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'[ee] Getting started with prototype PCB houses'
2005\11\08@180144 by M Graff

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face
I use Eagle (currently the free version, soon to be the non-profit one)
for schematic and PCB work.  I've never produced a PCB yet, and need
some assistance getting started.

I can use Eagle's CAM processor to generate gerber format files, but I'm
not certain it is producing enough to actually make:

   front-side copper,
   back-side copper,
   front-side silk screen,
   drilling instructions,

and anything else I don't know about yet.

Does anyone have a recommended pcb fab house, and an Eagle CAM job that
works with them?  I've looked at http://www.pcbfabexpress.com so far, and while
they do take Gerber format, there is no online check to verify things,
and they require one to place an order before submitting the files.

--Michael

2005\11\08@184424 by olin piclist

face picon face
M Graff wrote:
> I use Eagle (currently the free version, soon to be the non-profit
> one) for schematic and PCB work.  I've never produced a PCB yet, and
> need some assistance getting started.
>
> I can use Eagle's CAM processor to generate gerber format files, but
> I'm not certain it is producing enough to actually make:
>
>     front-side copper,
>     back-side copper,
>     front-side silk screen,
>     drilling instructions,
>
> and anything else I don't know about yet.
>
> Does anyone have a recommended pcb fab house, and an Eagle CAM job
> that works with them?  I've looked at http://www.pcbfabexpress.com so far,
> and while they do take Gerber format, there is no online check to
> verify things, and they require one to place an order before
> submitting the files.

PCBFabExpress is obnoxious and we no longer send our business there.  If you
want some hand holding, try Advanced Circuits (4pcb.com).  They make a big
deal of running your gerber files thru their Free DFM program to check for
errors.  Personally I find that's a pain because it complains about
legitimate constructs, but it's probably a good thing for the first board.
Advanced Circuits doesn't have the best prototyping deal around, but for the
first time it's probably worth it.


******************************************************************
Embed Inc, Littleton Massachusetts, (978) 742-9014.  #1 PIC
consultant in 2004 program year.  http://www.embedinc.com/products

2005\11\08@185737 by Bob Blick

face picon face
> I use Eagle (currently the free version, soon to be the non-profit one)
> for schematic and PCB work.  I've never produced a PCB yet, and need
> some assistance getting started.
>
> I can use Eagle's CAM processor to generate gerber format files, but I'm
> not certain it is producing enough to actually make:
>
>     front-side copper,
>     back-side copper,
>     front-side silk screen,
>     drilling instructions,

Hi Michael,

This is generic information not specific to Eagle.

You'll need 6 files for a 2 sided board:
front route
back route
front mask
back mask
front silkscreen legends
nc drill

If you have a non-rectangular board or have cutouts you'll also need a
mechanical file with the board outline.

Drill file should be in excellon format with embedded tool list, all
others rs274-x format

Check your files by importing them into a Gerber viewer such as ViewMate,
it's free to download and use:
http://www.pentalogix.com/Download/download.html

If everything looks good in the gerber viewer, you should be good to go at
most board houses.

Cheerful regards,

Bob



2005\11\09@044350 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>I can use Eagle's CAM processor to generate gerber format files,
>but I'm not certain it is producing enough to actually make:
>
>    front-side copper,
>    back-side copper,
>    front-side silk screen,
>    drilling instructions,
>
>and anything else I don't know about yet.
>
>Does anyone have a recommended pcb fab house, and an Eagle
>CAM job that works with them?

You may like to look at Olimex, who will take the eagle files without you
needing to Gerber them. Look at the good deals you can get under "PCB
Proto".

http://www.olimex.com/

2005\11\09@130303 by Jose Da Silva

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face
On November 9, 2005 01:43 am, Alan B. Pearce wrote:
> >I can use Eagle's CAM processor to generate gerber format files,
> >but I'm not certain it is producing enough to actually make:
> >
> >    front-side copper,
> >    back-side copper,
> >    front-side silk screen,
> >    drilling instructions,
> >
> >and anything else I don't know about yet.
> >
> >Does anyone have a recommended pcb fab house, and an Eagle
> >CAM job that works with them?
>
> You may like to look at Olimex, who will take the eagle files without
> you needing to Gerber them. Look at the good deals you can get under
> "PCB Proto".
>
> http://www.olimex.com/

I would still recommend going through the exercise of attempting to
produce gerber files. This way, you have more options on which pcb
houses to use, plus it becomes annoying for anyone attempting to copy
your files to create a similar board (relative to sending them original
files).
Bob Blick has good recommendations on what files to send, but I would
also recommend sending a text README.TXT file describing the files and
what you want, this way, the person processing the file (not
necessarily the sales person you talked with) has better understanding
of what you want.
Encapulate the whole set of gerber, excellon and README.TXT files into a
ZIP file, so it is all together.
Insert registration marks on the gerber file so they know how it is
supposed to line-up (one file above the next). Last, but not least, put
a telephone contact number in the README.TXT file so the person working
on the file can quickly grab the phone and call you if there is a
problem.
Once they have done it correctly, all other boards follow whatever
internal process they use.

2005\11\09@170237 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> I would still recommend going through the exercise of attempting to
> produce gerber files.

First decide whether you will use a board house that accepts eagle .brd
directly. If it does, don't bother with gerbering.

> This way, you have more options on which pcb
> houses to use, plus it becomes annoying for anyone attempting to copy
> your files to create a similar board (relative to sending
> them original files).

If I read this correctly you suspect Olimex of creating clones of your
boards? Nothing is impossible, but my experience with them has been the
opposite. I use Olimex for my Wisp628 PCBs. Some other guy tried to have
them make Wisp628 PCBs (same circuit, same name, different PCB design,
but the same name - which probably triggered them). They contacted me. I
sorted it out with the other guy. I conmsider this quite a service from
them.

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu


2005\11\09@173011 by M Graff

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face
Wouter van Ooijen wrote:

> If I read this correctly you suspect Olimex of creating clones of your
> boards? Nothing is impossible, but my experience with them has been the
> opposite. I use Olimex for my Wisp628 PCBs. Some other guy tried to have
> them make Wisp628 PCBs (same circuit, same name, different PCB design,
> but the same name - which probably triggered them). They contacted me. I
> sorted it out with the other guy. I conmsider this quite a service from
> them.

If any board house did that sort of thing, they'd be seriously in IPR
nightmare zone...

I'll probably learn how to fiddle with gerber files, though, if nothing
to learn more about them.  And I'm sort of a control freak, which also
helps or hurts depending on how one looks at it.  :)

I have made gerber layers for my existing board, and I've placed the
order for the non-profit version of Eagle about two hours ago.  If all
goes well I should have a board ready to produce by next week, and I'll
find out how painful/less it happens to be at that time :)

--Michael

2005\11\09@174558 by Mark Rages

face picon face
On 11/9/05, M Graff <spam_OUTexplorer-piclistTakeThisOuTspamflame.org> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

Try passing your gerbers through freedfm.com (aka 4pcb/Advanced
Circuits) and see what warnings you get.

You'll get some spurious warnings, but you can see what the board
houses look out for.

freedfm.com is a free service.  It's brilliant marketing for Advanced
Circuits -- once they have your files, they'll give you a quote and a
nice friendly "click to order" button.

Advanced Circuits is offering new customers a $500 credit right now,
which would probably make your first order free.  More brilliant
marketing. Like a drug pusher, the first hit is free.

Regards,
Mark
markrages@gmail
--
You think that it is a secret, but it never has been one.
 - fortune cookie

2005\11\09@184340 by Jose Da Silva

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face
On November 9, 2005 02:02 pm, Wouter van Ooijen wrote:
> > I would still recommend going through the exercise of attempting to
> > produce gerber files.
>
> First decide whether you will use a board house that accepts eagle
> .brd directly. If it does, don't bother with gerbering.
>
> > This way, you have more options on which pcb
> > houses to use, plus it becomes annoying for anyone attempting to
> > copy your files to create a similar board (relative to sending
> > them original files).
>
> If I read this correctly you suspect Olimex of creating clones of
> your boards?

No, I don't suspect Olminex, but I have a friend who found cloned boards
for their prototype (less than honest client who tried using another
place). Anyhow... if a file is harder to manipulate because it is
gerber versus being source files, then all the better on protection,
because who is to say that there may be less than honest employees
working at board house X y or Z.  :-)

> Nothing is impossible, but my experience with them has
> been the opposite. I use Olimex for my Wisp628 PCBs. Some other guy
> tried to have them make Wisp628 PCBs (same circuit, same name,
> different PCB design, but the same name - which probably triggered
> them). They contacted me. I sorted it out with the other guy.

That is more or less how my friend found out about the cloned PCB,
except it was a sales rep that mentioned that there is a coincidental
search for same parts.

> I conmsider this quite a service from them.

That is good to hear, and a good recommendation then.
Cheers!

2005\11\09@235320 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face
On Nov 9, 2005, at 2:02 PM, Wouter van Ooijen wrote:

> decide whether you will use a board house that accepts eagle .brd
> directly. If it does, don't bother with gerbering.

There are a number of resizings that can happen during Eagle's CAM
output (such as deciding whether to round up or round down drill
sizes, for instance) that I'm not entirely sure I'd trust a board
house to make for me.  Also, any number of Eagles ULPs to do things
like resize silkscreen line widths are likely to leave their new
data on a layer where they might not get picked up...

MOST board houses will interact with you some so as to make sure they
have the correct files in the correct formats (the exception being
sparkfun, who can't afford to do that for $5/in^2)  If you've done
something dramatic incorrectly, or are missing some data entirely,
they'll probably catch it before the board gets made...

BillW

2005\11\10@020147 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> There are a number of resizings that can happen during Eagle's CAM
> output (such as deciding whether to round up or round down drill
> sizes, for instance) that I'm not entirely sure I'd trust a board
> house to make for me.

They (Olimex) don't trust themselves either, so they don't resize.

> Also, any number of Eagles ULPs to do things
> like resize silkscreen line widths are likely to leave their new
> data on a layer where they might not get picked up...

Olimex is clear about which layers get processed and how. So if you want
to avoid the gerbering you must play by their rules. Note that Olimex
does not *require* Eagle files: they do accept gerber/excellon like any
other boardhouse.

> MOST board houses will interact with you some so as to make sure they
> have the correct files in the correct formats (the exception being
> sparkfun, who can't afford to do that for $5/in^2)  If you've done
> something dramatic incorrectly, or are missing some data entirely,
> they'll probably catch it before the board gets made...

Olimex DSS is $33 for 6.3" x 3.9". If I am doing the math correctly that
is $0.75/in^2? If I do somthing terribly wrong Olimex sure does contact
me.

I do resell some Olimex products, so you might consider me biased.

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu


2005\11\10@024150 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face
On Nov 9, 2005, at 11:01 PM, Wouter van Ooijen wrote:

>> sparkfun, who can't afford to do that for $5/in^2)  If you've done
>> something dramatic incorrectly, or are missing some data entirely,
>> they'll probably catch it before the board gets made...
>
> Olimex DSS is $33 for 6.3" x 3.9". If I am doing the math correctly
> that
> is $0.75/in^2?

$1.34/in^2, I think.  If your board is full sized.  Sparkfun will make
you a one-square-inch board for $5, which is frequently useful.  They
get a little ... annoyed when people expect expert assistance for $5.
I don't know if they get less annoyed if you buy a bigger board...

Sparkfun and Olimex are two of the few places willing to panelized
smaller designs within the size of their basic board.  Too many of
the others seem to say "this is a prototype service and NO you may NOT
put 30 of your tiny little boards onto one of our "minimum sized"
panels.
And no putting more than one separate board on there either!"  (sigh.)

BillW

2005\11\10@032337 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
>> Olimex DSS is $33 for 6.3" x 3.9". If I am doing the math correctly
>> that is $0.75/in^2?
>
> $1.34/in^2, I think.  

Aaargh, 1/x instead of x. I knew I did sometinmg wrong.

You might have guess that I am a big fan of Olimex. For a less
favourable opninion about Olimex check the archives for Olin's
experience with them.

> Sparkfun and Olimex are two of the few places willing to panelized
> smaller designs within the size of their basic board.  Too many of
> the others seem to say "this is a prototype service and NO you may NOT
> put 30 of your tiny little boards onto one of our "minimum sized"
> panels.

A boardhouse I use for larger runs limits the number of different PCB
designs you can put on a panel to 4 :(

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu


2005\11\10@061613 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>You might have guess that I am a big fan of Olimex.
>For a less favourable opninion about Olimex check
>the archives for Olin's experience with them.

Me too, for the one I have had made. You do need to make sure you stick to
their rules for the prototype service though.

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