is
    apparently a rabid anti-Mac person who refuses to even support other
    developers' patches that let gmp build on Intel OS X machines), but
    the latest snapshot (1.1.1) does build and runs fine in OS X (at least
    10.4).

    BTW: http://www.rudix.org/ has a proper OS X package that contains pre-
    built guile and gmp so there's no need to deal with darwinports or
    fink.

    -a
     
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